Bulletin, April/May 2007

Managing in the Digital Environment: Guidelines for Corporations, Government and Academia

by Bill Edgar, Guest Editor

Bill Edgar is assistant professor in the School of Information Resources and Library Science at the University of Arizona. He can be reached there by ground mail at 1515 East First Street, Tucson, AZ 85719 or by email at bedgar<at>u.arizona.edu.

This special section of the Bulletin discusses guidelines for meeting the relatively new challenges inherent to managing digital content. Maureen Mackenzie provides insights applicable to senior managers within corporations while Brian Detlor and his colleagues review principles inherent to a local government’s provision of a digital community information portal. Addressing a university library environment, Bill Edgar discusses issues for team-based librarianship supporting collaborative research that analyzes huge amounts of digital data. 

Important benefits of digital content include that it can be easily updated, synthesized and shared with colleagues. Therefore, some of the guidelines identified here – for example, incorporating collaborative information tools, facilitating full integration of content and encouraging cross-functional activities – especially support effective management of digital information. Collaborative tools such as discussion forums and common work spaces allow community members to create intellectual value for themselves by sharing content. Content integration allows users to interact with content from different sources, such as a city’s library or central website, at once. By making material available to multiple librarians at the same time, digital content allows them to depart from a traditional functional structure and to work collaboratively in cross-functional teams. 

Just as importantly, however, guidelines that have generally been useful in the past are proving to be so for managing digital information. Such guidelines include authorizing key managers to be organizational change agents and establishing other organizational mechanisms for enabling change. Having at least one senior leader dedicated to implementing organizational change is vital to implementing innovations related to digital content. Change mechanisms can include the traditional planning process, but they can also be non-linear and exist outside of the organizational hierarchy, emerging from the ways in which the organization regulates, steers and maintains itself. 

A relatively new form of information, digital content is about rapid change and flexibility. In different ways the contributions presented here point to what managers, information professionals and researchers must examine and practice as our understanding of how to manage digital content – and how to manage organizations in light of it – matures.