8. Information for Managers

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/eb054892
Publication Date01 May 1986
Pages37-45
AuthorAndrew Ettinger
SubjectLibrary & information science
8. Information for Managers
by Andrew Ettinger
Writing about information for managers is in some ways quite
a
daunting task because one
could quite easily argue that the art and science of management is all about utilising
information, and there are a number of definitions of management which illustrate that
point. But what I want to cover here is based on my personal experience of the ways
managers actually use and perceive information, focusing on what they find pertinent. I
think that this is a crucial area of experience that information professionals are lacking: at
what point do managers use information in the process of decision making?
I want to look at what information is realistically and beneficially
used,
how it is used in
competitor analysis, for example and to look at the way companies and managers in
particular use that information. I will also briefly touch on how, in my experience,
information can be
a
problem because within companies, and to managers, information is
power, with all sorts of ramifications within the organisation, for information professionals
in all parts of the company.
Finally,
I
want to turn to my particular
area,
online information, which I believe is essential
to managers. It is, I am certain, the main way they will use information in the future. Here
I will concentrate on the "intermediary versus the end-user" debate because that pinpoints
a lot of other problems in the area.
For the purpose of this issue
I
should be addressing the question of "The Buck Stops Here"
and I do think that this matter is being addressed in the library and information world
often,
unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. For example, a recent article in Aslib
Proceedings
was about research undertaken by
a
library school which seemed to show that
we are
all
really necessary
everyone loves librarians. That was because a company had
installed
a
commercial database to replace their "manual" library
service.
The library school
did a survey of the end-user managers who basically said that they didn't like the new
systems and preferred the library. But reading between the lines and looking in depth at the
reasons, this preference was mainly because the database was inadequate and was not
user-friendly. Another reason was that managers did not feel it was their job to dig out
information for themselves; this task was formerly delegated. To put these two reasons
together
and
conclude that librarians
are still
needed is the result of undertaking a study for
the wrong reasons and
is
counter-productive: an example of trying to justify the profession
for the wrong reasons.
After working at the London Business School for five years I moved to Ashridge
Management College about 15 months ago. Ashridge is a post-graduate college.
We do not have any long-term students. The longest anyone is there is about four weeks,
although we
are
likely to be launching
a
full-time MBA programme
in
January
1988.
So
I
am
working with practising managers all the time and getting feedback and information from
them.
And there are a few leitmotifs that come through about their use of information.
37

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