Client-centric IT lies at the heart of making the shift from being known for support of technology to being value generators through information. Previously, in part one (October 1, 2013), we discussed the technical roles that have new or changed responsibilities as client-centricity is sought. In this post, let’s look at the information-related roles to create or modify.

Information Roles

Some IT organizations have already added information management, records management, digital curation, digital archivist, content manager, and community manager roles. All of these have their place in ensuring that the information needs of an enterprise are met.

But there is often a big difference between how these are performed as an enterprise service — making sure, for instance, that the enterprise is in compliance with the legal requirements for records retention and protection of electronic data — and how they would be performed to leverage the use of information to create business value.

While the skills required are the same, the approaches are often different. (Think about your local public library: every librarian knows how to catalogue acquisitions, manage the collection, handle checkout, and conduct research, but only selected librarians are entrusted with being the person on the desk to help customers with their information needs.)

For instance, if you’ve implemented SharePoint as your core toolbox for content and information sharing, be prepared to provide a “rapid response” capability to whip up new SharePoint entities. Otherwise you’ll have corporate information scattered all over Google Sites, SocialText wikis, and the like before you know it. Any of these can be made operational in minutes — and templates make startup easy for information users. That’s the service level you need to be able to hit.

The second side of information service is somewhat more familiar, in that IT has supplied queries and reports, data warehouses, and information centre services for a while now. (Many also have business intelligence analysts available as well.)

Here, again, a customer-facing set of capabilities is essential. The goal should be to increase the information velocity of the enterprise: more explorations to yield occasional productive insights. That implies leveraging users rather than acting as a bottleneck everyone must pass through.

Big data becomes another service offered within this framework, rather than a thing apart.

The third main information leverage point is in the area of knowledge (and skill) management. But here the goal isn’t some centralized, architected system (after two decades’ trying, most organizations have learned that formal KM approaches didn’t gain voluntary support and traction) but more a suite of tools to help individuals manage their own information needs (what Harold Jarche calls Personal Knowledge Management), similar to the approach Euan Semple (author of Organizations don’t Tweet, People do) used during his time as Director of Knowledge Management at the BBC.

What are the use cases? If you’re asking that, you’ve got the stick by the wrong end. These will emerge from how individuals “work up” solutions that suit them: for most, at the beginning, they can’t see the uses until they use them. (Don’t be surprised if lots of suboptimal choices get made: one organization in Toronto got hooked on Dropbox to move data between work and home computers, and once it was established nothing new that was made available ever took root.)

You may note that for information roles there’s not a list of job titles. That’s because here you’re going to actually have to read résumés, interview, and assess (the person you need will be doing the work but probably under a very different job title: I’ve seen information specialists entitled business analyst, architect, help desk specialist, data base administrator, eBusiness specialist, and even once business continuity analyst).

But these roles are the ones that help the enterprise unlock top and bottom line improvements from the information you have. You’d better be about making sure your organization is seen as the “go to” source for help.

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