Current Awareness Strategy Blog

Is it time to rethink your existing automated current awareness solution?


A number of new clients from various different industries have come on board recently, so I wanted to share some Vable current awareness migration experiences with a wider audience. Tech migrations and new implementation projects remain top of the law firm agenda given the explosion of new tech over the past year or so. 

Library and information managers are well placed to advise their organisations on tech matters because of the wealth of their work experience. We have all been involved with knowledge-related system migrations or implementations, and have overcome the associated challenges. Indeed, just last year we all experienced a rapid working-from-home roll-out. 

An article stated, “adopting and implementing new technology, along with the associated operational changes, is never easy work. When your team is time-constrained or worried about the prospects of learning a new platform, it can be hard to get everyone on board”.

With all this in mind, I consulted with Emily Baldwin, Head of Vable’s Client Success team and asked her - amongst other things - why migrating from one system to another might be the best course of action for some library and information departments.

Think of it as a new beginning 

One of the reasons we have been thinking about migrations rather than implementations at Vable is that we are in a relatively mature current awareness market. For the past 5-10 years automated emailed newsletters have been in place but is there a danger your end-users are missing out on new technologies

For example, natural language processing (NLP), improved reporting and analytics, and innovative ways of repackaging and presenting information. 

We appreciate that overhauling any current awareness system is a massive project, especially when teams are already running at capacity. You may be happy with what you have so before you embark on something like this, you have to consider what is involved and why you are perfectly placed to take the lead. Think about:

  • Whether it’s time to rethink your current practices. 
  • Whether it’s easy to stick with the status quo, especially against an uncertain backdrop...
  • Whether with all the uncertainty, is now the time to reevaluate working practices
  • Whether you should be helping to future-proof your organisation

What are the benefits of a current awareness platform migration?

If you think the time is right, you should start to sketch out some project ideas. Here are some benefits to start sharing with your team and beyond. 

  • Technology. I’ve already mentioned that heritage systems might not include all the functionality you need or expect. For example, could natural language processing (NLP) improve your end results? Could improved reporting and analytics make your life easier? Could innovative ways of repackaging and presenting information change the way your department is perceived?
  • Efficiency. Why do you do something a certain way? If the answer is “we’ve always done it like that”, then delve deeper. Have a look around, talk to colleagues, find out what your counterparts are doing in other firms. A clean slate might be the perfect opportunity to embrace new efficiencies.
  • Economy. A migration project might actually save you money as well as raise the profile of the information department. It’s an opportunity to evaluate and make the most of your subscriptions, and potentially explore opportunities to collaborate with clients. 

Project planning and preparation

Planning is one of the essential skills for any information professional. A strategy/vision is one of the four critical components that create and sustain success in any ‘people’ business. The others are leadership/management, organisational effectiveness, and its people. However, planning is about making the strategy actually happen. So the secret to any successful migration is this first part. 

As Fiona Fogden noted in the Reed Smith/Vable case study, the work needed to get a current awareness service up and running might seem daunting, and there are hurdles to overcome, but it is worth the effort. The time you save in the long term means that the investment at the beginning does pay off in the end. 

Start with a project plan

Sketch out timelines, commence discussions with key people across the organisation, and be prepared for any eventualities. Maintain open lines of communication with all stakeholders but do not get overwhelmed by their input. Let them have a voice, listen, but you should have the final say. 

Do your research

This includes both internal and external research. Ask yourself what it is your organisation really needs. Given that there are many current awareness solutions on the market, you need to investigate which one ticks all (or most of) your ‘must have’ boxes.

There are a few organisations that carry out impartial reviews of current awareness platforms.  For example LAC publish a regular report and their latest one is due shortly. This one is rather old now. There was an AALL article but again, this is probably due for an update. If you have a subscription, Jinfo has also done reviews on various systems. 

As you start talking and listening to your end-users, you can draw up short lists to identify which solutions you can start testing. The more research you do, the easier it will be to manage expectations as the project progresses.

Maintain open lines of communication with everyone

Communication is key to the success of any project. I’ve already mentioned talking and listening to your immediate end-users but have you considered approaching other departments/teams in your organisation for their support? People in the marketing/business development team will be interested in your project ideas and will want to get involved so bring them onboard at the outset. 

Communicate with your IT department

You will need to liaise with technology/IT departments regarding the set up of a new system. There will be white listing requirements and possibly active directory set ups to discuss. In my experience, IT departments are always swamped with project work so finding out what information they will need from you in order to implement a new system, as well as the timeframe for turnaround on this information, can help your project run more smoothly.

It is possible that you could win over the IT department by asking whether they could make use of current awareness in their everyday work. You could offer to set up alerts for them on subjects relevant to them. For example, updates on security matters, new software updates, etc. 

Communicate with the vendor

It is important to keep communicating with your chosen current awareness platform vendor. Part of your project’s due diligence process should include asking existing clients about vendors’ responsiveness. You need to be certain that the vendor wants you to succeed and will be as invested in your project as you are - including the potential for bespoke functionality development work.

The vendor should not only only be on hand to advise with the initial technical aspects of the project, such as the initial set up, data cleansing, other third-party providers, and search migrations, but also ensure that all training needs have been fulfilled. They will have plenty of advice regarding the roll-out and time frame generally, so keep talking with them and alert them to any issues at your end. 

And finally, keep an open mind

As your current awareness project progresses, there will be obstacles to overcome but don’t get discouraged. Tim Hennies suggests that potential customers should allow themselves time to get to know the platform. He pointed out that with a new system, you get out what you put in. Invest time in the right solution at the beginning, and you will reap information rewards going forward. 

Now you can move on to the exciting bit - finding out what is possible and how your new current awareness platform can work best for you and your organisation.

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