Stacy Bell (SLIS, 2002) spoke about her seven year career at John Deere in Moline, Ill., in Patricia Katopol’s Knowledge Management class Thursday.
Bell started in more traditional corporate library services at Deere, but after receiving her MBA in 2008, moved to the Research Analysis department. Her job description includes gathering and presenting information on the company’s competitors, training users in search databases, constructing searches on the company and its interests, and dealing with copyright issues.
Information is the Name of the Game
She says her favorite part is taking ownership of the research she is doing.
“Here, I’m understanding exactly what they’re trying to accomplish and putting together a nice portfolio they can use in their job.”
She gave SLIS students a case study involving Agco, one of Deere’s competitors in its agricultural division.
Usually, competitive intelligence starts with a research request. Bell determines why the client is asking the question and what the information will be used for. Then, she will gather information about the company including pricing strategies, company goals, strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats (SWOT) and important people in the organization. Finally, she presents the findings to the client.
“Within each of our divisions there are certain companies that are more important than others. We make decisions about who we want to watch and why we want to watch them.”
Another aspect of competitive intelligence is being proactive, which involves aggregating information before it is requested.
One way Deere’s Research and Analysis department is doing that is what they call “Issues Management”. Right now, the program is in its test phase, but it involves searching stock developments and market information to find emerging business trends.
“Our aim is to surface potential challenges and potential opportunities before anyone else realizes they’re out there.”
A Web of Connections
Bell says with or without an economic recession, “if you fail to make yourself relevant, if you fail to network and make those connections…they’ll see you as overhead and ship you out the door.”
Her department relies heavily on contacts within the company and building on the knowledge that comes out of those relationships.
“An important skill is to build networks with the right people so they can’t live without you.”
Bell is the only degreed librarian in both her department and its counterpart, Information Management, something she says is typical of corporate libraries.
She decided to get her MBA on top of her MLS in 2008 because she was interested in having more of a stake in the research and being more involved in the business aspects. She told students if they are interested in corporate libraries, they may want to consider an independent study or finding a mentor in the corporate world.
Bell says her MLS degree is valuable because she learned how to search for various kinds of information and how information systems work. She credits her MBA degree with giving her the ability to apply the information to the company and giving her a better understanding of the business world.