CityLIS Reflections and Research: The future of business information by Paul Pedley

This Reflections and Research post is by Paul Pedley and is about a new White Paper from  Dow Jones and Infodesk called, “2020 vision: the future of business information.”
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Dow Jones and Infodesk recently published a white paper “2020 vision: the future of business information” [available here] which was accompanied by a series of webinars and an event at The News Building (also known as “The little shard”).
The white paper puts forward four critical areas of focus for digital strategists:
  • Information diversity
  • Smarter data
  • Personalization
  • Mobility
Time and again the message was that what consumers are experiencing is spilling over into the business world, or at least that it is the benchmark or baseline that business information users are coming to expect. And yet, that there is often a mismatch where business leaders don’t always get the significance of digital disruption, yet at the same time are using home delivery services for their groceries, or are wearing a FitBit activity tracker.
At the London event delegates were invited to draw up a balance sheet for their digital strategy. Under headings of “Data and information”, “Talent”, and “Culture”, they were asked to think for each of these about what are assets (what we know and have) versus what are the liabilities (the risks and unknown needs).
One example of how things have changed related to a company that was receiving a daily alert which was designed for senior management to cover the things that were important for them to be aware of each day. In this example, the company said that it wasn’t working for them, and that if it were to continue that it would need to change.  A key component of this was to bring together social media content with the premium content that they were already seeing. What they were after was something to show them what was trending before it had reached the more traditional news outlets.
Another example was of Health Canada’s development of a news scanning & alerting service to monitor the spread of communicable diseases.  The service is GPHIN – the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, which is also now used by the World Health Organization and other health agencies. Apparently  Health Canada had been the first to spot the significance of SARS and MERS. In one case this all arose as a result of a story about a pharmacy distributing larger than normal quantities of anti-respiritary drugs which was covered in a local language newspaper.
They talked about big data in terms of the 3 v’s (volume, velocity, and variety).
One speaker mentioned how people involved in big data projects often spend money on the technology before thinking about the acquisition of data to put through that technology.
Apparently the fastest growing job on Glassdoor is the role of Data Scientist, but the question posed was what that role actually means – is it analysis, is it predictive analytics, or is it a storytelling role?  Another job title appearing in a number of organisations is that of “Head of Disruption”.
There was talk of technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence. One point made was that while computers might be able to understand the vertical industry sector that you operate in, are they able to understand the horizontal ; referring to those things that cut across industry sectors but which can have a significant impact – such as drones, for example. This idea leads on to the idea of where you have a defined universe. And where that is the case, how do you get to see about what you really should see that isn’t part of that defined universe. Here a speaker mentioned “content fingerprinting” where each article is uniquely identified based on the combination of words in the relevancy engine. And to achieve the situation where you do get to see things you need to know about even when they are outside your defined universe you are able to adjust the level of distance you want to get to from the original search term.
Organisations that are doing the digital disruption well are ones where they are not afraid of failure, where they are calculated risk takers, where collaboration is key, and where they genuinely understand the end to end customer journey and the pain points that those customers experience.
One idea mentioned was that of reverse mentoring where the younger staff teach their elders about digital issues. Another was to get speakers from startup companies to come in and talk to bigger well-established companies so that they could both benefit from one another’s knowledge and experience.
All of this reminded me of a recent twitter posting showing a slide entitled: “The digital disruption has already happened”

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Information Assistant (Academic Services) in the Library at City, University of London.
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