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Considerations for an information audit
Tuesday, 12th June 2012
There is no standardised model for an information audit. However components will generally include planning, surveying, inventorying existing resources, performing a gap analysis, valuing existing resources, and outlining recommendations. Every information audit will involve a number of decision points and the direction chosen can ultimately affect the outcome.
While the phrase "information audit" has risen and fallen in popularity, the need has remained steady if not grown. Most enterprises can benefit from an information audit, looking closely at how workers acquire, store, locate, share and use information. Done well, the process will identify opportunities to increase information access, save time, save money or some combination of the three.
There is no standard model for an information audit. Components will generally include planning, surveying, inventorying existing resources, performing a gap analysis, valuing existing resources, and outlining recommendations. Every information audit will involve a number of decision points, and the direction chosen can ultimately affect the outcome.
One such decision will centre on who should actually conduct the audit. Librarians and information professionals are particularly well-suited to the task and should consider offering this as a valuable service to their organisation either directly or through a third party. Sometimes it works well to bring in an outside consultant for the process, particularly if there is no resident information professional or if he/she does not have the time or expertise.
There is another less obvious reason to consider bringing in an outside consultant, and it is actually a credit to the organisation’s information professional. An information audit typically involves surveys and interviews designed to gain an understanding of how stakeholders obtain, share, and use information within the organisation. Engaging a third party to conduct these interviews can improve candour on the part of the responders and therefore enhance reliability of the findings. Some responders do not want to appear critical or unappreciative of the existing library or knowledge management function, particularly if the resident info pro is well=liked. Thus, they hesitate to offer a candid assessment of their situation. Sometimes people find it easier to share their concerns or criticisms with an outsider.
A successful information audit will add value and maximise return on investments while increasing access to organisational knowledge.
By Cynthia Shamel
Cindy Shamel owns and operates Shamel Information Services providing business research and analysis, information audits, and copyright compliance consulting from sunny Southern California, USA. She also writes and publishes Information Update for anyone seeking or using information. Learn more at http://www.shamelinfo.com.
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