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Wednesday, 6th June 2012 Please login top-right to be able to star items

By Michelle Manafy


There are so many intangibles in information work that it can be incredibly challenging to evaluate the efficacy of our efforts. How rare and lovely are those moments when you can point to an information resource that resulted in clear business advantage? What's needed is a good basis for comparison on information investment and resources, but it's very difficult to come by.


We all want to believe that we are doing good work. Work is hard and we want to see it pay off. Yet there are so many intangibles in information work that it can be incredibly challenging to evaluate the efficacy of our efforts. How rare and lovely are those moments when you can point to an information resource that resulted in clear business advantage?

What's needed is a good basis for comparison on information investment and resources, but it's very difficult to come by. Companies generally keep this information pretty protected. I find it painfully ironic that one reason many organisations cite for their unwillingness to open their information-resources kimono is "competitive advantage". Right, so information strategy does provide strategic value. Er, well, not so much at budget allocation time...

Without a doubt, we can all benefit from knowledge of best practises, standards and a basis for comparison of our allocation of resources to others in our field. As an information community, we continually strive to work together in ways that are complementary rather then competitive so that all boats rise. It is with this in mind that FreePint Research has been hard at work to create and test a methodology for benchmarking information services. We are examining how organisations deliver information services in terms of staffing, project priorities and budget.

I took a peek at some of the preliminary results and already a number of interesting insights are emerging. One tough statistic to see is the ratio of library staff to fee earners in law firms. In small organisations, it is about 1:60. In large law firms, with more than 500 fee earners, the ratio is about 1:75. While the numbers may not be altogether surprising, when you consider that the legal field is one in which the notion of "fee earner" is clearest, imagine what the numbers and aggregated insights will reveal in other sectors.

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Thus far, the research has been heavily weighted to the legal sector, as we've already published the FreePint Research Report: Benchmarking on UK Law Firm Information Products and Priorities. However, we have moved into the next phase of research in which we look at a wide range of other industries, include financial, pharmaceutical, energy, manufacturing and professional services, among others.

Get Involved
Are you ready to participate? When you complete our online form, “How can FreePint help?”, tick the box to indicate your interest in participating.

If your organisation matches the criteria we’re looking for, and we'll contact you to set up a confidential interview. You'll receive a copy of the results as a thank you. Not only will they allow you to see how you stack up, but these results provide solid data that enable you to better make a case for investments in information staff and resources.

Competing priorities
Across industries, we can already see that are a several competing priorities at work. End user training averages very high, though averages don't tell the whole story. Upon closer inspection, early results reveal that intranets are of high import, with a focus on better information architecture so that information resources can be effectively located and put to work. Intranet content improvement also ranks fairly high as does information governance.

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There is more to information value than simply buying the best content – though that remains important and challenging. Enabling end users to locate quality information easily within the context of their workflow and then empowering them to use it effectively requires wise investments in tools and education. If you are in the market to invest some time in your education on these topics, FreePint is hosting a free webinar in partnership with the Content Division the SIIA and the SLA on 28 June that will help content buyers and sellers better understand their mutual customer: the end user.

We can all benefit from a greater understanding of information resource investment and how to better serve those end users. We hope you'll contribute your insights by indicating your interest in participating in FreePint Research and we look forward to continuing to support information ROI.


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Michelle Manafy is the senior editor of Min, which publishes the Media Industry Newsletter — the go-to resources for advertising data, news, deals, trends and personnel moves shaping the consumer magazine publishing industry — and hosts the industry's premier events and awards programs. Previously, Michelle held the position of Editor-in-chief at Free Pint Limited, a global publisher of sites, research and resources that support the value of information in the enterprise. Prior to joining FreePint, Michelle served as the Editorial Director of the Enterprise Group for Information Today, Inc. where she was editor of EContent Magazine and chair of the Buying & Selling eContent Conference and Enterprise Search Summits. She is the co-editor of and a contributor to the book Dancing With Digital Natives: Staying in Step With the Generation That's Transforming the Way Business is Done (May 2011, CyberAge Books). An award-winning columnist, Michelle's focus is on emerging trends in digital content and how they shape successful business practices. She speaks at a variety of industry events and serves as a judge for content and technology competitions. She has worked in book and magazine publishing for more than 20 years in areas ranging from pop culture to academic nonfiction and holds a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University.

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Technology: Improving information work with technology
Value: Maximising value for information work and investment
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