Fact-Based or Guess-Based?

Access to quality, authoritative information for making business decisions keeps getting more expensive. The average subscription to quality content, such as industry news and syndicated market research, has been rising 5% a year and in some cases into the double digits. This is equally true for subscriptions directly with publishers or with aggregators of content like the Factiva’s, Lexis Nexis, and Proquest’s of the world.

Why do content providers keep charging you more even when your usage or number of licensed seats go down? In many cases, they have fully penetrated their available markets and are forced to increase revenues by stealing market share from each other through product and feature warfare and by charging you their “standard” annual increase for the same offering. In other cases, certain content providers have invested heavily in creating unique content no other source can offer. Without competition, such content providers can charge a hefty premium.

At the same time, corporate information management budgets are getting squeezed across the board. Library and information management teams have reported staff cuts of as much as 75% over the past several years.1

This is creating an enormous information squeeze on knowledge workers and information professionals. Content costs and information overload are substantially increasing while budgets and research staff are getting slashed. This is forcing companies to cut access to critical information and push knowledge workers to do their own research creating both work and information overload. In many cases, knowledge workers are forced to just “Google it.”

From the viewpoint of a P&L statement, slashing the cost of business information looks like a great idea. Yay! Look how much we reduced our content and library labor expenses! But what impact does this have on your business?

Did you know that when knowledge workers do their own research, they fail to find what they are looking for 50% of the time? Even if they find what they are searching for, 50% of it is not the best answer or a complete answer.2 Do you want your leaders making poor decisions because there was too little, too much, or substandard information available to them? No, you don’t. So, what do you do about it?

Finding and maintaining the critical information sources your knowledge workers need is no easy task. In the past, companies would hire a team of librarians and information professionals to maintain an internal library. The key trade journals, reference materials, scholarly journals, and business news sources were manageable and well known. Today, there are an overwhelming amount of authoritative and questionable sources out there. It’s a full-time job just to keep track of all the new sources, evaluate them, trial them, and determine if they are critical for your business needs, nice-to-haves, or more fluff than substance.

Maintaining access to all the information sources that are critical to your business decision making is almost always cost-prohibitive. This forces you to make trade-offs that really aren’t good for business. But in this world of shrinking budgets, you usually don’t have a choice. You end up having to lose access to truly valuable sources and fill in information gaps through inference, estimation, deduction, and some cases, outright guessing.

The next challenge relates to the rise of technology to assist with search, curation, analysis, and summarization of long-form text-heavy data like you find in news articles, journals, syndicated industry research, etc. There is more hype than substance in this area right now and no shortage of companies pushing solutions. The market is quite fragmented, and it takes a lot of detective work combined with trial and error to find technology solutions that are of substance and value. It can be so overwhelming that the temptation is to take the easy way out by just looking at two or three, choose the best of what you found, and invest in that solution only to find out it doesn’t work for you. On top of that, technologies usually require significant behavior change to get people to use the new technology to its full potential.

We have found that the most effective leaders provide their knowledge workers with the critical information they need to solve problems and make better decisions by integrating human interaction and information with the efficiencies of technology to deliver cost-effective business decision support. By doing this, they enable their knowledge workers to concentrate on what they do best – not hunting for information but applying it.

We have seen this done effectively in three different ways. The first way requires significant investment, commitment from leadership, and behavior change with knowledge workers. However, when it’s done right it works amazingly well. This involves building a state-of-the-art information management solution that is deployed across the entire organization and addresses the varying needs of every department and business unit. The main steps include:

– Audit of all the sources currently used throughout the entire organization

– Evaluating all of the sources to identify overlaps and gaps

– Rejiggering the mix of sources to eliminate as many of the overlaps and gaps as possible

– Ongoing analysis of sources to keep your source mix optimized as your business changes

– Finding, evaluating, testing and implementing a technology solution that can integrate and search across all or most of the information sources. This eliminates the need to login, search, and logout of multiple sources to solve a given need. This is quite significant. As an example, it is estimated that an engineer needs to consult 13 different information sources to solve the problem.

The cost of such an endeavor is enormous. For a Fortune 1000 company, expect to pay $1 million a year or more for all the content sources and technologies to make this happen. Not to mention the cost of training, communication, and reminders needed to drive behavior change to adopt the new solution. This approach requires a significant investment of money, time, and resources but works fantastic if done well. Because of the implementation and execution challenges, this approach is prone to failure. Another approach that has been done effectively is essentially an outsourcing model. There are very few companies that can offer a library or information management outsourcing model that isn’t a pure tech play, so this hasn’t been done often. It’s also challenging for the outsourcing contractor to manage physical libraries from a distance. That usually means they need to provide an onsite staff member or two. Knowledge workers are not professional searchers, so they often need help from a pro. Pure tech outsourcing breaks down fast when there aren’t research pros backing it up.

The third, and probably the best approach, is developing a strong partnership with an information management service that integrates research pros, broad content access, and technology. In this model, one or two professionals from your research partner become extensions of your team. They learn your business, research needs, competitors, customers, market trends, and strategies, which enables them to provide highly relevant and usable information to support your business decision support needs. There are other benefits to the partnership model. You can drop the subscriptions that are duplicative to what your partner has and only keep those to which your staff needs to have direct access or that are unique to your industry and your partner doesn’t have access. This allows you to cut content costs while actually expanding content access. In many instances, your research partner can even tap into, on your behalf, the content sources you decide to maintain. This shifts the research burden off of your knowledge workers, allowing them to focus on applying information instead. Lastly, the partnership model gives your knowledge workers access to the expertise of research professionals drastically improving the quality of the research results they receive.

ENGINE’s Accelerated Intelligence Service integrates human interaction and content with the efficiencies of technology to deliver cost-effective business decision support. Our team of analysts has access to over 100k authoritative published content sources to address your critical business decisions. Our analysts leverage continuously improving data sources that integrate text analytics, artificial intelligence, and other technologies. We have a scalable model that enables you to access a comprehensive set of key information sources that you can afford based on your actual needs.

We create holistic solutions by blending advisory expertise, insights from extensive authoritative published sources, professional insights from peer-recommended experts, rapid consumer surveys, and social media analytics. Contact me today to learn how ENGINE can bring your information management into the 21st century.

Brian Reuter is Senior Vice President of ENGINE’s Accelerated Intelligence Service and Expert ENGINE. At ENGINE, Brian specializes in evaluating new opportunities for ENGINE Insights and ENGINE Insights clients. Starting as a Research Analyst, Brian worked his way up to Vice President and currently is leading ENGINE Insights’ Accelerated Intelligence practice. Brian manages a team that effectively leverages published information and expert insight to enable clients to make fact-based decisions on innovation opportunities, competitive environments, new markets, trends, and customer insights. Brian is known for client-focused business development, marketing, and research design. He has developed and implanted overall business unit strategies for sales process improvement, marketing, client experience improvement, staff skills development, process and productivity improvement, and adjacent market growth. Brian was promoted to his first director-level position for continual initiative in expanding his assigned role of researcher to full project development and management. That type of motivation, paired with creative process improvement, has defined his entire career.

If you’d like to talk to Brian about how you can integrate trends into your strategy, please email him at brian.reuter@enginegroup.com.

1Healy, Leigh Watson. “Information Industry Outlook 2018”. Outsell. October 4, 2017.
2Spira, Jonathan B. “Information Overload and the Information Professional”. Basex. February 2012.