Knowledge Worker Needs

The Infonicks Manifesto on Knowledge Worker Needs

Infonicks has experience of meeting real-world users’ expectations and of working with a variety of information sources and formats. It is well known that it is difficult to achieve a comprehensive, reliable, current, constantly updated, easy to find information system if it depends mostly on simple redirection to other information sources.

The information, news, and data required for a portal, newsletter, web site, news feed or for delivery via mobile devices is only partially available on the web today.

There are further issues concerning information which is:

  • not easily identifiable, or is scattered on different web sites;
  • is often incomplete, unstructured, or lacking comparative figures
  • can be wrong, unreliable or even misleading, or based on unknown sources
  • requires prior knowledge of catalogues, providers, or other data repositories
  • exists only in certain languages or in publications without web presence
  • is offered only by paid sources
  • is not available in digital form

A number of major media organisations – Reuters, Factiva, Outsell, Lexis-Nexis – have carried out extensive researches into the habits of knowledge workers (employees who use information to perform their duties). The majority of knowledge workers:

  • Do not want to make more than three clicks when searching for information
  • Prefer to use “one stop shop” solutions
  • As a rule rely on one or two favorite/trusted information sources
  • Are reluctant to venture further into Internet due to lack of time and uncertainty about what they are going to find
  • Have very negative attitude towards solutions involving more than one registration (UN/PW) in order to obtain the information they are looking for. They expect “one password to open all doors”
  • Complain about confusion and disrupted productivity when using web resources in different languages, with a different structure, different ways for information display

Infonicks’ insights are based on personal interviews with knowledge workers from EC in Brussels, UN in Geneva, Vienna and New York, IOC in Lausanne, OPEC in Vienna, Siemens, Volvo, Deutsche Bank, Novo Nordisk, Europol, Interpol, Fortis Group, Bank Austria, E&Y, PwC, Nokia, and others.

The ideal on-line information solution for professionals should have:

  • A clear and simple interface: breath and depth of content shown on ONE page
  • Simple, logical, intuitive navigation – “minimum clicks for maximum access”
  • Full personalisation capabilities, based on simple “tick the preferences” procedure
  • Alert capabilities (“I want to know when something important happens in the field that is important for me”) linked to e-mail, mobile telephone (SMS), and PC (on screen flash)
  • A daily “what’s new” overview or an e-mail based newsletter
  • A two-tier information architecture
  • An abstract for all current and background information, news and documents
  • Full text of the above, linked to the abstract
  • “Agency Style” presentation of text. Knowledge workers are unanimous in demanding news and information structured in this manner – an inverted pyramid model, with the most important facts, details, quotes, names to lead the text and the background and less important details follow.

This allows people to scan every item quickly and stop reading when they reach the level of detail they do not need for the execution of their current task. In contrast, most official documents, analyses and reports, use exactly the opposite model.

Some newspapers and magazines, mostly from outside UK and US, do not lead their articles with the most important information. Understanding and responding to this paradox is the key to the success of a decision-oriented information resource.

Plain English, designed to be understood by non-native English speakers, with brief sentences, clear punctuation, explanation of terms and abbreviations, even the difference between British and American English words or multiple terms describing the same (i.e. Avian Flu, Bird Flu, Chicken Flu or the same three but with Influenza – when this level of detail is missing, a search for information ends with incomplete results).

Search functionality allowing users to make complex as well as free text searches, based on taxonomy, eliminating duplications and helping pin-point the item needed.

When working for a portal/Intranet for example, there must be a clear differentiation from what a user can achieve using a generic search engine such as Google/Yahoo, given that these are rapidly increasing in sophistication.

The difference must be immediately evident in speed and ease of use, quality of decision-making information found, relevant format, and value-added tools for manipulation.

A portal/Intranet will work only if users return to it for information. They will not use it repeatedly if it offers low quality, outdated data and if it does not help them to make better decisions, improve productivity and ultimately, for commercial organizations – earn or save money.