The first tfpl Connect learning and networking event of 2009, took place on the 19th of March, where a panel of ebic 2008 delegates and speakers were invited to reflect on the themes presented at the conference in Berlin last October. The panel was ably chaired by Barbara Linkin (Regional Head of Training and Learning - Kroll).
Reflections on future scenarios for information services
Professor Di Martin - CIO and Dean of Learning and Information Services at the University of Hertfordshire (UoH)
Di's piece focused on the themes of adaptability, business value and people power respectively in a loose reflection of the green, blue and orange world planning scenario sessions from ebic 2008.
Adaptability: Di related that, in uncertain times, the tendency of management is often precautionary and focuses on maintenance, continuity, consolidation and cost reduction rather than development, change, innovation and investment. UoH, Di explained, was on a tight rope between these in balancing leadership with innovation and responsiveness.
The importance of focusing on development, change, innovation and investment at a time when we are all under increasing pressure to reduce costs was particularly apt. It is important that we continue to innovate and to develop our people (Melanie Goody, tfpl). (See upgrading talent.)
Business Value: The UoH has exploited learning technologies (virtual desktops) and implemented an e-book strategy (most of the library's collection is now digital) to effectively reach its potential user base. However, there still remains a great challenge in moving innovative theories and radical thinking into practice.
People Power: staying aware of and accommodating the needs of students and staff was the focus of Di's final theme of people power. Students' first point of call for support are their peers. This is very different to academic staff who all to often work in a very closed and silo'd fashion. The challenge here was described as embedding the social networking applications out there into the working routines of staff to create a more open and collaborative culture in line with the new ways in which students work.
Future impact of technology
Iain Simpson - Head of Commercial Insights and Digital Marketing at BDO Stoy Hayward
Iain's slideless and characteristically lively and entertaining presentation touched on the indicators for future trends introduced by Paul Saffo at ebic with an insight into technologies and concepts which he sees as emergent now and tipped for prominence in the future.
1. Iain predicted the death of email from the rise of social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs. Delegates were sceptical... especially those with some degree of fondess for records!
2. Surface computing and data visualisation (Addictomatic being an example) would come to the fore. A taster for this in the mainstream would be mobile technology such as the hugely popular iPhone, I can definitely agree here.
3. Virtual worlds would become the norm. Delegates were encouraged to put their fears and scepticism aside and try this out. Iain showcased BDO's experiment with Second Life which is taking increasing prominence as a cost effective marketing tool for recruiting graduate talent in this recessionary climate.
Enjoyed the event very much, especially Iain's piece. I have already got our people to look at the Addictomatic as a BD tool.
4. Virtual conferencing has come on leaps and bounds with holographic technology set to take it to new heights. At the moment, the technology is somewhat restricted in a specially lit/dimmed environment. All that is needed is a breakthrough in making it more robust and I see no reason why it won't replace long haul business travel.
New business delivery models
Don Roll - Managing Directer of Europe - Alacra
Don delivered, in his own words, a very "practical" and, in mine, a very engaging piece. He reviewed his three favourite presentations, the themes of which he saw as emerging trends, from ebic 2008:
- A shift to a more networked business to business model
- A demand and realisation for instant, relevant, information
- And a move towards relationship based taxonomy (ontology)
The hardware vendor...which has moved towards a networking and outsourcing business model, presented by Hitachi's Lynn Collier. Don highlighted that business model adopted by organisations such as Hitachi - where everything except the core competency of the business is outsourced - has been quick to catch on among hardware vendors as opposed to the knowledge and information market place.
I think this kind of model will increasingly be pushed through in other sectors over the coming years given the increasing economic strains almost universally felt by organisations. Hardware vendors have long operated in a highly competitive, low margin environment which has acted as the key driver for managerial and structural innovation.
The information vendor... adding value and competitive edge by moving beyond the search box, presented by Dow Jones/Factiva's Mark Bootherstone. Don recalled Mark's proposition that information overload has evolved into relevancy overload: clients and consumers want to know what is important right now.
Powering tomorrow's instant knowledge.
In addressing this relevancy challenge, Dow Jones/Factiva has developed techniques and technology to aggregate and present content in such a way that requires minimum effort from the consumer (e.g. visualised information as opposed to text) to interpret.
The semantic software vendor... proposing a solution to the ever amassing search problem using a technique of content 'ontology', presented by SmartLogic's Jeremy Bentley.
Don touched on Jeremy's supermarket analogy where coporate content was compared to tin cans on supermarket shelves, sorted into broad categories except without any labels (meta data) on the individual tins (content). Smartlogic has developed middleware (Semaphore) which embeds into the corporate information search engine. It autotags and identifies content from faceted navigation, disambiguation, and broader-than and narrower-than searches in addition to bringing mainstream search engine functionality.
Some interesting resources and information suggested by Don:
- AlacraPulse (information aggregator) which interestingly has its own Twitter account
- Kosmix - an ontology based search engine
- comScore report on the usage of mobile internet
In addition to the rich and entertaining presentations, the delegates were presented with an opportunity, customery at tfpl events, to grow and renew their networks. Our MD, Darron Chapman, had this to say:
We were delighted that the new
format for TFPL Connect proved so successful. The presentations highlighted and
developed a number of the themes which emerged at our conference (ebic).
The formal sessions were
thought-provoking and stimulating and I really enjoyed revisiting the topics to
test whether the predictions made in October were becoming reality. I’m looking
forward to the death of e-mail but can’t quite see it happening yet!
I am also very pleased that the
majority of participants stayed on to socialise – both old and new contacts
networked energetically and it’s clear that the move to evening meetings makes
it easier for our members to come along.