Every activity carries transaction costs. A decade ago, administrative assistants and librarians carried most transaction costs for managing information. The costs were visible on the balance sheet as their salaries. With self-service web-sites, intranets, and document management systems, the transaction costs of managing information appear to have fallen. In fact, they've shifted from lower-cost administrative staff to professionals - hidden in the salaries of professional staff who start early, stay late, and spend weekends checking email. Self-service has another consequence. It takes professionals attention away from their real job, which is to use information to think.
One way to free professional to think, as suggested in a recent article in Harvard Business Review, is to reassign administrative staff to teams as "information managers". Applying the manufacturing metaphor of staging parts in a "kit" where assemblers have the right materials at the right time rather than having to go to the warehouse to find them, information managers can research information and prepare briefing kits, freeing professionals to do the value-adding work of using information to think and make decisions.