Understanding the Direct Impact of R&D Content Investments

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Understanding the Direct Impact of R&D Content Investments

Information is at the core of the global economy. The right information at the right time can be the difference between success and failure for an organization. Market research, intellectual property, big data, sentiment analysis, analytics, semantic analysis, artificial intelligence, internet search – these are resources, approaches and tools that companies use to leverage information for advantage in the marketplace.

Published content and scientific literature is a key part of the information that drives innovation within organizations. It forms the basis for developing intellectual property, creating breakthrough inventions, and building product solutions for companies that focus on R&D and developing cutting edge technologies.

Just providing metrics can be arbitrary, particularly if you don’t have a historical record. Is 100 a good number? 1,000? 10,000? Lacking context, these numbers are meaningless.

Yet third party content that supports these efforts can often be targeted for cost reductions or be overlooked as a critical investment by leaders. Misunderstandings of traditional content being freely available on the web or via other sources prevails.

Without understanding the direct impact of content investments, it can be hard to show why the high costs of content are worth the spend.  Getting usage data and metrics that provide clear insight on what content is important can be difficult, but necessary.

It’s not until information managers draw attention to the importance of third party content and its value in supporting R&D, product innovation and competitive advantage, that they can start to validate its costs.

So, what information will truly influence and elevate the need for content? It comes down to being able to tell a story of strategic need to decision makers and executives. These stories need to be focused on how the content helps the overall organization maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace, how the content spend supports organizational strategy, and how content use can influence innovation direction and trends.

Spending Justification Requires Specifics

Corporate information centers are unfortunately familiar with restricted budgets and even cuts to the bottom line. With the understanding that the competition for corporate resources and budget can be fierce, information managers need to move beyond generalizations and anecdotes about the value of purchased content. They need to be ready to deliver informed insights about the importance of critical content, track changes in information needs, and even reposition content funds, all while effectively meeting employee’s information needs on a global basis.

But even when data is available, without context it’s just numbers. Does a download count mean anything if you don’t know who downloaded it, which department used it, or if it provided value? Probably not. And just providing metrics can be arbitrary, particularly if you don’t have a historical record. Is 100 a good number? 1,000? 10,000? Lacking context, these numbers are meaningless.

Understanding the source of accessed content is also critical. Whether an article was downloaded from a subscription database, from a document delivery order, or from an internal server can provide key information on the structure of the overall content portfolio investment. If the details on content usage are missing, it can be difficult if not impossible for the information manager to advocate effectively for investing in content sources.

Measures That Matter

Measures that matter are those that can be used to create clarity around the need for the information throughout the organization.

These recommendations show that specific usage metrics can provide a wealth of insight.

  • Tie usage metrics to specific strategic areas, including departments, projects or initiatives. These can provide the information manager the knowledge to renew, reposition, decrease or increase content funding to key strategic areas based upon need.
  • Look at time slices and seasonal use of content. This allows forecasting of future information needs based upon real data, something financial planners look for in modelling organizational spend.
  • Track trends in what employees and others in the organization use. This can be an interesting view into where future information needs may be heading.

Measures that support process and workflow improvements can be useful and are often used to show savings in time or effort. Although good to note, it is important to remember that in defending content spending, these productivity measures are not the most powerful story.

Managers who can align their content portfolio with the organization’s strategy and show how purchased content can create a competitive marketplace advantage, can elevate the visibility of the corporate information center as a strategic resource in managing content acquisitions appropriately.


Ready to learn more? Download 3 Approaches to Justify Your Content Spend for steps to create a strong case for content investment.

Britt Mueller

Author: Britt Mueller

Britt Mueller is Principal of the consulting organization, InfoLiquidity LLC, which seeks to optimize the flow and financial return on information for content creators, consumers and organizations. Before she established InfoLiquidity, Britt was Sr. Director of the Global Information & Library Services department for Qualcomm, Inc. She is a long-time member of the Special Libraries Association and has served as the President of the SLA San Diego Chapter twice. Britt has participated on numerous advisory councils and is a former member of the ITIMG (Industrial Technical Information Managers Group). Most recently Britt has joined Iron Mountain’s new Library Services Business helping libraries discover new ways to manage their content offsite, and deliver digital surrogates for increased scholarly access.

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