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Magazines > Information Today > February 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 2 — February 2003
Online Information 2002
Online Information's Wrap-Up Session
by Jim Ashling

Following the 2001 silver jubilee event—which naturally spent sometime looking back at 25 years of online information industry history—Online 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, and networking.

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, association membership.

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


Jim Ashling runs Ashling Consulting, an independent consultancy for the information industry. His e-mail address is
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