"Information was once a sought-after and treasured commodity like a fine wine. Now, it's regarded more like crabgrass, something to be kept at bay," observes Richard Saul Wurman in his book Information Anxiety2. Professional reading, like every other aspect of a manager's professional activities, must be well thought out. Today's manager is surrounded, even bombarded, by information, but the shape, scope and delivery method of this professional literature changes daily. To keep up with general trends or focus in-depth on one industry, it is not sufficient to read traditional print titles. Information savvy managers monitor a variety of information streams. The Internet, e-mail, cell phones, seminars, webinars, blogs, television, radio, industry DVDs, popular business magazines, newsletters, e-zines, scholarly journals, newspapers, books, and technical reports compete continuously for the busy manager's time and attention.
By its nature, the Internet is too much for one manager to take on. Guides are needed to make the most of the incredible wealth of information available online. The Business Reference and Services Section (BRASS) of the American Library Association's (ALA) Best of the Best Business Web Sites product ( http://www.ala.org/ala/rusa/rusa.htm ) is an excellent guide. This free service identifies and categorizes significant Web sites within broad business categories such as "general management," "human resource management and labor relations," and "MIS and knowledge management." Each category then contains lists of topic-based, content-rich Web sites. For example under "human resource management" one might find a link to the Society for Human Resource Management ( http://www.shrm.org/ ) or Workindex.com ( www.workindex.com ), a site sponsored by and prepared as a joint venture between Cornell University and Human Resource Executive Magazine. Other sites that have been listed include hrvillage (www.hrvillage.com) and Workplace via WorkNet@ILR ( www.ilr.cornell.edu/workplace.html ).
Like BRASS, About.com ( www.about.com ) has a central philosophy that "people are the best guides to the Internet." Therefore, the site recruits enthusiastic experts in nearly 500 fields of endeavor who create online informational guides that are well organized, focused, and practical. About.com's management section ( www.management.about.com ) allows one to choose from basic information, links to other articles, what links are most popular on the site, as well as a section of links on hot topics.
Bpubs (www.bpubs.com) speaks to the busy manager with the tagline "No homepages. No indexes. No surfing… just content. Because your time is worth something." This free site allows the busy professional to read articles online at no cost. There is a search engine to provide access by specific subject, or the site can be searched by navigating through established categories such as "management science" and "human resources." Under "management science" one can focus further on such issues as "total quality management" or "change management," among others.
The Institute of Management and Administration (IOMA) Web site (www.ioma.com) is an example of a site that charges a fee for access to certain resources, but allows free searching along with some free, full-text information.
As the Internet grows and matures, new types of communication are being introduced. With these new avenues of expression comes another choice in the panoply of choices for the information-seeking manager to consider. In 2001 the term "blog" was barely a blip on the screen of the general reader, but by 2005 blogs had become an important and sometimes powerful method of discovering and disseminating information. Blogging is on the rise and corporate blogging adds another publishing platform for businesses to get their message out to internal and external customers. Corporate executives at Boeing, Sun Microsystems, General Motors, and others are publishing these online journals, discussing issues, trends, products, and business philosophies.
Traditional trade magazines and newspapers still play an important role in keeping managers informed of current issues in the business world. Familiar titles such as Forbes (www.forbes.com), Fortune ( www.fortune.com ), Business Week ( www.businessweek.com ), and Inc. ( www.inc.com ), as well as newer entries into this field such as Fast Company ( www.fastcompany.com ), all have Web sites that serve as companions to their print publications. Major newspapers, such as The New York Times ( www.nytimes.com ), The Wall Street Journal ( www.wsj.com ), and The Washington Post ( www.washingtonpost.com ), are all accessible via the Internet. Each of these Web sites offers at least a selection of articles at no cost. Some require paid subscriptions for access to "premium content" and some offer pay-per-view services that allow access to single articles for a one-time fee. All include features that are not available in the print versions, and some include features in print that are not available online. Some newspapers require readers to register—for free—before gaining access to the site.
Workforce Management is the latest incarnation of a venerable title in the area of human resource management. Formerly titled Workforce, Personnel Journal , and Journal of Personnel Research, this publication continues to include articles on practical topics facing managers, including compensation and benefits, employee training, supervision, communications, and other relevant subjects. Like any serious business publication, Workforce Management has a Web version (www.workforce.com). Like other resources the Web site contains access to free content, as well as articles and services that are restricted to paid subscribers.
Professional associations are one of the richest veins of business information, offering a variety of resources. The three associations outlined below represent the tip of the iceberg in the large sea of management associations. However, they are time-honored, all-encompassing organizations that have served managers of every stripe for a long time.
The American Management Association (www.amanet.org) provides individual and corporate members with "access to the latest and the best management thinking and practice." Members receive association publications including AMA Management Update, a monthly electronic newsletter that emphasizes current topics, strategies, and trends; Executive Matters, a print newsletter focusing on management issues; and MWorld: The American Management Association Journal, a quarterly print journal with articles written by executives and educators that focuses on inventive solutions to management problems, as well as best practices and emerging trends.
The Academy of Management (www.aomonline.org) is a leading professional association that focuses on disseminating knowledge about management and organizations. The academy publishes four, well-established scholarly journals dedicated to the theory, research, education, and practice of management. These journals, The Academy of Management Review (AMR), Academy of Management Journal (AMJ), Academy of Management Learning and Education (AMLE), and Academy of Management Executive (AME) are included in the organization's membership cost. Academic journals like these generally include articles that are longer than professional magazine literature. The articles are documented with notes, tables, charts, or graphs. As a general rule, authors are college or university professors. Article content usually provides extensive analysis of a topic or issue.
The Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM) (www.shrm.org) mission is "to serve the needs of HR Professionals by providing the most essential and comprehensive resources available." This mission is accomplished in part through a variety of publications, most notably HR Magazine —formerly Personnel Administrator and Journal for Personnel Administration. This well-established monthly magazine covers a wide variety of articles on topics related to human resources management, including global issues, training and development, outsourcing, and technology trends.
While online business databases come in a variety of formats, they all consist of a data collection that is organized around a subject or group of subjects and made electronically available and searchable through an interface provided by the database developer. Online databases can be the product of one company or the aggregation of information collected from a variety of content providers. Access to electronic databases is almost always through subscription, and the cost is generally significant. However, libraries of all kinds—college and university, public, and corporate—subscribe to the databases that are most appropriate for their patrons. Many states also have launched statewide library projects that provide citizens with electronic access to business/management databases through libraries. Although the look and feel of each database is different, searching can be done by author, title, keyword, publication title, words in an abstract, product names, and a variety of other key data points.
ABI/INFORM, a product of ProQuest Information and Learning, is advertised as "one of the world's first electronic databases" and has been a leading source of business information for more than thirty years. ABI/INFORM indexes more than one thousand journals covering articles on business conditions, trends, management techniques, and corporate strategies. Approximately 50 percent of titles covered in the database are presented in full-text on a user's desktop. Thomson Gale, a business of The Thomson Corp., offers a variety of business-related databases including Business and Company Profile ASAP and Business & Management Practices. Business and Company Profile ASAP gives searchers a broad, deep collection from which to choose, including journals, newspapers, a company directory, hard to find private company data, and newswire releases. Business & Management Practices is a more highly focused product, containing information on management, planning, production, finance, information technology, and human resources. Both Thomson Gale products offer substantial full-text coverage of articles.
Factiva, a joint venture between Dow Jones and Company and Reuters Group, includes coverage of Dow Jones and Reuters newswires and The Wall Street Journal, plus more than 7,000 other sources from around the world. In addition to current news, Factiva offers access to historical articles going back 30 years. Many articles are available in languages other than English.
LexisNexis Academic is an interdisciplinary, full-text database providing searchable access to more than 5,600 sources including national and regional newspapers, non-English language sources, journals, wire services, newsletters, company reports, SEC filings, U.S federal and state case law, codes, regulations, legal news, law reviews, international legal information, transcripts of broadcasts, and selected reference works.
Emerald is a leading publisher of journals in the management arena. Emerald currently publishes more than 150 titles including Management Decision, TQM Magazine, Journal of Documentation, and Journal of Consumer Marketing. Emerald also offers a variety of products aimed at making journal content easily accessible. Emerald Full-text provides the ability to search more than 40,000 articles from more than 100 Emerald journals. Emerald Management Reviews (formerly Anbar) gives subscribers access to article reviews from "the world's leading 400 journals and periodicals as determined by an independent Accreditation Panel." Key titles reviewed include the Harvard Business Review, Journal of Marketing, Sloan Management Review, and The Economist. Emerald also offers a "support resource" called Management First, which is aimed at the "working manager." This product includes articles, interviews, case studies, discussion forums, and an electronic newsletter.
Bookstores, newsstands, the Internet, and libraries—whether they are public, academic, or corporate—all offer a wealth of information, inspiration, and guidance for today's manager. Investing time and energy into professional reading should be a personal commitment for every manager and a corporate-level commitment for any company interested in successfully riding the wave of information that threatens to drown the unprepared.
Moss, Rita W. Strauss's Handbook of Business Information: A Guide for Librarians, Students, and Researchers. 2nd ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.
White, Gary W. The Core Business Web: A Guide to Key Information Resources. New York: The Haworth Information Press, 2003.
Wurman, Richard Saul. Information Anxiety 2. Indianapolis, IN: Que, 2001.