Addressing the High Cost of Squandering Information (5-5-10)
I was sure that those involved in business development would have been among the first to adopt a concept that our firm has been calling Infocentricity since the mid-1980s. The idea was (and is) that, since information is central to everything knowledge workers do, why not treat it as a valuable corporate asset? Information from all sources that relate to the business' past, present and future areas of interest (we call each instance of information a 'snowflake') should be captured, pre-positioned and made available as a shared resource to be used and augmented.
Most everyone can agree that knowledge workers (i.e., those who trade on their contacts, experience and understanding) are a business development staple that is here to stay. The issue is the value corporations place on capturing, tagging, fusing and pre-positioning for reuse the knowledge that employees are paid to learn. Is it enough only to gain the fruits of their labor, or should we labor to learn, remember, and share the seeds of their success?
First, we should understand that fused and pre-positioned information represents a real competitive edge. Unless companies put a serious value on husbanding competitive information, they are always going to be at a competitive disadvantage to those that do. It is reasonable to assume that all business developers are building personal Rolodexes on their employer's nickel, but until employers invest in an 'infostructure' and instill cultural change to become Infocentric, valuable information that has not been recorded by the company is going to walk out of the door - gone until it is redeveloped, or gone, possibly, forever. The only thing worse than never having taken the time to record information in the first place is having to pay for the time to learn the same information twice.
Second, we should recognize that transforming a culture that does not value information into one that does is not easy. The main agents of positive change are going to be: having an internal champion, providing Infocentricity training for the community of interest, establishing an Infostructure to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration (e.g., IBM's Lotus Notes, Microsoft's Sharepoint), and achieving some early successes. The cultural side of Infocentricity requires that everyone connected with customer and competitor interactions is required to describe, record and pre-position, for possible reuse, every information snowflake they come across. Cultures, however, are not easy to change. As a consequence, it is much easier to employ non-invasive activities such as competitive intelligence products to some and provide web search capabilities to all in hopes that a generally positive effect is achieved. Information is not just your job or my job: it is everyone's job.
Third, we should resolve to keep Infocentricity going - and make it central, not peripheral, to everything we do. Many of you know CAI/SISCo as a provider of information-intensive business development support services to major customers primarily in the national (and other levels of government) market arena. Shortly after PCs became affordable, it became obvious that the real value of computers in commerce was their ability to remember stuff and to deliver it on demand. People, on the other hand, are less than stellar at retaining, summoning and sharing information.
Thirty years ago, before computers became affordable, CAI/SISCo's corporate culture was to develop and maintain hard copy information on everything with which we came into contact - customers, opportunities, competitors, products, SMEs, etc. The computer provided the means for us to take our existing culture to the next level -- and networking, collaboration software and the Internet supported yet higher performance levels.
Our goal has always been to support our culture by developing and maintaining the best corporate Infocenter we can. Everyone in our company uses it, maintains it, and values it - it is central to our Infocentric culture. Without it, our value would be severely diminished.
In an effort to help business development organizations understand and implement their own versions of Infocentricity, CAI/SISCo is now offering training, consulting and implementation services that can help enterprises transform from collections of individuals into information powerhouses that support success, growth and survival. Please contact us to request an Infocenticity consultation, a demonstration, or a proposal.
Good luck and happy hunting!