In his post from last week, Laurence Hart lays out his thoughts about the current state of affairs vis a vis professional associations in the Information Management space. Much of what he wrote is focused on AIIM. While not specific to AIIM, Donda Young also wrote last week about her thoughts about associations and what she’d like.
For those of you not familiar with it, AIIM is a professional association for Information Management. As far as I’m concerned, AIIM is the association for Information Management. Don’t take the preceding sentence to mean that I think AIIM is perfect; it’s not.
I’ve written this to tell AIIM what I, as an Information Management Professional, want and need from them. It’s quite likely that I’ll think of other things after pressing “publish” and that other IM Pros will have other things that they want to see (feel free to add them via comments, better yet, tell AIIM directly). It’s also likely that some readers will disagree with what I’ve written.
First of all, I have no clue about what it takes to run an association other than it doesn’t seem easy. Secondly, on balance I have to say that my involvement with AIIM (since 2008/09) has been beneficial to me, professionally and personally. I’ve availed myself of training and certification, I’ve attended the annual conference a few times, I’ve used some of the available resources, and I’ve developed relationships with some pretty smart, talented, and nice people. My involvement with AIIM has most certainly made me a better, smarter Information Professional, Certified, even.
Training and Certification
I agree with several others when they say that AIIM’s “entry level” training is pretty good. In fact, I’ve taken three of AIIM’s courses and gotten the Master certificate for Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Electronic Records Management (ERM – I have fond memories of VG telling me to stop over thinking things), and Email Management (EMM). I could go and take more of the AIIM xxM courses, but what’s the point, really? What I and others would really like to see is training offerings for experienced professionals.
I’m not really certain what advanced training would look like, but I do think it ought to include topics such as leadership and innovation & transformation. I’m not thinking that it would lead to certificates like the Practitioner / Specialist / Master things; I’m thinking that it might, perhaps, be akin to a maturity model.
Those of us who have a stake and have been paying attention already know what unfolded with AIIM’s Certified Information Professional (CIP) designation at the end of last year. We also can take a fairly educated guess as to why stuff happened (1,000+ CIPs in 4+ years is not a shabby accomplishment, BTW). Fortunately, the CIP lives on and will evolve, at least to a 2.0 (though it thankfully won’t be called “CIP 2 dot oh”). Two thing I’d love to see on the CIP exam are a case study and an ethics component.
I know I’m not alone in thinking that the CIP needs to live on and continue to evolve, and that AIIM is best suited to be the custodian and nurturer of the CIP or similar designation. I also know that I’m not alone in thinking that AIIM really needs to do a better job of marketing the CIP, especially to businesses looking to hire IM Pros. Earlier this year I wrote a post about the new (sort of) CIP; it states what I’d like to see. One thing that I didn’t include in the post, because I hadn’t thought of it at the time, is that I’d like AIIM to create a CIP register. The register would serve to market those CIP’s that opt in to be listed, and it would also market the CIP itself.
One of the benefits of joining an association is that we develop a peer network. To me, a peer network is beneficial on a number of fronts. Learning, sanity checking, job/engagement hunts, resources (I’ve already brought two people I’ve met via AIIM into projects I needed hep with), and beer are all facilitated by the network I’ve developed, regardless of whether or not some of the individuals are still AIIM members. I’d love to see AIIM develop additional networking opportunities whether through the Community, via webinars, hangouts, or some other means. The specifics don’t really matter right now; it just matters that it happens and not only during the conference. I realize that chapters are supposed to fill this role, however, I have heard some of the complaints and criticisms related to AIIM HQ’s relationship with chapters. I’m not involved with any chapters, so I’m going to stop here lest I be labelled a hypocrite (or maybe I’ll pull my thumb out and get involved, dunno).
Like it or not, one of the reasons that vendors and service providers join associations and network is to develop leads. I personally don’t have an issue with this as long as it’s transparent. As a practitioner I joined AIIM to learn and to develop relationships of the non-lead variety. As a service provider I joined AIIM in order to educate and to find potential clients or employers. In the latter scenario I try not to be intrusive.
Someone opined that there is a need for two separate associations; one for the “industry (vendors, consultants, SI’s)” and another for “practitioners (end users, people in the real world)”. I get the point, but I don’t agree. As a practitioner I do actually find value in what the “industry” sometimes has to say. Besides, I don’t necessarily want to join two separate associations, with all that entails, that cover the same basics.
One thing that I do have an issue with is panels at the AIIM conference being the sole domain of sponsoring vendors. Yes, I understand they’re paying money and it’s all part of their annual marketing spend, but I think there needs to be a balance. I’m not saying that vendors should be excluded from panels, I’m saying that perhaps an additional panel or three made up of practitioners and non-sponsoring experts may be a good idea. There are a lot of really smart people that don’t work for vendors who have tons to contribute.
Thought Leadership & Evangelism
We’ve all seen AIIM events / webinars about reducing or eliminating paper from processes, how to get started with e-signatures, and how to implement ECM or SharePoint. No offense, but booooring. I’d love to see more content like this webinar about next generation Information Professionals. I’d love to see more content that is true thought leadership. I understand that there is a need for content that deals with present day, mundane issues that practitioners are dealing with, but, those same practitioners are going to need to deal with issues that are not even defined yet. AIIM, in my opinion, needs to lead conversations about transformation, disruption, and innovation.
In short, I’d love to see AIIM as a think tank and futurist. I want AIIM to not necessarily be right about what’s going to happen, but to make me think about what’s going to happen. Yes, I know that the Executive Leadership Council is partially responsible for this, but check it out and tell me whose perspective we’re getting for the most part (yes, I’m bitter and jaded). I’m not saying get rid of the ELC or kill the fees; give those who have something to contribute regardless of their position, affiliation, or budget a voice and a forum.
Odds & Ends
Webinar transcripts that we can download with the slides and recording would be great. Sometimes we just don’t want to listen and would rather read. These would be especially useful for when you need to revisit a point several times. This wasn’t my idea, but I really like it.
All those surveys and research reports – let us download the raw data and do our own stuff with it. Gotta thank Laurence Hart for this one.
Remember the old community and “expert blogger” program? It’d be nice to have something like that again. It was good knowing that when I contributed a post to the AIIM blog someone was going to publicise it and include it in the newsletter.
Bring back TweetJams.
I used to be an ARMA (International and Canada) member, but the value proposition for me has vanished. Consequently, I’m no longer a member. The Information Coalition is a new professional organization that says they’re not an association. Since I know some of the folks that set it up, and I trust their motives, I’ve signed up for a free membership. I’ll give it some time and buy a membership if I find that I’ll get value out of it, but it’s too early to tell.
As far as AIIM is concerned, as long as I continue to get value I’ll support them by renewing my membership, attending the conference, posting on the Community blog, and generally engaging as appropriate.
I was thinking about posting this either immediately prior to or immediately after the AIIM conference, but I decided to post it while the search for John Mancini’s replacement as CEO is underway. I’m hoping that this will give AIIM and potential candidates something to think about.
To all of you at AIIM, doing what you do, thank you.
we agree on your comment about ARMA International; as a matter of fact it does not really deserve the label “International” as there is merely a strategy for regions outside of NorthAmerica, neither for the profession nor for educational topics.
Most of our members in the Swiss chapter (founded 2011) do not really recognize the benefits of being an ARMA member. Most of the networking happens on the local level in the local language.
possibly it’s good for vendors, but we would need more RIM professionals.
So we are currently reflecting about alternatives.
Since 2003 I’m a member of AIIM and I agree it’s more value.
I’d love to find out what you (ARMA Swiss) decides is the best course.
I still have great memories of speaking at the inaugural event in 2011 – I’d love to have a chance to get together with some of those people again.
Agree, good summary of suggestions. I believe that AIIM needs to be clear about the segmentation of its “clientèle”. There are really three stakeholder groups: (a) The ECM software vendors (who have marketing funds and expect leads), (b) The ECM professionals, the people with the expertise the knowledge and the scars. Both independent consultants and SI delivery teams (they need the peer knowledge exchange, and an accreditation that establish their credentials, but also leads…), and (c) the User community – the people that use the technology (they need insight, knowledge, research, business cases, selection criteria, etc.). If the strategy is clear about what the association is delivering to each stakeholder group, then the membership value proposition becomes a lot more clear.
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I have a few thoughts after reading this post as well as Pie’s and Donda’s on the same topic. All of this struck a nerve with me. I could write a book on the subject and still not address all of the complexities at play here that have so far been glossed over. Here are 5 thoughts on the subject:
1) There is no one-size-fits-all association for a profession as diverse as ours and there never will be.
2) Information governance (if that’s even really a thing) is still quite nascent, as evidenced by the growing number of association-ish entities popping up (there are more than just AIIM, ARMA, IGI and IC) and tangential associations who are picking up IG (e.g. AHIMA). Things will sort out as IG itself sorts out.
3) The participation of vendors in any and all associations is a vital part of the ecosystem. Many people who work for vendors are in fact legit experts themselves and have valuable insights to share and genuinely want to be of service to the community (like me, just sayin’). Also, vendors are the ones who typically drive most of the R&D in industry and take risks on innovation. They don’t always get it just right, but at least they are putting a service or product out there in the attempts of helping practitioners do what they do better (not just to make a buck), and then improve the offering based on feedback from their customers. I am really so tired of the “evil vendor” discourse. It serves no one.
4) Certifications are not the same as Certificates. Certificate courses do not confer an actual credential nor legitimately allow someone to put letters after their name (the AIIM IGx certificate is not the same as ARMA’s IGP certification). Certifications are developed according to an established standard, have a continuing education component, and do confer a credential that allows the certified individual to use the letters after their name. Know the difference before you spend any money on any of them, and know that for the most part all it is going to do is help you differentiate yourself from other people who do what you do (in job hunts and in trying to prove your service/product is legit). There is no “Information Profession” that likens the “Legal Profession”, for example. Maybe someday, but not today.
5) It’s really easy to complain but hard to drive change, just as it is easier to edit than to write. For any professional community to be really successful it takes effort. We need more doers and less consumers. Don’t wait for any association to give you something. If something is wrong or missing, step up and help lead the change.
Love ya, Chris (and Pie and Donda), but rather than blog about it why not volunteer? Put your passion to work! 🙂
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Hey now, watch it with those it’s easier to edit than write sentiments. 😉
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Love ya, Bryant. 😉
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Yeah, I think I’m gonna have to find some way to put up or shut up. I was seriously considering the ELC thing at one point, but you know, budget.
By the way, I don’t think your comment is long enough. 🙂
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I can go on … 😛
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Please do. We’ll test the character limit for WordPress comments.
I hear ya sister and agree, but this is one industry association that has no interest in your sage and germane advice. Not gonna happen. Not the pessimist here, just the ultimate realist and pragmatist, including on this particular topic.
Great points Julie! I do currently volunteer on the ARMA Boston board trying to drive change and ‘slowly’ gaining a little momentum. Yet, as you know, it takes more of us doers to move things forward. Peace!
Julie, I love your comment and I’ve volunteered / worked with all of the groups mentioned in this piece with varying degrees of success (worked at AIIM, volunteered at AIIM New England, created courseware for ARMA, partnered with the IGI, etc.).
Here’s my experience: the current set of organizations (AIIM/ARMA) have been slow to serve what should be an “Information Profession” at this point, they have little grasp on the current technology landscape that enables this profession and thus get led by the vendor community for good (like when you and some other great folks speak) or for bad (we’ve all seen it happen).
The problem is that without understanding the current organizations don’t recognize the difference between good information or bad information that’s being disseminated. Likewise, they aren’t fostering SMEs any longer to help guide them because SMEs cost too much money to keep on staff (save Jesse, Bob, Diane, and a handful of smart folks who have been working hard behind the scenes at the current organizations).
Yes, we created something new (Information Coalition) because when it came down to it, we didn’t feel that the information profession was being served with resources it needs, that the current organizations are either tone deaf or money blind, and that a team of folks committed to fostering an information profession could do more for the industry with less people and less funding but more passion than what exists today.
So here we are, everyone is talking about how to improve the existing organizations, meanwhile, we’ve spent months, if not years, thinking through the same line of thought and decided that it’s not worth our valuable efforts to change them from the inside but to show them how it’s supposed to be done (and hope they come along for the ride or not).
There’s my completely honest answer to what we’re doing.
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Chris I really like your idea about the AIIM Panel of Practitioners. I would hope that AIIM would take advantage of it. But I’m not sure they value their members. I think there is way to much focus on vendor to participation and little on the individual. There are many of us that see ECM as not just another IT job for them.
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Having read Pie, Donda and yourself on the subject, I realize that you all belong to a market where a fair bit of time and effort having been put in with respect to “Information” Management. Hence, most points I see as “First” world problems.
When I ventured into the world of AIIM back around 2007/2008, I was excited about rubbing shoulders with and chasing shadows of what I believed are industry experts. I wasn’t proven wrong either, however, it boiled down to the reality that after the novice stage, if I wanted more insight, I was better following Pie, Mark, George and a few like yourself, individually as the AIIM material only took me so far in practice before I hit a vendor wall.
The other aspect was the geographical distance. I was hoping an “International” association like AIIM, ARMA, etc. would be truly international in nature. It was only later that I realized that 80 percent of the focus is North America with the remaining 20% to Western Europe.
Individual Practitioners like me in the Middle East would have to either start an association on our own or hope that these associations would one day support and realize that emerging markets offer a great potential. We get to learn from the mistakes of the more mature markets and avoid them, thus, increasing quality footprint more globally. But, alas, apart from 3-4 day training courses, nothing more happens. What does this lead to? Vendors in these markets sell wrong products to the users, who have no clue what to procure and consume, leading the practitioners to whip up quirky looking quick fix solutions!
These associations seem more like a Hollywood movie at times, where the hero is almost always American, who is almost always in New York, Washington or San Francisco and saves the entire world from there without even knowing the difference between American Coffee and an Arabic Kahwah!
So, I’ve more or less decided to be a Lone Ranger now. Now where’s my Arabian Horse? Wait, its running at the Kentucky Derby 🙂
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That’s a very fair point Sanooj. It’s easy sometimes to get wrapped up in our own desires and forget the bigger picture. I’m not sure how we could solve the “International” problem, when we can’t even get the local support sorted out. But I have a lot of sympathy for the ECM “Lone Rangers” out there… Hurray for virtual communities, is all I can say! 🙂
Solid points. IMHO, to be an international association, you need to have a system to create a strong presence in any market, be it chapters or other means. That is a challenge for AIIM at the moment for sure.
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