Offshoring/Outsourcing Information Services

Offshoring or Outsourcing your Information function – either, neither or both?  Whatever your situation the issues raised by this question are complex and fascinating.

Globalisation and the impact of the internet has changed so many aspects of our lives.  In this seminar on 19 November 2015, NetIKX members and guests looked at one important change that is now possible – relocating your information services team to far off places, or even outsourcing your information altogether to another organisation.

We had two lead speakers – Chrissy Street, now Head of Central Information Resources at Clifford Chance, and Karen Tulett, who is currently a Director at Morgan Stanley. In two presentations that revealed their long and impressive experience as information service leaders, they opened our eyes to the wide range of possibilities that is now available, and the pros and cons of different approaches.

The complexity of the situation was shown by the evolutionary paths taken by the companies as they look to get better research outputs for their money. At times, using employees with lower labour costs in different locations of the same company has proved good economic sense, but at other times, they have used the strategy of getting a separate provider to take on their information service needs.  Our speakers had experience of managing both types of change and Karen had even worked on the other side as a manager of an outsource providing company.

Outsourcing and offshoring were not simple alternatives to keeping work in the home office.  The companies concerned have both used an evolutionary approach. By using a ‘mix and match’ approach, they have been able to widen the range of options to suit their circumstances.  There were serious economies to be made from the best choices.

Much of the work has been focused in India, where a well-educated workforce is available to reduce costs. However, the companies have also continued to have a team in the UK.  Motivating staff was not a serious issue as in many ways, the new arrangement can be positive for all concerned.  Local staff continue to work on the higher value, more challenging work, while offshoring workers enjoy the opportunities offered by the routine work, as can be seen by the fact that some people have stayed with the company for over nine years.

Standards can be maintained by careful controls. If language is an issue as the workers are second-language English speakers, careful controls can be set up to monitor any problems. One important recommendation was to have a very robust quality control process. In addition, it is advisable to use a checklist to assess the suitability of a work task for offshoring and to ensure that there are no copyright compliance issues when information services tasks are taken offshore.

Further advantages were outlined.  Karen’s unit offers services almost 24/7 through a combination of onshore and offshore. Morgan Stanley has set up quick turnaround research unit this year, which shows that change keeps on happening!

At the end of the presentations, seminar groups discussed key issues raised.  These included the problems of setting standards for outsourcing or offshoring and the use of SLAs (service level agreements) and KPIs (key performance indicators), together with their advantages and disadvantages.  The group concerned considered that these could be straightjackets but also were necessary for distance controls.

Looking at changes facing information services, we move on to the next meeting to consider social knowledge management – how we keep ourselves employable while technology cuts a swathe through traditional ways of delivering services.

The meeting finished with a bubbly celebration for all attendees.  It was a powerful and joyful end to NetIKX’s three-year programme.


November 2015 Seminar: Offshoring/Outsourcing Information Services


The offshoring and outsourcing of information services are two business models/strategies that have matured significantly in recent years. However, they have a number of challenges that in-house operations do not necessarily face.

Offshoring or Outsourcing your Information function – either, neither or both? Whatever your situation the issues raised by this question are complex and fascinating.

Globalisation and the impact of the internet has changed so many aspects of our lives. In this seminar on 19 November 2015, NetIKX members and guests looked at one important change that is now possible – relocating your information services team to far off places, or even outsourcing your information altogether to another organisation.

Outsourcing and offshoring were not simple alternatives to keeping work in the home office. The companies concerned have both used an evolutionary approach. By using a ‘mix and match’ approach, they have been able to widen the range of options to suit their circumstances. There were serious economies to be made from the best choices.

Much of the work has been focused in India, where a well-educated workforce is available to reduce costs. However, the companies have also continued to have a team in the UK. Motivating staff was not a serious issue as in many ways, the new arrangement can be positive for all concerned. Local staff continue to work on the higher value, more challenging work, while offshoring workers enjoy the opportunities offered by the routine work, as can be seen by the fact that some people have stayed with the company for over nine years.

Standards can be maintained by careful controls. If language is an issue as the workers are second-language English speakers, careful controls can be set up to monitor any problems. One important recommendation was to have a very robust quality control process. In addition, it is advisable to use a checklist to assess the suitability of a work task for offshoring and to ensure that there are no copyright compliance issues when information services tasks are taken offshore.


Chrissy Street joined Clifford Chance LLP in 2000 and is now Head of Central Information Resources. Chrissy has several years’ experience of working with offshore teams and transitioning work to a new location. Alongside her responsibility for the London Information budget and a London-based team specialising in subscription and vendor management, Chrissy is the onshore owner of the Knowledge and Information team based in the firm’s Global Shared Service Centre in India. This goes hand in hand with project work, particularly from a Continuous Improvement perspective to make processes and systems more efficient.

Karen Tulett has 20 years in the Information industry and is currently a Director at Morgan Stanley. She is responsible for a group of functions associated with the discovery and processing of information: Business Information services; Publishing Services supporting the document creation requirements of the firm; and Translations Services. These are provided by in-house and outsourced vendors and Karen is part of a global team managing the third party relationships and her direct responsibilities include managing the London-based in-house research team and managing the vendor relationship between Morgan Stanley and their outsourced and offshored publishing partners. Prior to Morgan Stanley, Karen has held various information roles at investment banks, and also managed information teams at an executive recruitment firm and for an outsourced information provider.

Time and Venue

2pm on 19th November 2015, The British Dental Association, 64 Wimpole Street, London W1G 8YS

Pre Event Information



Not currently available




See our blog report: Offshoring/Outsourcing Information Services

Study Suggestions


Business Information Review is seeking a new editor

Business Information Review is seeking a new editor to replace Val Skelton and Sandra Ward from the end of March/Early April next Year. They will have completed five years of editing by then – and they think it’s time to hand over what is fun, exciting and challenging! Due to the decision of Val Skelton and Sandra Ward to complete their joint editorship of Business Information Review in March/April 2015, Sage Publications would like to find replacement editor(s). Val and Sandra have job shared the editorship. Details of the post, which is remunerated, and how to apply for it can be found at :

Val and Sandra are happy to answer queries about the post. Contact :


Communities of Practice for the Post Recession Environment Tuesday 16th September 2014

35 people attended this Event at the British Dental Association in Wimpole Street. Our speaker was Dion Lindsay of Dion Lindsay Consulting : . Dion tackled big questions in his presentation. Are the principles established for successful Communities of Practice (CoP’s) in the 1990’s and earlier still sound today ? AND what new principles and good practices are emerging as social media and other channels of communication become part of the operational infrastructure that we all inhabit ? Dion started of with a couple of definitions. He explained the characteristics of CoP’s. In essence it begins with ‘practice’. Practitioners who discuss and post about practical problems. Practitioners who suggest solutions and develop practice. These solutions are at the practical level. Hence, competence at individual and corporate level is increased.  It continues with collaboration – the development of competence in an environment short of money ! He instanced the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) where he had developed an electronic discussion board in the 1990’s. In 1998 this electronic discussion board was taken over by University College London (UCL) and became an electronic discussion forum. It had cumulated 40,0000 posts. An analysis showed that the forum splits 80% moral support and 20% problem solving in terms of posts.

How about Communities of Interest (CoI’s) ? These are all about people who share an identity. They have a shared voice and conduct a shared activity. So ‘identity’ is a critical characteristic Also, there is an ongoing discussion about interests, an ongoing organisation of events and an interest in problems and solutions. This can take place in the workplace or in the public arena. Now to differentiate CoP’s from CoI’s. CoP’s get most attention in the workplace. CoI’s – there most serious work is detached from the workplace. There is a dearth of literature on this.

Success factors for CoP’s :  A successful CoP must be a physical community / A successful CoP must not have management setting the Agenda / To be successful CoP’s must have recognisable outcomes / Treat CoP discussions as conversations. Just taking the recognisable outcomes aspect it is necessary to emphasise that ‘the knowledge as it is created must be communicated’. In @ 2005 Shell and MNDA () reported similar findings in creating a Knowledge Base from CoP outcomes :  Cost :- 20% (30%). Value :- 85% (90%). Compare to standard  Knowledge Base stats : Cost :- 80% (70%). Value :- 15% (10%). These figures speak for themselves.  So we can sum up the reasons for a revival in interest for CoP’s as follows : Cost pressure on training and formal means of development in the workplace / collaboration and social media are accustoming organisations to non-structured working / the need to find ways of keeping employees engaged / technology for discussion forums is less of a challenge.

Dion concluded his talk by saying that ‘you really have to want  to do it’ to run a successful CoP. There is a benefit in commencing. There must be proper facilitation. There must be adherence to best management practice. A CoP is, in reality, a ‘Community of Commitment’. It fits in very well indeed with project management.

Graham Robertson – a NetIKX ManCom Member – then gave a brief history of NetIKX going back many, many years to when it started up at Aslib. Lissi Corfield – another NetIKX ManCom Member – spoke about our current ideas at NetIKX to take things forward as people are not coming along to meetings as frequently as they used to do. She talked about building resources in Information Management and Knowledge Management on the website and publicising and, indeed, interacting with our group on LinkedIN. Both Graham and Lissi are practitioners in Knowledge Management.

Under Lissi’s supervision we then broke up and started syndicate sessions at the close of which each syndicate reported back to the meeting. The main points are highlighted below.

Syndicate 1 : How to gain management support for CoP’s – the fears and successes.


  • Fear may be seen as presenting formal advice.
  • Encourage openness with no anonymity.
  • Resource of sharing policy together.
  • Each table is its own CoP.

Syndicate 2 : How do you become involved in existing CoP’s ? Should you bother ?

  • Senior actors are already connected.
  • Impose / grow organically.
  • Cross organisation / grows out of a need.
  • Can we learn from Quality Circles ?

Syndicate 3 : What is a good moderator ?

  • Challenging
  • Active/passive
  • Online/in person
  • CoP/CoI
  • Ground rules
  • FAQ’s/steering friendly discussion
  • Energy
  • LinkedIN

Syndicate 4 : Developing IM and KM resources for the NetIKX website

Valuable contributions were made by David Penfold, Martin Newman and Conrad Taylor.

Robert Rosset input suggestions of individuals and organisations from whom NetIKX had learned on the WIKI page of the website.  Rather like potter’s clay it needs to be worked into shape. An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory.

Rob Rosset 22/09/15






Selling Taxonomies to organisations, Thursday July 3 2014

Blog for NetIKX  July 3rd 2014  Whatever happened to Margate?

The NetIKX meeting this month was highly popular.  I thought a session on Taxonomy might be considered dull, but I guess the hook was in the title: ‘making the business case for taxonomy’.  The session did provide great ideas for making a business case for an organisational taxonomy project, and the ideas were suitable for other contexts where direct quantifiable benefit will not be an output of the project and so immediate impact on ROI is not a simple computation.

There were two case studies presented.  The first from ‘Catalogue Queen’ Alice Laird, (ICAEW), faced the business case quandary head on.  How did they get hard headed finance to budget for their taxonomy plans?  The winning move here was to show in small scale the value of the work.  People in the business realised that the library micro-site was the best place to find things and asked why this was so.  The knowledge management team were able to demonstrate how the taxonomy could increase organisational efficiency and so helped prove the case to all website users.

This case study also provided tips for running a taxonomy project.  They used a working group from the body of the organisation, but kept the team small to ensure each person involved was clear about the relevance of the project to them and their team.  They also made the project stages clear: a consultation stage might show where there were contradictions and confusion, and so there was a following stage where the people with appropriate expertise would to step in to make firm decisions.  By setting out the stages clearly, they avoided protracted discussion and also made good use of the skills already available within their team.  In this way they fully exploited their assets! All in all, it was good to hear a crisp report about a well organised project, and we all wish them luck for their imminent implementation.

The second case study looked at using a taxonomy to help share data between different organizations in the UK Heritage sector.  In a talk called ‘Reclassify the Past’, Phil Carlisle (English Heritage) entertained us, explaining a particular problem that fuelled the need for a taxonomy project.  At one point, although the classification system worked well in most respects, some vital geographic data was not included.  As a result, a search on, for example, Margate came up with a blank, even though the data was in there.  The danger was of reputation loss – particularly with people living in Margate!  Highlighting this type of blip was another useful way to sell a structured taxonomy project.  Search, even with a good search engine is more complex than many people realise and poorly organised metadata can cause problems that ‘Google it!’ may not solve.

This case study also provided an interesting operational tip.  In order to create the best platform for sharing, this team gave away the software they were using to others in the field, as the cost was outweighed by the overall benefit of standardisation.

The session ended with a lively set of discussions.  I was with a group trying to identify more closely how a taxonomy should be classified: animal, vegetable or mineral? We found some paradoxes to play with.  For example, does a taxonomy work as a device to structure data or is a structure already in place, the basis for the taxonomy?

To conclude, it was ironic that one of the speakers commented jokingly, ‘there’s no gratitude!’  Fair comment, as basic information infrastructure projects do not usually attract riveted attention. But, at this meeting at least, where taxonomies are loved and cared for, and business case tips are welcomed, the speakers could rely on full appreciation and gratitude from a very attentive audience.

Lissi Corfield (posted by robrosset)

Graham Robertson giving feedback on his group's discussions

Graham Robertson giving feedback on his group’s discussions


Steve Dale summarising his group’s discussions

Information on the Move Seminar Tuesday May 13th Part 2

Max Whitby of Touch Press http// came to talk to @30 people attending the NetIKX seminar at the British Dental Association in Wimpole Street, following on from David Nicholas (see related blog Part 1). Max’s company specialises in creating apps which are interactive and provide information or assist in education. In other words, these apps have a point, they are not games. They have created an app of  ‘The Periodic Table’ and ‘The Solar System’ and ‘The Orchestra’. Users spend hours looking, listening and reading the annotation on these apps. For example, on the app for T.S. Eliot’s great poem “The Wasteland” , there are multiple readers including Fiona Shaw, Alec Guinness and T.S. Eliot. Three of their music apps have been nominated for an award from the Royal Philharmonic Society. Max displayed a couple of the apps on screen – one in particular caught my attention – ‘The Orchestra’. This features the instruments (looking at each instrument from every angle); the music (including the score); the conductor. Amazing.

Following on from Max’s talk we had refreshments and then divided up into two syndicate groups. These working groups addressed two different issues. “1) Taking an example of the rich functionality and content of the Touch Press app, think of an app that your organisation could develop that would engage and/or educate and/or inform its users/customers”. Syndicate 1 came up with five ideas. Members from the Ministry of Justice suggested an information app for internal use within the Ministry. This app could identify all the things that policy makers needed to know (to connect with) in order to produce proper policy. The current tools are paper documents, documents held by records management or information controlled by external contractors. It is a question of packaging up such tools and presenting them in a uniform but innovative way on an app. Members from the Institute of Energy suggested an educational app. On their current website is an interactive matrix demonstrating “The Energy Chain”. It is linked to an offsite database (massive)  held in a separate location. An app could have one part of the database in order to describe “The Energy Landscape” (a mixture of visual/text/statistics). It could be used by anyone: researchers, students, members of the public. Attendees from the Medical Defence Union came up with an app about things to avoid, in terms of risk mitigation for medical professionals. Another attendee from the Department of Health suggested two apps – one about how the body functions, with different levels of knowledge, so it can be used by health professionals and members of the public; the other app to address the issue of IT Support. This would cover everything to do with Service Management from issues with suppliers to logging all support calls in one place. It was believed that such apps would offer a richer experience than textbooks or documents.

Syndicate 2 dealt with the question “What is the role of the information professional in a disintermediated, information rich world.” They came up with the idea for today’s Information Professionals to go out into the market place. Information Professionals are competing with IT people who have no background or skills in information management. The talk was about trust and embracing traditional skills of quality assurance and quality control so that information is trusted. Such an approach calls for advocates who are very relevant for the organisation in question. Librarians were once embedded in certain organisations (like the pharmaceutical industry) but not today. This syndicate focus was on disintermediation rather than ‘information on the go’.

Steve Dale wrapped up the syndicate sessions by stating that there was always a need to evaluate the information we receive – we can’t rely on algorithms, which can be degraded. The Syndicate Sessions ended and the attendees enjoyed a glass of wine (or two) and nibbles. It was a most successful seminar. Our thanks to NetIKX ManCom for organising the Event and in particular to Suzanne Burge, Melanie Harris, Anoja Fernando and Steve Dale for running the Event on the day.

rob rosset

How to convince your organization that it needs a Taxonomy

NetIKX will hold an event on July 3rd 2014 which addresses the above issue. Two speakers from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) will speak about their taxonomy and its potential to the organization. Anna Burmajster is Head of Information Services at the ICAEW. Alice Laird is the Taxonomy Project Manager at the ICAEW. In addition, Phil Carlisle will speak. Phil works at English Heritage and has a wealth of experience (both nationally and internationally) in explaining the need for taxonomies and developing them for the historic environment community. This event will be held at the British Dental Association in Wimpole Street.

robrosset 02/04/2014

Blog Post : Incentivising knowledge sharing behaviours

35 people attended this NetIKX event held at the British Dental Association on the afternoon of Tuesday March 18th 2014. Steve Dale spoke on the ‘hot topic’ of  ‘gamification’. Quite simply, ‘gamification’ is the process of applying game elements to non-game applications using the fundamentals of human psychology to address motivation, ability levels and ‘triggers’ in individuals. The ultimate aim is to increase individual, team and organisational performance. Steve instanced a number of examples – from a multitude: within the NHS (a gamification app to encourage exercise); within local government (Halton Borough Council puts RFID tags on bins to track correct recycling by households and rewards good practice by awarding points that can be redeemed at local shops); within the market place (Supermarket club cards and loyalty cards). Steve cautioned against an  unthinking approach to adopting ‘gamification’ within an organisation. He emphasised the need to think carefully about organisational culture and to ensure that organisational goals are clear. After Steve’s talk and questions we moved on to syndicate sessions where five groups devised a gamification strategy to achieve an objective within their organisation. We then talked about the strategies. The event closed with networking, wine and nibbles. For Steve’s presentation go to and for more information on Steve go to

Graham Coult has done an excellent write up of this event for the journal “Managing Information” Vol. 21 Issue 2 2014 pp. 26-28. ISSN13520229. This is a subscription journal go to

robrosset NetIKX ManCom




Blog report: Managing change seminar, 13 May 2013

A report on the latest NetIKX seminar on Managing change, held in London on 13 May 2013. Our speakers were Lesley Trenner, Change Coach and Janet Kaul, Knowledge Officer, NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre. The successful management of change is essential for organisations in order to achieve positive outcomes when implementing new or revised policies, procedures and projects.  During the seminar we discussed how to go about successful change management.

Lesley Trenner, @LesleyTrenner
Why change doesn’t ‘just happen’ …however good the idea is 

Lesley has a wealth of experience, including several years spent working at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). As a change coach, she now spends her time coaching people one-to-one when they are going through changes in their personal and professional lives.

At GSK Lesley experienced constant reorganisations, software changes and budget reductions. She observed that it is how well the change is managed that really makes a difference to successful change.

Change management is needed when there’s a change in politics, structures, culture, technology etc. Nowadays it is often used as a euphemism for cutting costs and reducing people. Ideally it should not be that – but lots of jobs advertised for Change Managers do involve doing that.

‘Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine’ – Lesley Trenner

How staff deal with change

People tend to resist change. Typical responses from employees confronted with major change will include: “Why didn’t they ask me?”, “Things ain’t broke”, “What’s in it for me?” or “Does it mean I will lose my job?”.

The majority of change projects fail – countless studies have found between a 60-80% failure rate for organisational change projects. For example, the doomed National Health Service Programme for IT lost a considerable amount of money. Project management and technology issues dogged the programme; ultimately trying to force people onto one system didn’t work.

Tips for managers 

Before embarking on change, managers should first:

  • Define what the change is, and what the benefits will be
  • Identify the impact on stakeholders – who are they, where are they?
  • Provide motivation and reinforcement – closing down old IT systems could force people onto a new system, but instead they might resort to scrappy pieces of paper. Users of new systems can be rewarded; or alternatively sanctions can be put on those resisting change.
  • Find sponsors and champions – influential staff who will speak up for the new system


Managers should work out what tone they want their communication to have. Is the aim to reassure, inform or maybe even scare? Communication messages should be tailored to different stakeholder groups. It also needs to be two-way – getting people’s feedback so that they feel heard is important, even if you can only say “Sorry, we need to do this anyway”.

Usually using a variety of communication methods to break the news is best. Telling staff by email can be cold and clinical, but on the other hand it can be useful for people to have something to refer to.

Lesley gave us an example from her own personal experience: GSK wanted to encourage smart working/hot desking at its headquarters in Brentford, to save space. Rather than everyone having their own desk, employees were asked to either work at home or come into work and sit at any desk available. There was a lot of resistance at first because staff were used to having their own desk, or even their own office if they were a manager.

To encourage acceptance of the new policy, the Vice-President of the department gave up her office straightaway. E-mails were sent round asking people for suggestions to give the environment a more ‘teamy’ atmosphere. Anyone leaving towels or other objects on desks at the end of the day would be reprimanded by designated change ‘sponsors’. The changes saved the company a million pounds.

Lesley’s key tips

  • Be really clear what’s going to change and why
  • Anticipate what the reaction will be – think of ways to get people on side
  • Recruit active sponsors and champions

Janet Kaul, Knowledge Officer, NHS Health & Social Care Information Centre
Online communities: Herding the scary cats

Janet’s talk focused on how to develop online communities during organisational changes and prove their value. Online communities have an important role to play in our society – some have changed the world… Indymedia (started World Trade Organisation (WTO) protests), Occupy Wall Street, Howard Dean‘s presidential campaign via (he set up natural and real  communities in every state, which Obama copied for his election campaign) and most famous of all, Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

Why create an online community?

  • To share information
  • Establish trust between people
  • Increase traffic – another way to get customers on your side
  • Reach new customers
  • Learn what customers think – but don’t tell them what to think online. Don’t guide your community to only say what you want them to say


‘If you build it they will come’ doesn’t work for online forums. Janet has found that to boost intranet usage amongst staff it pays to keep an ear open. Chip into personal conversations and suggest people post questions on the intranet forum to try and find answers.

‘For sale’ ads are usually the most popular section on a staff forum. Good online managers push ads, for example by sending them out to personal contacts who might be interested. Janet was very pleased when she helped a staff member find a new home for her rabbit and received a message saying “Thank you for finding a home for our bunny. You made my son very happy.”

Things to consider:

  • You are asking for trouble if you don’t have a moderation policy
  • There’s no totally automated forum moderation software – someone will need to spend time looking through posts
  • Incentivising people to post more often by rewarding them with more responsibilities or prizes


Anecdotes of success are priceless; store them – Janet Kaul

  • Collect your stories of success. Anecdotes are priceless; people remember them. Store them. For instance, a tip Janet shared led to a member of staff replying with a grateful comment – “This tip has saved my life. Not to mention hours of work.”
  • Provide answers to questions you hear by the water cooler
  • Start a competition. Perhaps everyone who posts something gets put into a draw to win a small prize each month.
  • Have a photo gallery for staff pets – this was very popular when first started at Microsoft


  • Reward participation (with status, praise or prizes)
  • Ask thought-provoking questions
  • Maintaining a community well takes lots of time and effort!

Further reading:

Blog post by Emily Heath. Many thanks to both our speakers.

NetIKX seminar report – ‘Ensuring business value and cost-effectiveness’, 25 September 2012

Blog by Emily Heath.

One of our five key themes in NetIKX’s 2010-2012 seminar framework has been ensuring business value and cost effectiveness in everything that we do.  In fact it is such an important theme, that our 2013-2015 framework will be highlighting it as a key perspective to underline all our seminars.

Our two speakers at NetIKX’s September 2012 seminar operate in two very different sectors. However, both share a commitment to deliver value and ensure cost effectiveness to both internal and external clients, which gave them valuable insights to share with us on this important topic.


Roger Farbey – British Dental Association (BDA)
‘How to justify the implementation and continuation of a new KM service’

Roger Farbey is Head of Library & Knowledge Services at the British Dental Association (BDA) where he has been in post since 1991. In this time he has introduced a new Library Management System and online searching (Medline) to the BDA and an online public access catalogue (OPAC), which he insisted, would be available to all including non-members (“to show them what they were missing”). He was instrumental in introducing KM to the BDA in 2009 when he appointed the Association’s first Knowledge Manager, Nikki West. He is a Fellow of CILIP and was made an MBE for Services to Dentistry and Dental Information in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Megan Roberts – Oxford Innovation
‘Cost effectiveness: providing a service and proving value without a budget’

Megan has been working at Oxford Innovation, a small business support company, since 2008. She is currently providing a one-woman information service whilst juggling the vagaries of small company budgeting, allocating costs to specific projects rather than having a central budget. Megan is also vice-chair of UKeiG.

Roger Farbey

The BDA first tried knowledge management techniques in 2005, at the bequest of the then CEO. But KM didn’t really take off until 2006, when a new, very supportive, CEO took up post.

The new CEO asked the Library staff to help coordinate the BDA’s CRM  database (known as CARE), moving it forward and adding value. A business case was put forward to create a new Knowledge Manager post, to be tasked with conducting an organisation-wide knowledge audit.

The new Knowledge Manager (Nikki West) began in January 2007. Her information audit revealed that the BDA’s documents were in a painful state of disarray, with some even held off site in a furniture warehouse (no doubt a common problem across many institutions!). Items had been haphazardly stored on different shelves with no real system. Physical storage in central London costs lots of money, so it was imperative to eliminate any “rubbish”. Nikki has been at the forefront of doing this, managing to free up lots of storage space by destroying unneeded records – a tangible benefit.

One department in particular was taking up a lot of space with stored archives of paperwork dating back over the past twenty years. At first they steadfastly resisted Nikki throwing any items out, but in the last couple of years they have completely changed their attitude and become very compliant in putting a destruction date on the new recording forms provided. Roger believes they have come to grasp the benefit of having someone else look after their records!  The BDA’s CEO has also been very helpful in overcoming any resistance.

Encouraging sharing informally

To encourage good collaboration and interaction between BDA teams, the Knowledge Services team initially tried holding ‘knowledge cafes’, but found these were a bit too formal and stilted. Instead they now hold informal charity coffee mornings by the library, which help encourage staff to talk together, transferring knowledge and encouraging sharing informally. Apart from a small kitchen, the BDA has no staff room or other shared space where staff can come together. There are pub meetings after work, but not everyone wants to go to the pub. So the coffee mornings provide an opportunity for staff to get together during work time and share information – Roger commented that this sounds “incredibly facile” but actually yields very helpful results for finding out what people are working on.

In April 2012 the previous CARE Owners’ Group (COG) name was changed to Knowledge Owners’ Group (KOG), to reflect the wider area of activity and interfaces that the group now considers. The KOG will assist in the facilitation and development of rules and good practice for the organisation and storage of recorded content across the BDA’s information systems. Documents have been devised to illustrate and promote this, including an attractive Mind Map of the BDA’s Functional Classification scheme.

Gaining acceptance for KM (the sneaky way)

Roger believes that the most valuable tool in gaining acceptance for KM within an organisation is to make sure it brings value and practical assistance. Implementing good records management has proved to be a valuable tool in gaining wider acceptance and credibility for KM across BDA teams. If previously resistant departments can be persuaded to buy into records management they inevitably also buy into the other KM activities – in Roger’s view it is impossible to overestimate the importance of these “trojan horse” methods.

Dentist’s chair in the BDA museum

Megan Roberts

Megan’s employers, Oxford Innovation, are government funded to go in and help companies understand how to improve their profitability and stay in business. A lot of companies don’t realise how important information is to their success. Even Oxford Innovation don’t even appreciate this – Megan has been trying to persuade senior management that emailing documents to collaborate is not that efficient and a communal network space where staff can share documents together would be much more efficient.

Data validation is really important – Megan doesn’t just rely on Wikipedia! She likes to check that a couple of sources agree; often you get a lot of articles all just copying word-for-word a single source – the challenge is to find original sources. As she is often researching topics which are completely new to her, she finds Wikipedia can be a good grounding to get a feel for a subject, before following through the links to other sources at the bottom of Wikipedia articles. As you learn the language of the topic area you can start to refine your search.

She is also a great believer in paying for information if necessary, to ensure good quality info – but this has to be justified to clients. Going behind the paywall can expose information Google can’t. Trade associations are often really valuable sources of data, and Megan will suggest that her clients join these associations to gain access to member-only databases.

How to provide an excellent service without a budget – “You’ve got to dig a bit deeper and go a bit further than Google”

A “snazzy report”, even just formatted nicely using Word so that it looks good, often impresses. People like something tangible to hold on to; something done formally looks much more valuable. References at the end of reports also create a good impression of authority.

Think outside the box – tell clients more points of view than they’re expecting! Look for what you think people might want, rather than what they ask for. Delve deeper into the problem to look a few stages back than they’ve reached. Sometimes companies come to Oxford Innovation wanting advice on how to sell more of their products, but on investigation Oxford Innovation discover the company does not have the production capacity to produce more products, even if they were able to sell more.

Proving value internally

Megan commented that this is often difficult. If you don’t tell your colleagues what you can do, how are they supposed to know? Informal chats about what colleagues are working on can be a good opportunity to offer them help.

Listen and adapt – pay attention to what people want – and put yourself out there!


Both presentations are available to NetIKX members by logging into the NetIKX website.

Below are a couple of photos from the group discussions after our speakers.