need to add value to the deliverables from online searching
continues to grow. During recent years, increasingly, information
brokers prepare value-added deliverables for corporate information
managers and librarians on a contractual or ad hoc, per-project
basis. Individuals from various departments in companies of
varying sizes and across many industries, as well as business,
marketing, and management consultants, also hire information
brokers when budgets and deadlines permit the time and expense
it takes for this type of work. Furthermore, business units
within corporations and organizations employing information
specialists or research analysts with library science degrees
or MBAs also must produce sharp-looking, effective output. For
example, Jena Lund, information specialist (and MBA) at APQC
(American Productivity and Quality Center) [http://www.apqc.org],
an organization known for benchmarking and best practice studies,
conducts research and writes reports for internal and external
In 2001, I was
invited to talk to a group of special librarians on the subject
of library services in the face of a merger. As part of my preparation,
I interviewed 15 librarians and consultants from the fields
of utilities, pharmaceuticals, and financial services. The experience
only increased my growing awareness of the changing roles for
searchers in preparing results for clients. Some librarians
with whom I spoke described how their work had changed considerably
with the addition of value-added deliverables as a major activity.
Several librarians had changed positions or departments. They
had left libraries behind and became part of competitive intelligence
or market research units. Along with new responsibilities came
new job titles, including research analyst, knowledge manager,
research consultant, and global content manager, to name a few.
As part of their research responsibilities, several prepared
templates for value-added company and industry reports to expedite
procedures. (You will find various examples presented as sidebars
throughout this article.)
company reports are well known. In addition, see Hoover's
Industry Snapshots [http://www.hoovers.com/industry/
provide very brief industry information, names of major
players, key organizations and associations, and resources
For industry information
For company profiles
For company profiles
and Wetfeet are career-oriented sites and as such depict
corporate culture in their company profiles. These profiles
are a unique source for providing insights about a company
and useful for competitive intelligence projects. Primarily
the sites cover large public companies.
2.0 site contains links to various industries and their
components (see above screenshot) and includes major players,
industry issues, and trade and professional organizations.
site offers profiles for 125 industries. Each profile
costs $99. A database subscription allows unlimited use.
Reports from Valuation Resources
has links with abstracts of industry sources for several
Poor's Industry Surveys
& Poor's Industry Surveys are overviews of 51 major
U.S. industries. Reports include industry trends,developments
and forecasts, major players and market share data, key
ratios and statistics, comparative company analysis, general
industry operations, and other information. The surveys
are available in both HTML and PDF format on a subscription
basis. Individual surveys can be purchased online at http://sandp.ecnext.com
either in hard copy or PDF files for $325 each. You can
also purchase individual industries, updated twice a year,
at a cost for one industry of $500. The complete S&P
Industry Surveys product with all 51 industries is available
electronically through S&P's electronic venues. A
full subscription comes in either weekly or quarterly
Last year, an
Outsell, Inc. study documented the growing trend in the preparation
of value-added deliverables as librarians change from "reference
information tools for users, many information professionals
have effectively off-loaded low-end reference work and are focusing
on providing value-added research to their users. Some libraries
are doing this by taking on new roles in business or competitor
intelligence. Some are providing more in-depth research services,
including primary research and quantitative analysis.1
that some librarians have successfully transitioned to these
new roles while others augment their library's expertise by
hiring individuals with subject-specific education and/or work
experience. Outsell's study also revealed that lack of time
or budget to pay for new services remains a definite problem
that one cannot ignore. On the other hand, one way to augment
budgets is to enhance image and prove value. [See my article,
"Practical Tips to Help You Prove Your Value," Marketing
Library Services (MLS),http://www.infotoday.com/
Benefits and Examples
There are two
major benefits that come from the enrichment of deliverables:
1) considerable timesavings for the customer; and 2) the enhancing
of customer perceptions of the information center's worth. Value-added
deliverables may typically take from 8-50 hours to complete,
though some extensive projects, for example, intranet content
development, can take hundreds of hours. One project for the
marketing department of a large law firm required more than
a year to complete. Other projects entail ongoing tracking and
monitoring of competitors or industry trends and market statistics
essential to strategic planning and business growth. Much of
this type of work encompasses company, industry, and topical
research and covers areas such as competitive intelligence,
market research, or due diligence. Secondary research, consisting
of commercial database searching, Internet research, contact
with trade associations and experts for source material or knowledge,
and telephone research and interviews, may form the research
research is reviewed, filtered, organized, and synthesized into
a written report that succinctly summarizes and further categorizes
what has been uncovered during the research process. The final
output can answer specific questions, either about companies
or industries, or about business management, business processes,
marketing and advertising strategies, or trends and forecasts
about the future.
As an information
broker, the majority of my work in the past has involved online
research, compiled with information categorized and organized
into documents. This work, in itself, is value added compared
to the type of work I once did as a public librarian. Turning
back the clock 20 years, I initially ripped my Dialog search
results from the printer, or opted for high-quality printouts
from Dialog's high-speed fancy laser jet printers sent by snail
mail within 48 hours. Before giving results to the user, I and
other librarians I worked with, checked off or highlighted relevant
results, or crossed out extraneous database records with a pencil
or a yellow highlight pen: Although messy-looking, this was
a key effort in assisting patrons by preventing them from looking
at false drops or irrelevant material and was the only value
added available at that time.
Then came computers
and word-processing software. Now one could save results, delete
irrelevant information, and create high-quality, easy-to use
documents. Working at a public library, however, there was little
time and, without computers, just CRTs (cathode ray tubes, i.e.,
a monitor without computer) and printers, no possibility of
serious value-added work. When I started my information brokerage
full time in 1984, with the first vanilla IBM computer on my
desktop and word-processing software, I began organizing information
into sections. Upon the advice of a marketing consultant, I
added a table of contents to the compilation of articles every
time to help clients find information more quickly. As time
went on, I learned that presentation is everything, leading
to repeat business, good referrals, and more sales.
deliverable is much more than pretty. It's functional, because
organizing results into an easy-to-use document saves the client
time. In one situation, I hired a graphic designer to do an
attractive layout of my research results for a client, whose
business could provide me with a huge year-long contract. The
presentation impressed the prospective client and probably explains
how I got the job.
Librarians and Value-Added
contract with information brokers supplement existing internal
information and research services. There aren't enough hours
in a day for most librarians to expend large amounts of time
on one request, because of their many and varied responsibilities
and sometimes hundreds of requests a month. Still, adding a
capability for both in-depth research and value-added reports
is one way to showcase the significant value the library or
information center contributes to its users. Furthermore, with
appropriate metrics in place, a library can track ROI (return
on investment) for this kind of service.
Why Prepare Value-Added
barriers, successful librarians who have managed to retain their
jobs in tough times suggest that preparing valued-added deliverables
or partnering with information brokers and independent researchers
to do so both contributes to their image and enhances client
perception about the roles librarians play. Value-added deliverables
that encompass new skills such as competitive intelligence,
market research, and analysis and writing, however, are more
than just good for saving jobs. These deliverables appreciably
help users and are important for:
or preventing user exposure to information overload
in new business
deliverables form an implicit part of a proactive marketing
strategy crucial to an effective overall marketing plan. [See
my article, "How Write a Marketing Plan," Marketing Library
corporate business environment, decision-makers expect more
from the information they use. They are more proficient in their
information usage and application, and they don't hesitate to
use the Internet to find information for themselves. At the
confluence of these trends is value-added research and analysis
a practice that has become the strategic imperative for
market research and intelligence professionals. The "information
accountability bar" has been raised.
a value-added research project, librarians may consider retaining
other types of professionals besides outside researchers and
information brokers, e.g., marketing analysts, economists, financial
analysts, or in-house experts. Many large corporations already
maintain contacts with well-known consulting firms. Bringing
other consultants and analysts on board for selected projects
is a potentially wise decision. Admittedly, consultation with
in-house experts for certain requests may not be possible because
of the confidentiality that some organizations require to protect
internal team efforts. In these instances, outside specialists
provide useful services and are a valuable alternative.
with expertise in conducting interviews and eliciting important
information for competitive intelligence and market research
questions, for example, will often produce answers not available
online or from other sources. Using legal and ethical information-gathering
techniques, they collect information and insights that lead
to more knowledge without divulging their client's name. This
can add tremendous value to the final results. Angela Kangiser
(Online Business Research, Colorado Springs), a research expert
in telephone interviews, says, "Aside from phone research being
a necessity in some cases, interviews breathe life and clarity
into a project or deliverable." A word of caution regarding
telephone interviews: Although there are tremendous benefits,
I've also worked with companies which do not want any phone
research conducted, fearing it may attract attention that gets
back to a competitor. Sensitive situations require careful decisions
with regard to various research methodologies.
To produce value-added
deliverables consider three steps:
- Conduct research.
raw material into an executive or written report that includes
suggests a different model by asserting that value-add is "the
addition of opinion and recommendation based on experiential
knowledge that overlays any collection, filtering, or manipulation
of the information being provided to its ultimate user."2
While this is probably the ultimate in value-added work, each
level beyond producing and delivering raw data adds value important
in developing and delivering value-added products and services.
How to Prepare Value-Added
Deliverables and What to Include
of Ideas for Company Profile Templates
Brief Company Description
Lines of business/products
Segments, Subsidiaries, and Operations
of Ideas for Industry Profiles
Brief Industry Description and Overview
Key Industry Issues
Industry Trends & Developments
Industry Threats & Challenges
Web Site Links
News & Media Coverage
Trade and Professional Associations
of Ideas for an Executive Report
Objectives (A statement summarizing
or restating what client wants)
Research methodology and sources
Comments about the research and disclaimers. Some examples
may be inconsistencies in the information because of variations
in sources, different points of view, or biases.
is more information available for some competitors than
are differences regarding the
amount and type of information for
public versus private companies.
information is not all-inclusive
because of budget or time restrictions.
results are a snapshot in time.
opportunities from Web sites are a source of CI and included.
releases uncover marketing strategies, distribution channels,
competing products, product
specifications, and copywriting styles
or reveal publicity programs.
At a Glance Table
Overview Comparison, Observations, Trends
Individual Company Profiles
in preparing value-added deliverables, and so do the tips and
guidelines for them. One starts with post-processing to edit
and clean up search results when necessary. Post- processing
eliminates what the client doesn't need to see, such as system
commands captured when using the classic versions of commercial
databases. When using Web versions, there may be fewer post-processing
steps involved, though some still remain.
Jena Lund explains,
"What I did figure out is that using either DialogLink or Classic
Dialog is the way to go if you're going to format the articles
later, or if you need to cut and paste quotes from them. Using
a macro in Word, or just the Find and Replace function, you
can remove the line breaks or paragraph marks from the end of
each line and still maintain the paragraphs. In the Web version,
I can't see any way to do that."
Factiva, a completely Web-based system, require little cleanup.
A change in fonts and spacing or adding page breaks may be desirable,
but you won't have to clean up a file in the same way as with
Classic Dialog or Classic LexisNexis when using Record Session
On. Record Session On is a "super searcher" technique for capturing
whole files (sometimes desirable for maintaining a record of
your work) and for avoiding document costs when using a transactional
account with the LexisNexis Research Software. Classic systems
are still important to many professional searchers because of
the greater speed and therefore increased productivity for searchers.
As an aside, in the case of LexisNexis, the Classic version
is also advantageous because it includes the whole system, whereas
licensing issues continue to prevent Nexis.com from offering
all data sources.
A searcher comfortable
and experienced in post-processing techniques can work quickly,
though admittedly this is grunt work that some would like to
avoid. Each person will want to apply online systems and techniques
that work best for them. Variation will stem from differences
in styles, types of accounts, amount of time spent on various
operations, skill levels, etc.
A small detail,
but one that has always annoyed me, is the fact that some databases
include symbols that are unnecessary or confusing to some clients.
I delete parts of records such as CODENS, ISSN numbers, and
even descriptors sometimes. Some readers may not want to spend
time wrestling with these finicky details, but having done this
for years, I work quickly. Post-processing for scientific-technical
and medical information, however, is different. One writer points
out how "removing certain information such as an ISSN
field, CAS [Chemical Abstracts Services] accession number, or
AIAA [American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics] report
number could result in slower and more expensive document delivery
down the line."
perspective from this somewhat micro level of cleaning up the
document, Sisler and Cooper describe value-added deliverables
that include the following:
- Adding introductory
a cover page
interviews with technical experts and their biographies
a document delivery order form
- Adding client
delivery information (address and method)
that results are received by the client3
some companies include feedback forms to obtain customer input
about their services. A report can also contain recommendations,
sometimes popularly called Next Steps. Recommendations may call
for additional research or ramifications and opinions.
formats are print and e-mail. For the most part, how you deliver
depends on customer requirements. E-mail is fast and easy and
saves trees and time compared to printed reports. Some printed
reports are compiled and placed in loose-leave binders with
dividers, whereas others are bound with spiral binding and attractive
covers. A binding machine is low cost and useful to have around
if you deliver a lot of work in print. In some settings, you
can call on graphics departments to handle this part of preparing
a final product or outsource to copy shops by e-mailing documents
to them for final preparation, but only if confidentiality is
not a concern.
The most typical
file types for delivering reports are "documents," i.e., word-processed
files, PDF files, and spreadsheets. For some situations, I divide
results into two files, one containing the executive summary
or report, and the other with the online search results, compiled
and organized into sections by pertinent topics or questions
asked. For business research, I title the compiled online research
"Detailed Findings," which is more descriptive and meaningful
to a business user than the terms "online research" or "literature
search." The Detailed Findings contain copyrighted articles.
For companies that share information or work on teams, it's
fine to distribute a written and synthesized report, but only
one person may have permission to use the Detailed Findings
consisting of copyrighted articles, unless royalty or licensing
arrangements have been made.
I believe in delivering all supporting information and documents.
There are situations, however, in which a well-documented report
suffices. Some of my colleagues deliver high-quality reports
that cite sources and use footnotes and references. They inform
customers that the online research is available upon request.
Again, what you do depends on your company's internal workings,
polices, and user needs. The phrase "literature search" may
still be the best choice for medical, scientific, and technical
database research, but the more you use words that mean something
to the customer, rather than library jargon, the better chance
you have for developing relationships that translate into customer
satisfaction and loyalty.
When I locate
relevant PDF files or other file types on the Web containing
supporting documentation, I send these as attachments. Until
recently, Webforia reporting software would package all kinds
of documents into one file, but its bankruptcy now rules out
this interesting software as a means for preparing deliverables.
A partial alternative is Catch the Web Solo [http://www.catchtheweb.com],
license fee $295. A new version was recently released. The company
also provides enterprise-wide licensing. Catch the Web captures
complete or partial Web pages, including Flash, PDF, database
pages, e-mail, or "any page or document that is viewed in an
Internet Explorer Browser," and features include the ability
to add yellow highlights and "sticky notes" before capture.
Files can be shared with other users.
create Adobe Acrobat PDF files for original reports and presentations
and consider this format a way to protect original work. Bear
in mind, however, that part of some PDF files can be cut and
pasted into other files. Use the Text Select Tool on the Adobe
Acrobat toolbar, once the file is opened:
- Click on
the symbol on the Adobe Acrobat toolbar.
- Use the cursor
and mouse to highlight text or Select All.
- Click on
- Click on
- Paste into
another file such as a Word document.
You can copy
up to a page at a time using this technique. There are also
conversion software programs and Adobe provides a Web site that
will convert PDF files to HTML or text. See the following URLs
for additional information: http://access.adobe.com/simple_form.html
Since most of
my work is incorporated into reports that clients provide to
their clients or used by more than one person, I prefer to prepare
document files (e.g., in Word) that are easier for clients to
integrate and faster to print than PDFs. Nevertheless, a nifty
service introduced by DataStar Web in late 2000 allows users
to save documents as RTF, HTML, text, or PDF. When the DataStar
Web product manager gave me a demonstration of how to save results
in a PDF file, I was in awe of the instantaneously produced
document derived from selected articles. The file includes a
title page and table of contents, created immediately and automatically.
A DataStar enhancement last year added the capability of customizing
the title page to a user's specifications. The default cover
sheet contains the DataStar/Thomson name and logo. For a one-time
fee of $500, Dialog customizes the PDF file cover sheet with
your company name and logo. I'm giving serious thought to using
DataStar Web for this fast approach to creating attractive value-added
research results instantly, that is, when a DataStar database
serves my research needs. Of course, if parent company, Dialog,
would add the feature to its own data collection.... Enough
The adage "less
is more" applies strongly to value-added deliverables. Learn
to prepare reports with short sentences and bullets that concisely
summarize research. Avoiding those huge printouts of hundreds
of pages is one request that some clients make, although other
clients prefer to review all materials and incorporate data
into their own reports or analyzes.
tables, or charts also upgrades the overall report and is something
that business users value. Using tables is not only functional,
but also provides a good finishing touch that adds a very professional
look and impresses clients. Learning to craft simple tables
and charts in Word and Excel is fairly easy to do. For complex
work, consider in-house or outside experts knowledgeable in
the use of various tools. Your motto? Whatever it takes to get
the job done right.
and costs are important considerations prior to offering value-added
products and services. Synthesized, written reports with analysis
take time and expertise to complete, and costs are not insignificant
when you combine expense for hours incurred and online fees.
In library settings, some allocate line items in their budget
for internal and outsourced research, including labor and expense.
Others use the charge-back method. This can entail cost-recovery
and/or profitability requirements. In some cases, organizations
charge hourly for labor but subsidize online costs. Variations
across businesses and corporations depend on corporate culture
and on other internal workings.
Tips for Saving
Graphs, and Charts
Since many businesspeople
are visual and prefer reports with tables, graphs, and charts,
it's great whenever possible to make simple tables quickly from
the research you've conducted, or use some already available
from a range of sources. Dialog's Report Feature is one way
to gather data in tabular format for inclusion in a report.
A search on File 516 for the Top 20 Audio and Video Manufacturing
Companies using the report feature, for example, took me 1 minute
at a cost under $15 [see tables 1 and 2 on pages 48]. Apart
from creating a table this way, research on the Web frequently
locates ready-made tables in HTML that you can cut and paste
into a document. Internet Explorer retains tables, whereas the
older, and oft-favored, Netscape versions lose the tabular format
when copied into a text document.
You can also
save time on making tables or charts by using online database
systems such as Alacra, LIVEDGAR, InfotechTrends, and OneSource,
all of which allow you to export business and financial tabular
data into spreadsheets. PriceWaterhouseCoopers' EdgarScan [http://edgarscan.tc.pw.com/EdgarScan]
provides software for instantly generating graphs from tabular
information, useful in benchmarking financial data. At the site,
enter a company's name for links to relevant portions of current
EDGAR filings. Then use the EdgarScan Benchmarking Assistant.
and business information, Dialog's DataStar offers WebCharts.
Dialog describes this as:
A powerful formatting
tool for greatly enhancing the appearance of the information
you retrieve. Benefits include: 1) hand's free chart creation
of tabular reports, 2) tables created in seconds that would
take hours or days by hand, 3) information of interest extracted
into tabular cells from raw text, and 4) data structured for
easier understanding and presentation.
Company and Industry Reports
When time is
short or the budget small, look to ready-made or ready-to-go
(AKA packaged or pre-packaged) company and industry reports.
You may be able to quickly locate the reports you require without
conducting extensive research. Much of my work involves finding
answers to specific questions, uncovering industry information
on narrow market segments or niches not covered by existing
sources, or in-depth and thorough research on companies. Nevertheless,
there are instances where ready-made reports are adequate for
a request. When there is more than one report on a subject,
you may need to synthesize reports, but when time and budget
kick in as factors, sending packaged reports can save the day.
I received a request for 15 company profiles the client wanted
delivered within 24-hours. I used Hoover's and MarketGuide (Multex),
for most of the companies, and each complemented the other.
Supplying more than one source whenever possible is good practice
for confirming or verifying data or providing different perspectives.
In other situations, sections or pages from market research
and investment analyst's reports (available from Profound, Dialog,
LexisNexis, Research Bank Web or Intelligence Data, etc.) may
suffice for clients who need analytical information immediately.
A Word About Templates
You can design
templates in Word or tailor a report to a client's requirements
using topics based on the questions asked and information you
locate. Consult tables of contents from market research, consulting
firm, or investment analyst's reports as sources for ideas about
how to model your reports. Market research sites such as Marketresearch.com
and Mindbranch.com contain abstracts and tables of contents
for thousands of reports. Large consulting firms provide many
free reports downloadable from their Web sites, and tables of
contents from Investext are available from Research Bank Web,
Intelligence Data, Dialog, Profound, LexisNexis, and DataStar.
Several examples of templates were generously supplied by independent
information professionals and a special librarian. I've included
samples of tables I've created as well as checklists of what
to include in company and industry reports.
Final Tips and Summary
reports according to client needs.
- Use sources
that save time.
- Create models
deliverables take hours to prepare but the pay off
value-added deliverables, establish guidelines or policies.
Only interpret data or make recommendations when expertise permits.
Use internal or outside sources for a more advanced end product.
A final word: Value-added deliverables incorporate the skills
and knowledge that many information professionals already possess
related to analysis, summarization, and synthesis. But if additional
training becomes necessary, I hope this article provides food
for thought about additional education, both at the graduate
level and for future continuing-education programs.
Summarize? Synthesize? Interpret? Recommend?:
Should Information Professionals Play?
let's look at some definitions from Cambridge Dictionaries
Online, Cambridge University Press, 200, [http://dictionary.cambridge.org]:
Analyze: To study or examine [something] in detail,
in order to discover more about it.
Summarize: To express the most important facts or
characteristics about [something] in a short and clear
Synthesize: The mixing of different ideas, influences,
or things to make a whole which is different or new.
Interpret: To decide what the intended meaning of
Recommend: To suggest that [someone or something]
would be good or suitable for a particular job or purpose,
or to suggest that [a particular action] should be done.
the five definitions above. The first three probably fit
more comfortably within your capabilities and concern
you less than the other two. Traditionally, information
professionals collect, organize, and disseminate information.
To work their way up the value chain, some special and
corporate librarians now find themselves taking it a step
further by providing value-added information that they
analyze, summarize, or synthesize in a written report.
A recent job announcement for a research librarian at
a financial institution describes the job and its requirements:
candidate would join a dedicated, customer service-oriented
team providing timely, value-added information. Duties:
Locate information necessary for the analysis of companies,
industries, and market trends. Perform research using
a variety of print and electronic resources. Provide excellent
customer service in both the reference interview and the
presentation of information. Market the Information Resource
Center's services to internal clients and take part in
initiatives to improve service. Qualifications are a Master's
Degree in Library Science or equivalent research experience
required with successful applicants also strong in database
and computer skills, including experience with LexisNexis,
SDC, Web-based applications, and Microsoft Office. Excellent
organizational and communication skills required.
15 or more years ago, some continuing-education courses
for librarians centered on online database skills as a
key focus, today, many librarians learn and hone other
skills to fulfill the requirements described above, for
which, currently, graduate-level library and information
science education or other continuing-education venues
may offer minimal groundwork.
deliverables fall into the realm of dissemination of information,
a traditional library role, but they require additional
skills that encompass critical thinking and writing and
communication proficiency. Critical thinking recognizes:
1) patterns and provides a way to use those patterns to
solve a problem or answer a question; 2) errors in logic,
reasoning, or the thought process; 3) the identification
of irrelevant or extraneous information; 4) critical analysis
of preconceptions, bias, values, and the way that these
affect our thinking [Critical Thinking and Information
Literacy (CTILAC), http://ir.bcc.ctc.edu/library/ilac/critdef.htm].
many librarians already have these skills, preparing value-added
deliverables is nevertheless a revolution in the way we
conduct business and a major break from the past, with
implications for changing job roles and enhanced professional
image. Concerns about just how far you can and
should go must be addressed. Ideally, you should
establish clear polices about what you can and cannot
do and add disclaimers to your work. Official disclaimers
may require consultation with legal counsel. Minimally,
you must consider the issues and prepare to discuss them
value-added deliverables does not mean going out on a
limb to interpret data or make recommendations about subjects
you know little or nothing about. One librarian who provides
value-added deliverables explains that her company has
no written policies, but expects them to set stopping
points based on their comfort levels. She conducts research,
synthesizes results, and provides opinions about what
she finds or doesn't find. Her results consist of a summarization
and analysis. When answers are not found, if she has an
idea about why the information is not available, she may
venture an opinion because of her knowledge of sources.
To her, value-added deliverables are notabout telling
the customer how to use the information or apply it, or
how to make a business decision. She points out that it's
important to consider where the info pro stops and the
may be mired in a subject area, but they certainly don't
know everything. When clients request information, they
consider the results provided by the library as one source
or data point because, frequently, they pull information
from other sources such as internal experts within the
company or through talking to industry experts on their
own. The research provided by the library is not considered
the "be all" source. In one case, for example, a customer
may look at competitive technologies and examine four
or five products. They request research from patent literature
and market size, but may more highly value the results
of talking to internal team members about the technologies
in question. Whereas they may use secondary research and
a report or overview of results as one source, reading
between the lines is something the user must do to round
I receive requests for names and information about major
players. But what goes into making a decision about which
companies to cover in my research or report? Making such
decisions could be potentially risky business. At the
same time, through experience as a business researcher,
I'm familiar with objective criteria, such as finding
information about market share, for example, that can
help the client to make such determinations.
the client or reference interview, one must assess the
user's requirements and clearly establish whether the
requirements lie within the scope of services offered,
available sources, and the skills you possess. If clients
require information outside a pre-defined sphere, draw
lines about what you can and cannot do prior to conducting
work, or alternatively, consider retaining outside professionals.
believer in strong verbal communication before beginning
a project. Good interviews are a way to offset future
potential problems and I consider them as important, if
not more so, than written statements found in contracts
conjuring up legal obligations or threats. Explicitly
describe what you can or cannot do and the formats you
will deliver to manage customer expectations. Those conducting
public records, trademark, patent, or medical research
may need to seek an attorney's advice regarding legal
liability. For public records researchers, interpretation
of data may violate the law. Whereas private investigators
analyze results and report them to clients, public records
researchers must be clear about federal, state, and local
laws regulating what they can or cannot do. Providing
just the documents, as is, without added interpretation,
is a general rule of thumb in this field. Excellent communications,
together with written polices and disclaimers and knowledge
of legal and regulatory issues, are required as part of
developing value-added deliverable product and services.
use forms. The client writes out the request on a form
or the researcher interviews and fills out the form. A
template covers the question, the requirements, goals,
and applications of the research, what the user knows
or doesn't know, sources used, and those recommended.
Other search parameters include date ranges and languages.
After reviewing the request, the researcher interviews
the client to clarify uncertain aspects or explain potential
limitations. Information brokers and other consultants
typically prepare proposals for large or complex projects
that contain a restatement of the question with research
goals, methodology to be used, budget and terms, deliverable
date, format, and applicable caveats or disclaimers. The
client reviews the proposal and has the opportunity to
ask questions before the project proceeds. For those who
establish budgets prior to work, a statement about possible
adjustments before beginning is a valuable addition. I
include the following statement in my proposals: "This
quote is good for 45 days. MarketingBase reserves the
right to reevaluate and propose a new budget based on
additional or different work requirements."
to clients, as appropriate, you may need to explain the
limitations of the technology, of particular databases
you will use, or of issues surrounding Internet research.
For telephone research, explain that good results depend
on whether you can reach the right people or elicit the
information required, which can be particularly difficult
when working in competitive intelligence situations in
which customers often want what turns out to be proprietary
information. Also clarify issues related to inherent problems
with various research methodologies. Explain, for example,
that finding answers depends first on whether the data
exists, or just as important, whether one has sufficient
time and budget to look for the information in all potential
sources. Sometimes your budget and turn-around time are
so limited, you just cannot answer all the questions or
thoroughly search and review all sources.
Inc. The Changing Role of the Information Professional
2001: Implications for Vendors, Buyers and Users of Content
in the Corporate Marketplace. Information Briefing,
Volume 4, Number 29, July 25, 2001.
Inc. How-To's and Best Practices for Creating Value-Added
Research and Analysis. Information Briefing, Volume
4, Number 48, October 11, 2001.
Paul, and Cooper, Linda. Post-Processing Search Results
at Teltech, ONLINE, November 1, 1996, Volume 20, Number
6, p. 9.