In 1970, Martin White switched focuses from his chemistry background to information science — and he hasn’t looked back since.
White has consulted businesses for almost four decades, focussing specifically on intranets, enterprise search and information management strategy and development in the past 17 years since he founded Intranet Focus Ltd. Over the years he has come to recognize the importance of search as a driver of the success of other information management initiatives and is just waiting for the rest of the industry to catch up with this same realization.
The author of eight books, Martin still finds time to practice playing the organ, his main form of relaxation.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2016?
The importance of text analytics and text mining in complementing search. I undertook a project for a client that required me to set out the principles of text mining, its applications and its future development. The research made me realize I needed to take text mining much more seriously.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction at work?
Building a partnership with my client. That’s why I wrote a book about it this year, “Managing Expectations.”
Name one work-related moment that surprised or gave you an a-ha moment in 2016.
Reading “The Inquiring Organization” by Chun Wei Choo, which brings together information management and knowledge management in a unified framework. Quite brilliant!
Did you ever take on a job you thought you couldn’t do?
Ten years ago I was asked to create an intranet from scratch for a large diversified company in Kuwait. I arrived to find that no one had any idea of what was involved in doing so. Less a green field site than a desert with no oasis!
It was also the first time that I had worked in the Gulf States and so I had to learn very quickly how to build working relationships with very senior Kuwaitis and with senior and middle management staff who came from all over the world attracted by the opportunities in the country.
It soon became clear that an “all staff” intranet was not a reality given the organizational and cultural situation. Every day I woke up knowing exactly what the weather would be (42C!) but had no idea how the day and the project would pan out. I ended up working with David Gilroy (Conscious Solutions) to install Intranet Dashboard as a “proof of concept” which met the terms of the contract.
If you had to get rid of your computer or your phone, which would it be and why?
That is a no-brainer. My mobile can do everything I can do on my pc and then more.
When you were seven years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
That’s not easy to answer. It would take me back to 1955, when meat rationing in the UK had only just ended, there was just one type of cheese (Government Cheddar) and three radio stations from the BBC. (We did not have a television in the house until I was 10.)
I had never seen an aircraft close up and only military planes flew over my house in the South of England. With both my maternal grandfather and my father being engineers taking machinery to bits was always fascinating, but the concept of wanting to be anything when you grew up was not something that I can never recall considering at school or in discussions with my parents.
We tended to live each day at a time. I still struggle to understand how my parents coped with bringing up my sister and me.