Meeting Managers’ Information Needs

Christine D. Reid (Manager, Business Information Service, Strathclyde Graduate Business School, Glasgow)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




Reid, C.D. (2000), "Meeting Managers’ Information Needs", Library Review, Vol. 49 No. 4, pp. 197-206.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

A Managing Information Report

Amongst the essential skills required by an information professional working in any organization is an excellent knowledge of information sources and their users’ needs and the ability to match the two. Today these skills are more important than ever before – due in part to the ease with which vast amounts of data and information can be readily accessed. The whole area is however complicated by the intangible nature of information – what is information? Where do we get it from and how useful is it? This therefore is a very timely publication.

The volume begins by considering the flows of information both within an organisation and with its external environment. The barriers to the free flow of information are also discussed here. These include not only communications barriers, organisational politics and lack of co‐ordination, but also the failure of information systems and services to provide just the right amount of information at the right time and in a usable format. Chapter two focuses on the tasks and responsibilities of a manager drawing heavily on the work of Henry Mintzberg. Discussion then moves on to consider why managers need information. As most information needs are tied into decision making, the variety of decisions being made are first considered. Managers today are making decisions in highly complex, competitive and dynamic environments. This makes effective decision making more difficult as well as more critical than in the past. This chapter appears to devote more space, however, to the problems and difficulties in using information including cognitive limitations, information overload and poor information literacy skills. Much more could have been made about the role and value of information to an organisation.

Two chapters review the sources and characteristics of useful information. The final chapter then considers managing in the future. If managers remain reluctant to use formally constituted information units and continue to prefer the spoken, as opposed to the written word, the author suggests information units should become “virtual” with information professionals being attached to functional management teams – an interesting proposition!

This report is a good overview and introduction to the whole area of managers’ use and need for information. It synthesises a number of issues into one handy volume. However, for this reviewer at any rate, the issues raised are frequently dealt with rather superficially and with no real evidence to support the statements made. For example, in chapter one the claim is made that “managers often perceive people working in formally constituted information units as lacking in business understanding” and hence any information produced by them is likely to be lacking in high regard. The same chapter makes the sweeping statement that an MBA’s “view of business may be based on academic study rather than business experience”. There may be some truth to both statements. However they seem to stand on their own with no detailed explanation nor follow up reading while the author moves on to consider another aspect.

These criticisms aside, this is a useful and well written introduction to the complex area of a manager and his or her information needs. It is a volume which should appeal not just to the information professional but also to academics and students in many disciplines who look at the nature and role of information.

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