Corporate information centers and knowledge managers have always had to justify their budgets and often attempt to calculate the return on investment that their organization receives from the information center’s services. They gather and analyze data on usage, expenses and time saved to demonstrate the value provided for the information center’s budget.
While these metrics are useful, they may not adequately convey the full impact of the services provided by today’s information centers. In addition to straightforward calculations of time and money saved, information centers are offering new types of services that do not easily lend themselves to a simple ROI calculation. Instead of talking about doing more with less, the conversation is now about doing something more valuable, creating insights that were not possible before, and contributing directly to the strategic business goals of the organization.
The following is an excerpt from Proving Your Value: Making the Case for Information Services, written by Mary Ellen Bates. You can download the full version of the white paper here.
When it comes to an information center strategy, ROI is more than just line item expenses. While usage metrics and cost savings are important, a softer approach and a focus on building awareness can also work well.
For one manager at a healthcare information center, it’s critical for information center staff members to be actively involved in the key projects throughout the organization, serving as information consultants at project meetings and anticipating the team’s research needs. “We make sure we are always plugged into the bigger perspective and ensuring that our resources and services have a direct impact on the larger goals of the organization. The more we can align with the priorities of our organization and be seen as early adopters of new initiatives, the more we’ll succeed.” This proactive approach to both identifying opportunities for collaboration and serving as virtual embedded information professionals for project teams ensures that the information center will be able to anticipate and address the information needs of the strategic initiatives of the organization.
Connecting Information Operations with Mission & Vision of Overall Organization
Capturing and highlighting the most impactful moments of an information center’s service requires ongoing awareness. One information services manager I spoke with noted the importance of connecting the information center’s operations with the mission and vision of the overall organization. Every quarter, she reaches out to each of her team leaders, asking for at least one example of how their team contributed to the company’s strategic goals. “I tell my folks I know there’s something you have done that was important for our company. One of my team leaders had finished a project that had a lot of impact, but she was reluctant to brag about it. I asked her to just describe it to me and I showed her how to write it up, so I could include it in my quarterly report to upper management. She received recognition for her achievement and now she really understands how important it is to spot those big wins and talk about our work.” This kind of mentoring is critical; most professionals in any field are understandably focused on the operational aspects of their work, and need encouragement to capture and share examples of where they made a difference.
Break Out Your Company Mission Statement and Organizational Goals
Information centers can take similar approaches to embedding information resources and services in key aspects of their organization’s operations. A director of a research institute’s information center emphasized the importance of having the library clearly aligned with and tied to her organization’s strategic direction. “Every year, I get copies of our mission statement and organizational goals. My staff and I study them and determine as a department how we can help the researchers accomplish those goals. This enables us to identify and measure where we have the most impact within the institute.” She also uses bibliometric tools to identify the impact of the published authors within the institute; her annual compilation of that information has become the standard within the organization for evaluating researchers’ influence and awarding bonuses. “I really wanted to expand how the information center was viewed within the institute, to find ways to integrate ourselves into the systems that measure the organization’s most important activities,” she said. “When we are integral to the compensation system, we don’t have to have a conversation about whether we need a particular resource.”
Enable Strategic Sharing & Collaboration
In the same vein, information centers enhance the value of the resources they acquire by enabling more strategic sharing and collaboration. For example, the biotech information center manager quoted above brought together a number of data scientists from different parts of the company to share what they were doing with a particular dataset that the information center had acquired. He told me, “it was great to see them talking together and finding new ways to collaborate! A really important aspect of the information center’s service is that we are the central connecting point for groups that otherwise wind up getting siloed. The information center’s function is to think broadly and use enterprise licenses to connect groups and resources together. This helps make our ROI really tangible. In fact, I asked the data scientists for help in articulating the value of the dataset they were all using, to describe how it helped them solve a problem. Capturing these stories is essential for justifying our budget, and they were happy to help.”
In a nutshell:
- Successful information strategies tie information resources and services to the larger goals of the organization.
- Capturing and sharing examples of where you have made a difference – it’s okay to brag!
- Information professionals should take advantage of being a central connecting point for groups that otherwise wind up getting siloed.
Keep learning. Download your copy of Proving Your Value: Making the Case for Information Services