Information Management: The State of the Art Review ofThe Emerald Handbook of Modern Information Management

Helen Edwards, Editor K&IM Refer


 The starting point for The Emerald Handbook of Modern Information Managementedited by James M. Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein is the impact of Google “the great disruptor” on the world where information professionals work.  Its conclusion, referenced in some way in each of the 38 chapters by experts from a range of sectors, is that the future and importance of information professionals lies in their ability to align with the goals of the missions of their organisations; to demonstrate this alignment in a way that is directly relevant to the organisation’s definition of success; and to set up processes to advocate effectively and capture the evidence proving their value.

The book is organised in three sections:

  • The economic and organisational context in which information professionals work and the skills needed to operate effectively within it.
  • The use of The Balanced Scorecardas a strategy performance management tool to offer framework for demonstrating contribution.
  • Future opportunities for information professionals in areas such as big data, competitive intelligence and talent acquisition.

Although a number of business tools are recommended in the book, it is The Balanced Scorecard, described by Robert S. Kapan and David P. Norton in a popular Harvard Business Review article that Matarazzo and Pearlstein find to be especially suitable to be adapted by information services  to “actas a guide to defining and quantifying the evidence that will enable the information professional to demonstrate how their services are helping the organisation to achieve success.”


The Balanced Scorecardconsists of four quadrants:

Customer Metrics

This determines what services to offer, by measuring what is important to the customer. Matarazzo and Pearlstein warn there is often the risk of a significant mismatch between the perceptions of the library and those of users. Research on special libraries shows that libraries often overvalue:

  • Conducting research on the user’s behalf
  • Managing the physical library and print collection
  • Evaluating and purchasing content sources

But undervalue:

  • Managing internal content
  • Researchers working on project teams
  • Integrating content into work processes

In order to avoid the danger of believing one’s own rhetoric with regards to being customer centric, the authors recommend systematic “identification of data/metrics/rubric around what customers want and need as well as what they value.”


 Internal Process Metrics

This quadrant explores and captures evidence on whether services are achieving their goals. Information professionals should ask: “Is the information service providing a sufficient level of service to meet customer demand (within known constraints)? Are the services being provided efficiently in terms of turnaround time and cost? Are the services effective in terms of quality of content and delivery methods? Are the resources available actually being used (what is the penetration rate)? Are there other areas of information management  such as KM, RM and Archives where IS involvement can improve information management in the organisation?”

 Learning and Growth Metrics

This quadrant looks at whether the IS staff are able to provide the quality and quantity of services required by the organisation?  The focus is on training and development of IS staff and how the skills and competencies acquired are “translated into roles that meet the needs identified in the Customer and Internal Process quadrants.”

Financial Metrics

The fourth quadrant is concerned with how the information service can illustrate, in quantifiable terms, its contribution to the organisation’s budgetary bottom line”. It requires an identification with the realities of the organisation’s finances and business models.

In the ambitious Leading and Managing Strategy in the 21stCentury, Mary Lee Kennedy and Rebecca Jones also advocate using a formal strategic approach from business literature to provide a leadership framework for the world of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and augmented reality.  They believe organisations are counting on the information management profession to assist them in working in this new environment“whether that means offering new analytical services, making sense of even more complex privacy and intellectual property laws, building research capacity, addressing content authenticity and reproducibility, preserving knowledge, helping to navigate an ever more sophisticated and opaque information environment, and many more possibilities.”

Facing future challenges from a different perspective, Tamika Barnes, Iyanna Sims and Christopher Moffat in their chapterReference Reimagined explore the generational characteristics and technological advances that call for new “postmodern” reference services that celebrate differences.  Using tools such as ethnography, they advocate “designing a service that will respond to any user rather than the user conforming to the designed service.”  In practical terms, this has often come to mean cutting back and consolidating reference services at reference desks in favour of “roving, embedding and community centred services” and looking to sectors such as retail, hospitality, computing and healthcare for inspiration to develop new models.

There are new constraints also for content acquisition.  The chapter Negotiate for Information Like it is Your Own Money – With Savvy and the Right Skills by Willem C. Noorlander includes an enlightening section on how the current market place differs from when he began his career in the 1980s. Changes in supplier ownership, consolidations and mergers and the trend for venture capital firms to acquire small and medium sized suppliers has resulted in “a harder and more structured approach to fee models and negotiations as well as a different mindset and concern about client loyalty.”  However, this more challenging supplier environment has led to evolving roles in information sourcing, information procurement and supplier management. These roles can have “a high level of value attached, often interactive with critical business objectives and leadership as well as having a financial impact for the organisation.”

Of especial interest to the Knowledge and Information Management Special Interest Group is Eva Semertzaki’s chapter Knowledge Management Skills Applicable to Information Management – Information Management Skills Applicable to Knowledge Management in an Organisation.   Semertzaki believes that while both skillsets have much in common and both are future oriented, information management focuses on “the acquisition, organisation, arrangement, storage, retrieval and use of information” while knowledge management practitioners “play a role as creators, owners, disseminators and users of knowledge.”  Knowledge managers are explicitly concerned with the processes for creating knowledge and “supporting the dialogue between people who possess knowledge…..the key difference between knowledge management and information management is the human factor which prevails in the first instance because humans are the generators of knowledge.”   The chapter reviews competency frameworks for both information and knowledge managers and concludes that those for IM are weighted towards the technical and analytical, whereas for KM lateral thinking, change management skills and having appropriate personality traits become more important. However, within information management there is already “a shift in focus from information to people as consumers of information.”  Many jobs, whether characterised as information management or knowledge management roles require “a mixture of technical, soft skills and local or business knowledge, —– that the professional completely understands the information needs of the organisation.”

Indeed, contemplating the many case studies and individual examples included in the book, it becomes apparent that in many cases, it is the personal qualities of an individual in a specific context and the relationships they are able to make that leads to success, rather than any specific skillset or framework.  In Marketing Your Expertise, Anne E. Rogers and Kaia L. Densch describe how they were able to thrive in a time of transition at the Cargill InfoCenter. Although threatened with both disbandment and even oblivion, their success in engaging “strong support from our stakeholders and constructive analyses of needed work”, in part by effective benchmarking of similar organisations, led to their survival intact and with their value enhanced.  Their tagline “a small footprint but a big impact”helped their services to move from being the best to the “worst kept secret in the company” as their visibility increased and they were able to extend their services into new areas.

Because the success of projects is so often down to the  individuals involved, changes in the environment often result in once successful initiatives and practices running their course.  In Models of Service in an Age of Acceleration,Claire B. Gunnells and Susan E. Green review a number of library collaborations, not all of which achieved the hoped for monetary and service advantages.  The original leaders move on, new leaders do not share the commitment and can be“hard pressed to find success stories of why and how the project was created in the first place”, and relationships at a more junior level can fail to develop.  Nevertheless, information professionals need to be out there “breaking the rules, shattering myths and forging new alliances with colleagues and customers alike.”  This book is a serious contribution to helping information professionals do just that.

Emerald Handbook of Modern Information Management

James M. Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein

Emerald Publishing, 2017


K & IM Refer 34(2), Autumn, 2018


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