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Corporate information services in 2014

“The game is changing”

Business Information Review’s annual Survey is now in its 24th year.  The author, Allan Foster, conducts in-depth and confidential interviews with senior information managers running corporate information services in a range of industry sectors to develop a detailed view of how these information services are resourced, managed and financed.

The survey covers budgets, staff levels, outsourcing, vendor relationships, deepening the partnership with the business, the impact of mobile technology, contribution to knowledge management and more.  The overwhelming impression is of experienced information managers who are ambitious for their organisations and who recognise the challenges they are facing.

Key findings

  • Content budgets are stable – only 15% of respondents are experiencing significant reductions (5% or more)
  • Great majority of respondents interested – or have an early involvement – in big data and data analytics initiatives.
  • Major potential new role in curating big data and analytics
  • Global operations for many services, with varying central control and a mix of organisational models
  • Pressures on staff headcount – 35% lose posts; other posts filled by temporary or fixed term contracts
  • A commitment to outsourcing by some 50% of respondents, some very mature arrangements, with a shifting balance of responsibilities between onshore and offshore staff
  • Whether to embed information staff in business units is still a big decision point for managers
  • Technical, analytics and personal skills development needs of IS staff is widely recognised
  • Many positive developments in knowledge sharing, social media, the use of stories and growing use of enterprise-wide collaborative systems
  • Relationships with information vendors and managing local access to data products still a high priority

For Foster, the key issue for information managers is to find a way to exploit existing competencies and develop new skillsets to help their organisations to make better decisions.  “If this territory is moving information management away from the conventional exploitation of external information and the piecemeal processing of internal data then that’s where we need to be”.

SAGE is offering free online access to its information science journals in April 2014.

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Sharing, collaboration and getting it wrong

There’s nothing like a headline telling you you’ve got it wrong to make you read on. 

An article on Time.com written by a data analytics expert tells us ‘What [we] think [we] know about the Web is wrong’ – or at least when it comes to measuring ‘clicks’.  Actually most of us already know there is a massive difference between what people share and what they have actually read, or what people click and what they read.  For information professionals, who act as curators for many audiences, clicking and sharing appropriately (or “delving deep into multiple pots of data and information*” is a critical skill.

The article shares some interesting statistics:

  • 55% of those who click on a link spend 15 seconds or less reviewing the screen (lesson – grab your visitors quickly)
  • Content sharers are a small percentage of content visitors – one tweet per 100 visitors/readers

…and is worth reading for longer than 15 seconds.

On SocialMediaToday, another headline suggests we’ve got social media ‘all wrong’.  It’s a brief overview of how social media supports search engine optimisation and reminds us that customers don’t owe brands anything “They don’t have to share your content, they don’t have to interact with posts and they certainly don’t have to suggest your page to other people.”

Collaboration goes mainstream in the sharing economy

Regular readers of this blog may remember a New York Times Insight report about the ‘psychology of sharing’.  A new report has looked at ‘sharers’ in Canada, the UK and US and has organised those participating in the sharing economy into three types:

  • Neo-Sharers are those who have used sharing services such as Etsy**, Kickstarter or Airbnb at least once in the past year
  • Re-Sharers – are those who are already using well-established services (eBay etc) but are not yet ‘Neos’
  • Non-Sharers are those with intentions to use sharing services in the next year

Neo- and re-sharers constitute about 40% of the US and Canadian populations and about 50% of the UK population.

Sharers are more likely to be affluent, young and are much more likely to discover services via word of mouth, social networks or blogs than from ‘traditional’ marketing.

*Andy Tattersall writing about overload filters.

** We featured ‘the Etsy economy’ here.

 

 

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Book publishing – some recent innovations

Book publishers experimenting with new models; books fighting binge drinking in Italy

Netflix models

An article on Wired.com looks at a new online fiction service called Rooster in which a book publisher adopts a magazine model to make itself more like Netflix!  The service uses a subscription based model that sends content to iPhones and iPads.  The daily chunks of content should take about 15 minutes to read and will deliver two books’ worth of content over a month.  Similarly, Waterstones in the UK has announced Read Petite – a ‘rich reading experience for time-poor readers’.

Another innovation learning from the Netflix model is Epic!  This app aims to encourage children to read by offering rewards for completing chapters or starting ‘reading marathons’.  For a monthly subscription, children have access to a library of over 2000 titles and can rate the books they have read.  The app also allows parents to monitor their children’s reading habits.

Book buying and book borrowing and struggling readers

The latest Pew report shows the link between highly engaged library users and book buying.  The report shows that ‘Library Lovers’ – the heaviest users of libraries and about 10% of the US population – are also frequent buyers of books, despite many of them experiencing a drop in income.

The UK Charity Quick Reads found that reading e-books can be particularly helpful for adults who may be struggling with their reading while 48% say e-readers  have encouraged them to read more.

Binge drinking – books to the rescue!

Sadly Neknominate, the social media drinking game, has spread around the world. In Italy a literary alternative to the game has been developed.  ‘Booknomination’ follows similar rules but instead of drinking, the nominated person must read a passage from a book over a webcam.  The initiative is on Facebook on the hashtag #booknomination.

Sources: Springwise; DigitalBookWorld; TheLocal; Pew Research Center; Publishing Perspectives; Wired.

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Reputation – the major academic currency

Times Higher Education has released World Reputation Rankings 2014.

Institutional ranking is a major consideration for academics when moving jobs, for students deciding where to study and for potential partners and collaborators. The published rankings are based on over 10,000 responses from 133 countries.

US universities reign supreme

American universities take the top three slots – and take 46 of the top 100.  Harvard remains in first place, with MIT second.  Stanford University has moved into third, jumping ahead of Oxford and Cambridge Universities.  However, US State universities are slipping slightly after suffering budget cuts.

UK – cause for concern?

The UK holds ten of the top 100 places – up from nine last year but the survey suggests there is a growing gap between what it calls the London-Oxford-Cambridge triangle and the rest of the country.

Major Asian institutions make progress

Japan is the region’s best performer, with five in the top 100.  Korea’s Seoul National University has jumped from 41st to 26th.

The story in Europe

  • Two of Sweden’s institutions fell out of the top 100 leaving it with only one (Karolinska)
  • France also lost two universities from the top 100, leaving it with two (Université Paris-Sorbonne and Université Pierre et Marie Curie)
  • Germany is faring much better – it comes third after the US and UK with six universities in the top 100
  • Other European countries featuring in the top 100 are:
    • The Netherlands (Delft University of Technology ranks 42nd).  University of Amsterdam; Leiden University and Utrecht also appear in the top 100
    • Switzerland (ETH Zurich ranks 16th; Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne ranks 49th)
    • Belgium – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

New survey open

Thomson Reuters has launched its fifth annual Academic Reputation Survey. The survey informs two key indicators of the 13 used to create the annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which will be released later this year.

Pizzas, selfies and swearing – new data-led research

Some interesting data-crunching research projects

A new report considers the demographics of selfies in five cities around the world: Bangkok, Berlin, Moscow, New York and Sao Paolo.

20-30,000 images from each city were analysed both automatically and then using ‘human judgement’ to consider the artistic merits of the images.  Mechanical Turk workers were asked to guess the age and gender of the people.  After that automatic face analysis created algorithmic estimates of facial positions and emotional expressions.  These tags were checked by humans.

Key findings of the report:

  • Gender differences – more women than men take selfies (but Moscow has by far the highest female/male gender gap with four and a half times as many selfies being taken by women)
  • Selfies are a young person’s pastime – the median age of a selfie taker around the world is 23.7 years.
  • Women tilt their heads more than men!
  • More people smile in Bangkok; fewer smile in Moscow

Foul language on Twitter

Researchers at Wright State University in the US analysed a random collection of 51 million tweets from 14 million users to measure the ubiquity and context of swearing on Twitter.  They identified – amongst other things – different contexts for swearing and which day of the week sees the most swearing.  The full PDF of the article can be downloaded by a link on this page – but beware.  The article uses swear words throughout and is probably not suitable for work!

Pizza and value for money

Analysis of almost 75,000 pizza prices in the US sets out to answer once and for all the tricky question of pizza size versus value for money.

Using data to predict the Oscars

BuzzFeed’s Data Scientist seems to have successfully predicted many of the winners and losers in this piece (published before the ceremony).  He correctly predicted a Best Picture win for 12 Years a Slave, a win for Matthew McConaughey and best original screenplay for Her.)

Pizzas and selfies at the Oscars

Of course pizzas and selfies were combined at this year’s Oscar ceremony when the host and several Hollywood A-listers posed for what was to become one of the most retweeted images ever – the ‘selfie to beat all selfies’.  They then ordered in pizza.

Bitcoins and gold coins

Is hiding your hoard in a rusty tin can safer?!

News stories have emerged about an American couple who have found buried treasure on their land. Initially they thought they might have found a marker for a grave, perhaps for a pet.  However, what they discovered were several tin cans full of rare 19th century American coins.  The haul is expected to fetch $10million.

This good news coin story throws into relief last year’s news of a man who threw away his ‘Bitcoin fortune’ when he disposed of an old hard drive.

The ‘cryptocurrency’ has been in the news again.  MtGox, one of the biggest Bitcoin exchanges, went offline after technical issues and ‘unusual activity’.  It had been suggested that security loopholes had led to millions of Bitcoins being stolen.  MtGox has now filed for bankruptcy.

It seems that many investors whose Bitcoins had been lodged with MtGox may have lost their investment and industry analysts are warning that Bitcoin will be subject to ‘more fraud’.  Fraudsters have already been busy according to Dell SecureWorks.  They have identified 150 different forms of malware designed to steal Bitcoins.

An article in American Banker, draws the lessons learned from the history of PayPal to predict that Bitcoin is likely to be subject to transaction and phishing fraud, identify theft and organised crime.  The authors recommend that Bitcoin learns from PayPal’s hard work in driving fraud elsewhere by focusing on security.

Of course, Bitcoin is not the only cryptocurrency as this article in ITProPortal outlines.  What makes these currencies so attractive – they work across borders and are untraceable – is what makes them risky too.  Perhaps hiding your hoard in a rusty tin can is a safer bet!

Women in business – still under-represented at the top

“Still no progress after years of no progress”

Gender equality in politics continues to be a news story.  In the UK, the leader of the opposition stated the Prime Minister was failing women.  Four female MPs from the ruling party’s most recent intake have already made it clear they don’t want to stand again at the next election although they may not have explained exactly what it is about the way that UK politics works that makes them want to leave.  Complaints of sexism (and indeed mockery of regional accents) in the House of Commons don’t come as a surprise to any of us who watch the debates on television or from the public gallery.

We’ve covered gender quotas on this blog before when two of Germany’s political parties reached a compromise over quotas.  Similarly we’ve covered the representation of women at the top of businesses.  The latest research suggests that not much is changing or improving.

The 2013 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors finds that there has been no change at all in the representation of women at a senior level in America’s top corporations:

  • Women held only 16.9% of board seats in 2013—no change from last year
  • In both 2012 and 2013, less than one-fifth of companies had 25% or more women directors
  • 10% had no women serving on their boards.
  • Less than one-quarter of companies had three or more women directors serving together in both 2012 and 2013.

In the UK, Spencer Stuart’s UK Board Index 2013 (available via this link) found that women account for just under 18% of the total directors in the UK’s top 150 companies – although this figure at least is climbing.  In the last year, 38% of all newly appointed directors are women.

The latest figures for Europe (the EU-27 countries) show that women make up 16% of board members.  The highest representations are in Finland (29.1%) and Latvia (29%).  Although the number of companies with no women on the board has decreased from 35% in 2010 to 23% in 2013, there are still very few companies with women at the very top as CEOs. or Chair.  All countries are falling far short of the EU’s 2020 40% representation objective.

Europe: competitiveness and innovation

Europe has a reputation as being unfriendly to innovators – but is this fact or perception?

International business school INSEAD set out to uncover the truth.  First, as part of INSEAD’s European Competitive Initiative, it surveyed 1300 business leaders around the world to find out what they felt about the current state of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe.  Staggeringly, only 2% of the respondents disagreed with the statement “Europe’s innovation is hampered by a lack of culture of innovation and entrepreneurship”.

However, this was not because of a lack of quality people.  Most of those surveyed lay the blame firmly with European governments and institutions.  This negative view was held particularly strongly by non-Europeans.  When asked how they felt about the future of Europe, high percentages expressed concern or worry:

  • 83% of Latin American respondents
  • 74% of BRIC country respondents
  • 65% Asian country respondents
  • 60% of African respondents

That survey deals with perceptions of innovation in Europe.  But what does the data say?  In fact surveys and data from INSEAD and other institutions including the World Economic Forum paint a different picture.

The Global Innovation Index places six European countries in the top ten (in descending order Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands and the UK).  In fact, when the 2011 scores are aggregated across regions, Europe scores equally with North America.

Europe scores well in The World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report 2013 – particularly the Nordic countries and the UK.

Europe certainly has some work to do to change the perception of it as being unfriendly to innovators and entrepreneurs.

INSEAD’s European Competitiveness Initiative hopes to help business leaders in Europe by disseminating research, best practice and lessons learned.

 

Being happy with the ordinary

Researchers explore what makes us happy – and how this changes with age.

In a series of studies, Cassie Mogilner and Amit Bhattacharjee considered what they defined as ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ experiences.

Ordinary experiences are defined as frequent, common and part of everyday life – organising a cupboard or sharing a meal with family or friends.

Extraordinary experiences are uncommon and infrequent – a trip around the world for example, or bungee jumping or achieving a life milestone.

The research concluded that younger people get more happiness from extraordinary events or experiences but as people get older, ordinary experiences are increasingly associated with happiness.

The pair then went on to use Facebook to ask participants about whether their most recent status update described an ordinary or extraordinary event. The participants were asked to rate an experience using certain adjectives.  While extraordinary experiences were viewed as self-defining by people of all ages, “ordinary experiences were viewed as more self-defining by older participants than younger ones, becoming increasingly self-defining with age.”

Self-definition

Irrespective of how old the participants were, it was the self-defining events which made them the happiest.  What was changing was the nature of the experiences which people were using to define themselves.

The researchers believe the findings will have an impact on how organisations market and position products and services.

“A happy life includes both the extraordinary and the ordinary, and the central question is not only which, but when.”

More on this work from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton).

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Education and employment – “two crises – one paradox”

Why is there such wide-scale youth unemployment while vacancies remain unfilled? 

Consultancy firm McKinsey has published the results of a research project* into two related global crises – high levels of youth unemployment and a shortage of people with critical job skills.

  • Worldwide young people (16-24) are three times more likely to be out of work than their parents.
  • Global research suggest there are 75 million unemployed young people
  • Youth unemployment rates in South Africa, Greece and Spain exceed 50%
  • Only 43% of employers reported there was an adequate supply of qualified entry-level candidates
  • Half of the young people interviewed were unclear that their further/higher education had improved their chances of finding work
  • 36% of employers report a lack of skills is causing significant problems in terms of cost, quality and time

Are graduates ready for the job market?

There are striking differences between the stakeholder groups when it comes to assessing the job-readiness of graduates.  Only 42% of employers and 45% of young people believe they are ready for the job market; 72% of educators believe they are.

A way forward

The research gathers some success stories but acknowledges there needs to be a massive scaling up. Its recommendations include:

  • Collect and disseminate data – high quality data allows countries and approaches to be benchmarked
  • Increase the number of sector-wide collaborations – the most transformative interventions have involved multi-partner, sector level initiatives
  • Create a system that bridges the gap between educators and employers – current examples include Australia’s new Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency which has been established to drive greater collaboration between government, industry and educators.

*The research focuses on Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UK, US.  Young people, employers and educators were involved in the project.

Download the full report.

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