Online Information 2002
Online Information's Wrap-Up Session
by Jim Ashling
the 2001 silver jubilee eventwhich naturally spent sometime
looking back at 25 years of online information industry historyOnline
Information 2002 promised to explore the major issues that shape
the industry, determine key trends, and predict future developments.
A little more than 11,000 attendees and 700 conference delegates
from aroundthe world converged on London's Olympia Grand Hall and
Conference Centre for what continues to be the premier international
online information event.
Conference chairman Martin White said, "The aim of the conference
and exhibition is to ensure that information professionals and
users are fully equipped to face the challenges of 2003." Toward
this aim, the event included a parallel online information academy
with sessions on business and planning, gaining support, negotiating,
For an overview of the conference, I attended the wrap-up session
on the final afternoon. The event's themes weresummarized by
a panel that comprised Stephen Arnold, president of Arnold Information
Technologies; Bob McKee, chief executive at CILIP; Howard McQueen,
CEO of McQueen Consulting; Gwenda Sippings, director of information
resources at UK Inland Revenue; Linda Stoddart, director of the
International Labour Office's Bureau of Information Services;
and Cynthia Hill, president-elect of SLA.
The panel identified issues that centered mostly on how today's
information professionals need to cope with, adapt to, and influence
change in their own organizations. Stoddart emphasized collaboration
and networking, but stressed the importance of a belief in the
profession, coupled with a strong advocacy.
Sippings echoed similar concerns, encouraging the creation
of cross-departmental interest groups that utilize people as
the knowledge assets they really are. She's worried that the
transition to a knowledge management environment is not proceeding
fast enough, especially in institutions that don't provide well
for a mobile workforce and don't involve information professionals
early in the decision-making process. McQueen agreed. While summarizing
the essentials of intranet design, he noted that intranets are
all too often staffed by junior-level employees.
Arnold agreed that information professionals must make their
cases at the highest levels of a corporation, but said that most
were not well-equipped with the business and language skills
requiredto influence the likes of CFOs. He urged them to bridge
the different functions of the company and show how information
is the lubricant that allows business to operate.
McKee was more concerned by what was not covered at
the conference: virtual environments, professional development
issues, civil liberties, and freedom of information. Hill addressed
the development issue by noting the importance of knowledge sharing,
coaching, cross-departmental fertilization, and, naturally enough,
Opening the debate to the audience revealed a wider concern:
The industry is too inward-looking, not aggressive enough, and
not represented in places where the decisions are really made.
The planning for this year's World Summit on the Information
Society was cited as an example.Arnold pointed out that today's
kids, who will soon develop the killer aps for today's devices,
do not even know we're here or that we exist.
Given those comments, it's not surprising that suggestions
for this year's themes included more on the latest technology,
more on raising professional image and enhancing impact, and
particularly, a much greater effort to attract speakers and attendees
from outside the traditional information community. The 2003
meeting will run Dec. 24, once again at Olympia. Details
will appear at http://www.online-information.co.uk.
Jim Ashling runs Ashling
Consulting, an independent consultancy for the
information industry. His e-mail address is email@example.com.