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Good news, mostly

These are pretty decent times for corporate information managers. We all know that the tools at their disposal have never been better, and a recent study from information industry research and advisory firm Outsell shows that their roles are broadening and their budgets are increasing.

Outsell surveyed 215 corporate information management professionals, and although the firm is still processing that data, it did release some preliminary findings. Interestingly, the discoveries are consistent with those gathered in separate interviews with more than 4,000 information users. So, I think it's legitimate to view those figures as a bellwether for the industry. We'll be taking a much closer look at the study when the full report is released later this summer.

In this year's interviews with information managers, Outsell found that 48 percent of them held global or enterprise-level responsibilities. Last year, that figure was 44 percent. Plus, their budgets have jumped considerably—from an average of $2.133 million in 2004 to $2.725 million in 2005. They project their budgets will climb to $2.788 million in the next cycle.

Outsell cites the influence of Sarbanes-Oxley and other events as behind the changing role of information managers, who increasingly have bottom-line and tangible organizational impact. Their responsibilities are shifting as well. For example, regarding enterprise content management, they are up from 14 percent in 2004 to 22 percent this year; in knowledge management, from 19 percent to 24 percent; in records management, from 13 percent to 17 percent.

A striking finding surrounds a need that information managers are not sufficiently meeting. In the earlier study, knowledge workers said competitive intelligence information was the single most unmet need, yet the percentage of managers offering those services hasn't really changed. In 2004, 38 percent provided CI services; in 2005, only 39 percent. With the explosion of competitive intelligence technology, including blog analysis, the landscape has changed dramatically, so it behooves information managers to seize this opportunity.

Because their roles have expanded to include greater accountability and larger budget responsibility, they have significantly more influence in buying decisions, Outsell discovered. Information managers are generally satisfied with their purchases—they are savvy buyers, so vendors need to be especially attentive to their customers' requirements. And although that's true across the board these days, information managers especially highlight the need for superior service and support, as well as flexible licensing schemes, according to Outsell. And just as is the case in nearly all IT sectors, information managers demand that the very large commercial vendors improve their offerings' ease of use.

If you're not familiar with Outsell, make a point to explore its site Outsell. It has a perspective that's valuable to users of all stripes, as well as providers.

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