Thursday, 31 March 2011

SLA Event - The changing face of corporate information services – new service models and partnerships

Last night saw a good crowd of around 50-60 people gather at Balls Brothers, Mincing Lane, all interested to hear from a distinguished panel about all things outsourcing.
We were told the event was held under the Chatham House rule, and so apart from information already in the public domain most of the comments reported here are unattributed.
The Chair was Stephen Phillips from Morgan Stanley, and the speakers included two heads of information services from leading law firms – Sarah Fahy from Allen & Overy and Kate Stanfield from CMS Cameron McKenna - and two representatives from the vendor community – Greg Simidian CEO of Perfect Information and Liam Brown  CEO of Integreon.
Common Themes
There were some common themes from the panel, including the drive for higher quality, the need for extended professional development, and improving communication.
There was agreement that, in law firms at least, engagement with the option of using outsourced services was enabling information managers to ‘step up a rung’ and be taken more seriously by senior management.  All sides emphasised the need to get to grips with the underlying business problems and issues and demonstrate how either in-house or outsourced provision of information services best met those needs. 
In one case a blended model was being adopted, with some use of outsourced support for more process-based information work while retaining in-house teams for lawyer-facing roles.  In another situation outsourcing was being adopted on a more wholesale basis, although the need for a long and thorough preparation phase and tight SLA’s was emphasised.  It is important not just to have a clause saying, for example, “research requests will be satisfied within 3 hours” but also “the information provided will be of satisfactory quality” – along with some definition of “sufficient quality”.
An interesting question was raised about how outsoucing firms are going to be able to attract and retain the quality of staff to carry out research and other information management work to the high standards being demanded by law firms.  Will they be forced to ride ‘on the coat tails of the reputation of their law firm clients’ or will they be able to offer sufficient training and career development possibilities to attract recruits on their own merits?
One of the panellists mentioned that it had taken three years of training visits and secondments to an outsourced centre to bring them up to the expected standards and make the team self-sustaining.  Some commented that today firms may not have the luxury of three years to make it work – while others said that today there was a better pool of staff and better management structures in place so it shouldn’t take this long now.
Another area that was discussed was around access to the information content itself, and how the information providers and publishers could maintain relationships with their users.  In ‘traditional’ outsourcing (ie, offshoring to a centre in a low-cost economy such as India) it has worked well, especially since the vendors hired local customer services staff.  With the newer blended models (ie, with some outsource staff embedded at the client site, some at onshore centres and some offshore) it was still too early to tell but there was a concern that contact with the actual end users of the information might be impeded by the addition of the extra contractual and physical layer of the outsourcing agreement.  Any such lack of contact could impact on future product development, for example.
Key messages
Overall the panel agreed that the key things they have learnt so far on their journey to a new model of providing information services were:
·         Communication is key – with senior management, with your teams and with the outsourcer
·         Relationships are vital
·         The process must start by addressing the underlying business problem
By this time it was almost 8.00pm and some very tempting looking food was being laid out, so the evening adjourned to a hot buffet and networking.  There were still 30 or 40 people in the room when I slipped out to catch my train at 9.00pm, so the topic had clearly generated a lot of conversation!

- Nicola Franklin

Friday, 25 March 2011

How long do you have to secure a good candidate for your vacancy?

With average or not-so-hot candidates you can basically take your time.  You can pass CVs to line managers for review, wait a week before following that up with them, set an interview date in two weeks time after someone’s holiday is over, not get feedback from a line manager for days after an interview, and so forth.  The average candidate will still be job hunting in the 3 or 4 weeks it might take you to reach the decision to make an offer.

Good to great candidates aren’t like this.  They are interviewing at several places at once, wowing people with their personality and skill base.  They are likely to move from application to offer stage within 2-3 weeks.  If you let your line managers sit on their CV, or not get back to you after interviews, then the chances are that you will lose them.  Even worse they could be going to join one of your competitors.

If you want to secure the best talent for your organisation you need to be agile, especially in today’s world of ‘always-on’ availability. 

- Nicola Franklin 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Trends to look out for during 2011, in what is expected to be a “de-fluffing” of the PR industry

People I have been speaking to recently have given me hope that PR has a key role to play in the future of social media. PR is currently in a good position of having genuine credence as a bridge to unite and lead the other disciplines in the marketing mix. Having said this some PR agencies, and indeed their clients, may not know quite what they want from social media or how to go about it, but there is some really good work going on.  Here are some trends to watch out for this year: 

  • Better measurement and techniques
    • AVE is dying as a metric and there is now a wealth of data out there to weight up social media reputation (socialmention, radian6, vocus, meltwater buzz). None of it is perfect though, what does it really mean? The key is to realise that PR success is all about engagement – so viewpoints, interaction, passing content to friends, contributing, transacting
  • Exploiting mobile better
    • Power of mobile is huge for 2011. It is so current, so instant
    • Orange did the world’s most tagged photo from Glastonbury
    • T Mobile have had huge success with their flash mob theme
  • The blurred lines between paid and earned media
    • PR people need to get their head around the concept that it’s not a drama to pay a blogger from time to time. It’s the same as running advertorials – there is a place for it in PR
  • Closer collaboration
    • Contentious issue this!
    • There needs to be greater collaboration between ‘rival’ disciplines – so PR, SEO, DIGITAL etc
    • Inevitably it will lead to more fighting for territory but nature dictates that it is survival of the fittest as it has always been. Therefore the best agencies / companies will find a way to collaborate but still earn their ground
    • SEO and digital companies will certainly be looking to hire more PRs
  • Social search
    • The essence of building relationships
    • More relevant, impactful campaigns for PRs
    • Trying to achieve the social media ROI utopia
- Tim Court

Thursday, 10 March 2011

CILIP Event – CDG and London Group joint AGM and Talk by Annie Mauger

Last night’s combined event saw a good turn out at Ridgemount Street, for networking over a good spread of hot nibbles and drinks before the serious business started.
The two AGMs were rattled through quite quickly, although there was a point of discussion over how to continue with group activities in the face of reduced financing for branches and groups.  The London group in particular had found this difficult in 2010, partly due to a lack of expertise and confidence amongst their few committee members in running self-funding events (ie those charging for attendance, rather than being free).  CDG in contrast reported it had been running events on this basis since 2009.  There seems to be scope for sharing of expertise on this front and perhaps for some more jointly run events in future.
Onto the main speaker for the evening, as Annie manfully overcome both a nasty cold and Powerpoint technical difficulties to give a very interesting and uplifting talk about how CILIP is planning to face the future and succeed.  Some of the initiatives she described included:
Challenging Chief Librarians in charge of council library services, who may not be CILIP members, to join and lead the way for their staff in demonstrating how professional networking and CPD is of benefit.
Working more closely with SCONUL on joint advocacy to bring CILIP and the academic librarian community closer together
Working with other information professional groups and associations as part of the ‘Fragmentation of the Information Profession’ initiative
Review of how CILIP works with its Branches and Groups, so there is an agreed expectation of ‘if members give their money and join groups, they can expect a minimum of xx services in return’, with some SIG’s working in closer collaboration or even merging in some cases.
Review of qualification, accreditation and Chartership – especially focusing on cumbersome processes and advocating the benefits of professional qualification & development to universities and employers alike.
Annie set a challenging target for CILIP of reaching a total of 20,000 members by 2020.  In order to do this, she said that CILIP has to focus very clearly on being a membership driven organisation – making it very explicit what benefits members get in return for their subscription, clarify ‘who deals with what’ and how to communicate with CILIP, and reduce some of the ‘mystique’ or perceived cliquiness/impenetrability of the organisation.
- Nicola Franklin