The Past, Present & Future in Information Management – from detective to digital

01 Jan 1970 1:00 am

In a recent survey conducted by LexisNexis, we asked 500 people working in information services how they felt their role had changed since the digital revolution. This blog is the first in a series where we contemplate the findings from the survey. Here we highlight the shift from physical research to desktop-based information gathering. 

Past, present & Future report

The survey reveals that information management has changed beyond recognition in the past 20 years.  The discipline used to be a more measured and less time intensive role. Sources were often physical and had to be tracked down. Fieldwork and primary research was used extensively – due in part to a lack of sources or the challenges of tracking data down. Even relatively recently, the roles played by those interviewed in the survey were characterised by scrutiny of reference materials, periodicals and trade journals as hardcopy documents. Fieldwork was a regular requirement – whether that was an on-the-ground analysis of a potential new geography or a trip to the nearest high street to take a photograph of a competitor's showroom.

Playing detective

Stefan Janzen, Research Analyst at MetaDesign commented: "I remember how I used to go to the library once a month and conduct research there. I even summarised some of the information by hand when I couldn't make copies. My colleagues had to do a lot more fieldwork than they do today, going out to take pictures of our clients' shops, or those of competitors."

Janzen calls it "playing detective"; searching for information was physical and to get it you had to know where to look.

The digital age

In stark contrast, today's information professional appears to be far more desk based.  The survey identified a number of tools used by information professionals in the past and present and asked respondents which they used five years ago compared to today:

  • Five years ago 17% of survey respondents used social media as an information resource. Today that number has more than tripled to 58%.
  • Five years ago 20% utilised blogs in their daily information gathering activities. Today this has risen to over 50%.
  • The historic mainstay of information management – the library – has witnessed a drop of 12% in popularity over the past five years.

The digital age is offering information professionals far more virtual tools, negating the need for much of the physical research that used to be such an integral part of the role of the information manager. The physical element of "playing detective" is still a crucial part of the role, but the physical element is no longer there.

If you have found this article thought-provoking, you might be interested in the next blog in our series where we look at how free information from the internet is impacting the work of the information manager.

Click here to download a copy of the Past, Present & Future of Information Management report.