by Sue Wolper, President and CEO, Wolper Subscription Services
One of the challenging trends I see in the information marketplace today is that of relying on vendors to define your needs and to unilaterally develop the solutions that meet their interpretation of your needs. As a participant in the information industry, I offer these recommendations to information professionals to ensure that you, your users and your organization are Future Ready:
Listen To Your Organization and Your Users When Defining Needs
Vendors and purchasers alike say that they are listening to user needs, but are we really listening? Not only should we listen with our ears but also observe with our eyes what behaviors users demonstrate when seeking or applying information. Be inquisitive and ask probing questions – why and how are more important than who, what and where. Ask users how they would prefer to seek and apply information in a perfect world unbounded by today’s realities. Then step back from the immediate interaction and ask yourself and others what information seeking and using behaviors will align best with the goals of your organization or community. Is it really in the best interests of your organization to make finding information so simple that the user no longer has to think? Shouldn’t users be questioning whether this is the best information, the right information, and accurate information to solve their problem? What are the long-term implications for fostering user behavior that is satisfied with information that is the easiest to find? Ask yourself whether user expectations are in alignment with the goals of the organization. Temper the solution you choose to meet user needs with your own professional knowledge, expertise and experience. Then seek a vendor that meets those needs, and is willing to modify their product offerings to truly meet the needs of your users and your organization.
Resist the Urge to be First
New technology is exciting, intriguing and addictive! Instantaneous obsolescence is now built-in to every innovative advance. Buy any new electronic device today and it is out-dated by the time you get it home and unpack it. So resist that urge to be the first one to have the latest version just because it is new. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices and options in the marketplace. Evaluate the solutions in the context of what your users and organization really need. There are noteworthy developments that do define future products, however, the time will come when that product is relevant to your needs. On the other hand, don’t become complacent and satisfied with “good enough”. But relax and don’t get caught up in the frenzy of “new and improved” cycles in product development.
Collaborate with Vendors in an Open-Minded Manner
Once you know what your true needs are, seek out vendors who are willing to listen to you. Find vendors whose product development approach incorporates customer perspectives and involvement. Discover the vendors who are agile, resilient, and responsive as well as have the vision and skills to deliver what their customers require. Sometimes it is the smaller vendors who have these qualities because they need to in order to survive in the competitive marketplace. Innovation often comes from the smaller vendors who recognize an unmet customer need and develop their offerings to satisfy that requirement.
Cooperate with Like-Minded Institutions
Too often it is the Big Players that define the market, whether they are the buyers or the sellers. Seek out and join with other institutions that have similar needs, regardless of their size or purchasing power. Speak up about your concerns regarding product functionality, desired features and unsatisfied needs.
Engage in more dialogue with your colleagues and with vendors to find collaborative solutions, after you have listened to your users. Help vendors to meet your needs – now and in the future.
*”Seek first to understand, then to be understood” from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Sue Wolper is President and CEO of Wolper Subscription Services, a one-stop information management resource whose High Tech, High Touch® approach delivers the perfect combination of next-generation technology and time-proven, personalized service. Learn more at www.wolper.com.