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IMS5023 : Information Enterprise Management and Marketing


WEEK 1, SEMESTER 1, 2005

INTRODUCTION, AND THE CHANGING ROLE OF THE INFORMATION PROFESSIONAL

 

INTRODUCTION TO THE UNIT

This unit has been developed to explore a number of issues relating to information enterprise and its relationship to virtual information communities.

This is genuinely exploratory unit. Each year the work done by students provides an ever-richer picture of how the notion of virtual community relates to the development and operation of viable information products and services in both the private and public sectors. Among the practical outcomes sought are that students should be able to:

How this units will work (hopefully!)

IMS5023 will be conducted in a way that may differ somewhat from your other subjects. As already explained, the unit is an exploration of virtual communities and their relationship to information services, their management and marketing. Virtual communities or information communities provide the context in which information professionals perform their roles.

We (the staff of the unit) will provide only essential material and direction. We have issues that will be raised throughout but expect that you will contribute as much of the direction as we will. There are no right or wrong answers (well maybe some irrelevant or irreverent ones) but the exploration is the thing.

The students in this unit are all on-campus. However student-driven and self-organising the activities in the units may be, there is already an element of management (perhaps even leadership?) involved. Tom (and Don Schauder), supported by George and Raya, have set up the framework in which interactions take place: a framework which underlies the navigation bar at the top of each page on this site. However, even though the staff are 'managers' in this enterprise, what happens during the semester in terms of the quality of the experience for students, and the emphases that are explored, lie largely in the hands of the information community of which we all now form part.

Where you place your emphasis depends on what kinds of information enterprises and virtual communities interest you most. You may be interested in particular kinds of information products or services and/or particular kinds of information communities e.g. geographic communities, subject based international communities, sports communities, public or corporate communities. If you have specific instances in mind please let Tom and George know as it will help us to help you as the unit progresses.

How to allocate your time

To conclude these introductory remarks, we would just like to make a note about time commitments. The Unit Guide shows gives the official position regarding different forms of engagement with IMS5023, totalling 12 hours per week for the unit. While this approved time allocation is useful to note, you should use your own judgement here. Nobody will be monitoring your time, and some of you will no doubt have problems with connections, connection speeds, moving house, changing jobs, etc, etc.

Tutorial Exercises

From the Unit Guide you will haved noted that Assignment 3 consists of 'tutorial exercises' on a topic related to the topic of the previous week's lecture. These contributions collectively make up Assignment 3 and count for 10% of your final mark.  For on campus students tutorials will be run by George and Raya. For off-campus students George will run a 'virtual tutorial' using email.

On-campus tutorials.
The general format for tutorials is as follows. During the lecture the previous week, the  tutorial topic will be announced in broad outline, and you will be given guidance about what resources, including websites, you will need to consult in advance. You will commence consulting these resources from immediately after the lecture, and will bring notes on the resources to the tutorial. Each tutorial lasts for one hour. During the first 30 minutes the tutor will specify the day's exercise in detail, and time will be spent in discussing the exercise and answering questions. During the last 30 minutes you will each write approximately one A4 page on the topic, and hand it to the tutor before leaving the tutorial. Each student will hand in only their own work. Where work is not handed in the student will be deemed to have missed the tutorial, and will lose the appropriate proportion of the marks for Assignment 3.

In all, there will be eight tutorial exercises of this type, and the assessment of these will contribute a total of 10% to your final result. The remaining four tutorials will be devoted to explaining the other assessment tasks and revision before the exam.


THIS WEEK'S THEME: THE ROLE OF THE INFORMATION PROFESSIONAL

Recommended texts: relevance and initial reading

Green, David (2004). The Serendipity Machine: A Voyage of Discovery through the Unexpected World of Computers, Allan & Unwin, ISBN 186508655X.

David Green is a Research Professor in the Faculty of IT at Monash. His new book, The Serendipity Machine, has been recommended for IMS5023 because of the excellent background that it gives to the state of the art in computer science. Although it does not deal directly with information enterprise, it can help to understand connections between the technical and social aspects of information enterprise. We should like you to read Chapters 1 and 2 at your earliest opportunity. We should especially like you to reflect on how the increasing complexity of a computer-using world creates the conditions in which an ever-increasing level of information enterprise activity is required. Reflect particularly on the relationship between 'serendipity' as explained by Green relates the potentialities for innovation of information products and services.

Kim, Amy Jo (2000). Community Building on the Web: Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities. Peachpit Press (Selections available online at http://www.naima.com/community/)

Amy Jo Kim is a specialist in Web community design, with a background in client-server engineering, multimedia interface design, and online gaming environments. This is a particularly useful book in terms of the approach we take in this unit, especially when considering the purpose and design of online communities. We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the content - just those selections that are available on the Web will be sufficient. It should prove a useful as the unit develops, and should be particularly helpful for Assignment 1, when you will be asked to develop your own business plan for an online service.


 

Introducing some key models to guide you in IMS5023

a) The IT Pyramid Model

The role of Information Professionals can be played out in any area of our first model: the IT Pyramid.This deceptively simple but powerful representation, adapted from an original presented by the highly-regarded firm of information systems consultants, Simsion Bowles Associates, demarcates the occupational space in which Information Professionals make their contribution.

In regard to the aspects of the Information Professional's role which is the focus of IMS5023, we are particularly interested in the upper end of the IT Pyramid. However no Information Professional can work effectively only at the upper end. They need a good deal of knowledge about the lower layers. They often need to 'drill down' - often as part of a team - to solve problems that are encountered in the upper levels. The solution of human and organisational problems in information use may well depend - at least in part - on appropriate technical 'fixes' to hardware, software or network components of the information system or systems involved.

The IT Pyramid is an example of a layered model. Another layered model, which has been of great assistance in the development of the Internet, is the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Reference Model which describes the relationship between communication protocols used on the internet (see http://www.thecertificationhub.com/networkplus/the_osi_ref_model.htm or http://www.webopedia.com/quick_ref/OSI_Layers.asp). The whole of the OSI is an expansion of the bottom layer of the IT Pyramid model. The OSI Reference Model is not a key model for IMS5023, as this is a unit concerned primarily with the top layer of IT Pyramid. It is introduced here not only to illustrate how layered models work, and but also to indicate that within each layer of the IT Pyramid model more detailed models are be needed for deep understanding. This is because the IT Pyramid Model is a 'high level' model -  it operates at a high level of abstraction or conceptualisation.

b) The POLCA Model

POLCA is a mnemonic for Planning, Organising, Leading, Controlling resulting in Achievement.

This model represents the main areas of management as discussed in Robbins, S.P., Bergman, R., and Stagg, I (1997) Management, Sydney: Prentice-Hall. Major Sections of the book are devoted to the themes of Planning, Organising, Leading and Controlling, resulting in Achievement. The Robbins book is strongly recommended. It is a standard introductory management text, and should be available in most university libraries.

c) Information Communities Model

For IMS3010, the most important model is The Information Communities Model. This teaching and research model attempts to demonstrate the relationship between current and recorded information (left hand side of the diagram), and the needs of individuals in an information community or human network (right hand side). It also attempts to draw a distinction between the domains of information management and knowledge management in thinking about these issues.
 

The concept of Information Enterprise

All three models (i.e. the IT Pyramid, POLCA and Information Communities) will be used to help us understand the concept of Information Enterprise. The notion of Information Enterprise needs to be distinguished from that of Enterprise Information! Informaton Enterprise is the broader concept. It refers to a situation where information professionals identify information needs or opportunities, and work pro-actively to create, develop or maintain information products or services to meet those needs, or take advantage of those opportunities. Information needs are generally identified among existing information communities (otherwise called virtual communities or human information networks). Seizing information opportunities may well involve participation in the development of new information communities.

Comparing Enterprise Information and Information Enterprise

Enterprise Information, in contrast, refers to the information flows and recorded information resources required for a business or other purposive activity to operate. Shortcomings in the deployment of Enterprise Information can provide golden opportunities for Information Enterprise. For example in the 'old days' i.e. the early 1990s the Registrars of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the various States generally kept their records in paper form (e.g. the Victorian Registrar's homepage). These records were a mission-critical information resources of the enterprises called the Registrar's Department or similar names. It is specifically to keep such records that such Departments are mandated under Acts of Parliament. So the Registrar's Departments held this 'enterprise information', but it was under-utilised by the general public because it was difficult or at least inconvenient for the general public to access. At that point the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church) voluntarily started transcribing the older records into computer-readable form and - starting with the Victorian records - worked with INFORMIT Electronic Publishing (now RMIT Publishing) at RMIT to issue the records on CD-ROM. The product was called The Victorian Pioneers Index. By the way both Tom Denison and Don Schauder - your staff in these units - were involved in this project as we were foundation members of INFORMIT. The information enterprise shown by the dedicated Mormons, supported by INFORMIT, added much value to the enterprise information held by the Registrar's Departments. (Of course such a Department would also have had many other kinds of enterprise information e.g. correspondence files, accounting and staffing records, policy and procedure manuals, price lists, information brochures.)

The creation of the new CD-ROM products addressed needs of existing, known information communities. First there was the Mormon Church itself which venerates the idea of the family and expresses this by playing a leading role in building genealogical repositories and databases, internationally. Secondly there was the existing genealogical community - both amateur and professional. In this example, the CD-ROM products did not create a new information community, but rather they helped make possible a vast increase in the level of genealogical activity in Australia. Far more people than before became part of the genealogists' network or virtual community and the increase in scale and participation, in turn, changed the dynamics of that community in important ways.

Comparing Janet Jackson Fanclub and Butterworths

Let us consider the contrasting examples of a Janet Jackson Fanclub website created voluntarily by a Bachelor of Information Management student a few years ago, and the electronic publishing activities of LexisNexis Butterworths, a major legal publisher.

We pose the question: Are these both valid examples of Information Enterprise and if so what do they tell us about the idea of management of information products or services in the environment of the Internet generally, and the Web in particular?

According to the conceptual frameworks used in this subject, the answer would be 'yes' - these two examples could both be described as information enterprise. However they represented opposite poles of the concept. In the first case the student - Freeman Chiu - contributed his time voluntarily. So did the other fans who helped build the site. They did it out of affection and admiration for Janet and her music, not for money. (It is true that as a result Freeman was invited to Los Angeles for Janet's birthday and even met her mother but this was a surprise outcome). In constrast, LexisNexis's transition to engagement with electronic publishing has been on the basis of potential commercial profitability. For many years they have been one of the pre-eminent suppliers of authoritative publications to a clearly defined information community - the legal profession. Their motivation for engaging in electronic publishing is to maintain - and if possible improve - demand for their existing and new products/services in that community.

A major contrast between the Janet Jackson and LexisNexis Butterworths examples is that, although serious fans like Freeman showed informal leadership, the information community focused on the Janet Jackson site was to a high degree self-organising, with management as an emergent phenomenon resulting from the collective actions of participants. LexisNexis Butterworths' entry into electronic publishing is a more classic example of business management, where the actions of participants result from planning and implementation (organising, controlling) directed by formally appointed officers of the company.

This question about the extent to which self-organisation rather than 'classic' managerial organisation characterises information communities will be further explored in the weeks ahead.

Implications for the role of information professionals

It is suggested that increasingly the role of the Information Professional is to participate in the creation and management of information enterprises offering information products and services to virtual communities, and the development of virtual communities which can both benefit from, and contribute to, information products and services relevant to their shared interests

Further Exploration

In this unit, we are interested in any type of online service, and you should already be familiar with a large number, from commercial sites such as Amazon and eBay through official government and education sites, through to those that reflect your own personal interests. You may, or may not, be aware of the many diverse and innovative community services that exist. If not, we recommend that you start to explore them, and one way to start looking at just what communities out there are doing is to explore the sites that were nominated for last year's Prix Ars Electronica in the Digital Communities Category.



Preparation for Tutorial 1

For personal study this week we refer you to three websites concerned with information in society. Study the websites carefully, making notes on the different ways in which they seek to support the development of information enterprise and the role of information professionals. Bring your notes to Tutorial 1, which will be held in Week 2.

1) The Information Economy Division, Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
2) Multimedia Victoria My Connected Community - MC2 program

3) Community Technology Review



 
 
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SIMS is part of the Faculty of Information Technology - Last updated: 02 March 2005
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