Consultancy and contract work in the information industry.
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Professional standards and codes
AbstractThe information industry within New Zealand covers a wide range of disciplines. A study has been conducted on the contracting and consulting sector of a group of closely allied fields: librarianship, records management, archives, information management, and knowledge management. The three main objectives of this study are to (1) take a 'snapshot' view of this sector as it exists today, (2) identify common concerns and issues amongst this sector, (3) see whether parallels can be made with similar surveys conducted in other countries. Very little has been written on the contracting and consulting sector of this particular grouping of disciplines. Two studies that share some common ground with this study are Frey's 1985 study on information consultants and brokers in Australia and Warr's 1992 study on information brokers and consultants in the United Kingdom. No studies or publications have been found that specifically cover the New Zealand experience in this sector. The results of this study show that there are many similarities and overlaps among the fields of librarianship, records management, archives, information management and knowledge management. The types of work undertaken, the methods of operating, and the necessary skills and attributes required for this type of work are common throughout this group. Areas in this sector where a high degree of commonality is found include qualifications and education, experience, methods of locating work, skills and attributes needed, form of business operation, use of professional standards and codes, and need for professional development and support. Areas where this sector has a collective 'voice' concern the skill and attributes necessary for success in this type of work, the best and worst aspects of being involved in this type of work, and advice the interviewers they would give to people considering entering this arena, to others already involved in the sector, and to current and prospective employers and clients. These similarities are not necessarily confined to the specific disciplines examined in this study, but are more representative of contractors and consultants of any discipline. Several recommendations resulted from the findings of this study. The most notable of these identified the need for a single directory of consultants and contractors working within these information fields. Consideration could be given to establishing an association of information management consultants in New Zealand, although there is already a wide range of associations for the disciplines involved. An alternative is to establish a special interest group within one of the existing associations. A need has also been identified to promote greater awareness of standards and codes relevant to consulting and contracting in these fields. The recommendation is made that further surveys be run, to gather fuller data on some aspects of work in this sector, or to obtain quality comparative data. The overall conclusion of this study is that those who operate as contractors and consultants in the fields examined have much in common with one another, even though several disciplines are involved in the field. Their work, experiences and methods of operating are closely aligned. There is a tendency for contractors and consultants to cross the traditional boundaries of their original speciality into other areas and to take on an increasing range of work. In this rapidly changing industry, much can be gained by looking further afield and combining the successful elements of discipline-specific knowledge with that of wider consulting and contracting experience.
CitationFields, A. J. (2003). Consultancy and contract work in the information industry (Working Papers No. 4-03). Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.
The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand