Cynthia Reifsnider, North Carolina Chapter, Business & Finance, Competitive Intelligence, and Knowledge Management Divisions
“Future Ready,” when I started work at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, meant revisiting the Business Intelligence (environmental scanning) program that my predecessors had built. The old system offered a web interface for typing records into an SQL database; it had no safeguards for copyright compliance and was time-consuming to enter information. Since no new records had been added for more than a year, there was no great pressure to resume use of the system. Environmental scanning and Business Intelligence are parts of the information profession that I’m passionate about, so finding a new and better solution was important to me.
With the help of a student intern from UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, I embarked on an information audit of our Institute’s faculty and staff. What were their research subject interests? How did they prefer to share information (electronically or in paper) and what were their communication tools (e-mail or file share)? What did Business Intelligence mean to them? Did they find value in the Business Intelligence system?
Our information audit returned a range of wants and needs but contained some core values. Our faculty and staff needed timely news and literature on subjects they were researching for grants and contracts they held, grant proposals they wanted to write, journal papers and conference presentations they were working on – and they wanted to catch more of what they felt they were missing, whatever that might be. Yes, they found value in the Business Intelligence system, but they would rather have updates pushed to them, preferably via e-mail.
From the perspective of my Office of Research Services, the emphasis needed to be on speed, agility, low investment of budget dollars and copyright. Some of the faculty wanted to be able to share findings with non-university colleagues, which complicated the copyright issue. Off-the-shelf digital library products proved too expensive to consider and required too much up-front customization. So what Knowledge Management solution was right for us?
The solution we settled on combines RefWorks as a citation manager; library databases, electronic news subscriptions and Google alerts for content; and Microsoft Outlook e-mail templates as a delivery mechanism.
We are fortunate to be homed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and our University Libraries offer RefWorks citation management software to campus users.
Our RefWorks implementation is connected directly to most of the Libraries’ e-resource tools including ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, and IEEE Xplore; selected articles from these databases can be imported directly into RefWorks with a few mouse clicks to populate citations, abstracts and URLs. This connection enables quick and easy import of relevant items from most of the Libraries’ resources, either through one-time searching or use of TOC alerts.
The RefGrab-It plug-in in RefWorks enables us to import citations and URLs from non-PDF web pages with minimal editing required. The RefGrab-It feature makes it efficient for us time-wise to use Google Alerts for relevant news articles.
Further, my Office partners with the University Libraries’ to extend our RefWorks subscription to include the RefAware add-on, which enables our creating custom monitoring of specific journals and terms with e-mail alerts. The import feature from RefAware into RefWorks has a few bugs, but we have developed some short-cut workarounds to get past them.
RefWorks also gives us an easy way to build a digital library, create bibliographies, and search for results by keyword, folder, author, periodical, date retrieved, etc. By grouping our entries into folders by the Centers within the Institute, we made it easy to pull out the week’s new entries into a bibliography for individual Centers. Then we copy and paste the bibliography into our MS Outlook e-mail template (example below) with branding for our office (free marketing!). Our template also includes a link to the public RefShare access site to our RefWorks database, in case our users want to initiate their own searches of the archives. We have found, however, that our users prefer the weekly updates for accessing references directly rather than using the archives. Our office, renamed the Office of Research Services & Knowledge Management last year, frequently uses the archives to create new bibliographic reports and complete ad-hoc research reports in response to specific user queries.
The previous Business Intelligence system covered only 6 centers within the Institute. Our office currently covers 14 Centers and Offices within the Institute, plus 3 special projects. Some of our weekly e-newsletter distribution lists include external (non-University) recipients, who then give feedback to our faculty about how well-informed and current the Institute is about our research areas. My supervisor routinely sends Institute staff and partners our way to take advantage of this product and service. Feedback on our Business Intelligence system is overwhelmingly positive and includes comments such as how timely a reference is for a project or meeting or about the direct relevance the e-newsletter is to current work. Since implementing this solution in early 2009, we have entered close to 6,000 references into the system.
While the system is not completely without bugs, it does provide us with an efficient way to identify, capture, and distribute knowledge among our user community. It also provides us with a weekly branded communication to our users and clear value-add ROI to show our stakeholders, with little impact on our budget.
Ms. Reifsnider is Director of Research Services and Knowledge Management for the Kenan Institute and is the primary research and analysis source for the Director and the Institute’s Centers and departments. She is a subject-matter specialist across many fields of business and technology, including air commerce, logistics and supply chain, demographics, competitive intelligence, entrepreneurship, renewable energy, and market research. She also directs strategic planning for knowledge management and leads the business intelligence program for the Institute.
For the Center for Air Commerce, Ms. Reifsnider conducts research and analysis in support of the faculty’s projects, papers and presentations; oversees data management and database development; designs and implements knowledge management tools focused on the Aerotropolis concept.
Prior to her work at the Institute, Ms. Reifsnider was a Research Analyst in Hewlett-Packard’s Imaging and Printing Group for nearly five years. She holds an MSIS from the School of Information and Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill and a BS in Atmospheric Science from UNC-Asheville.