Two Continents, Two Information Governance Conferences, One Conclusion
Over the last few weeks I attended the AIIM Conference (the theme was Digital Transformation in Action) in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA and the IRMS Conference (the theme was Information Superheroes) in Brighton, UK. It was my third time at AIIM, at which I did one of the roundtables, and it was my first time at IRMS, at which I did the opening keynote (a genuine honour to have been selected). Both the AIIM roundtable and the IRMS keynote (slides available here) were innovation themed. This post is not going to be so much a recap of the conferences as much as it will be my take on how innovation, disruption, and transformation fit into the whole Information Governance / Management (IG/M) space, and how AIIM and IRMS and their members (individuals, sponsors, vendors) may be affected.
Since my session at both conferences was about innovation, that’s the filter I am applying, with a twist. In his opening keynote at AIIM, John Mancini mentioned Slack as the type of vendor (new, innovative, disruptive) that’s become more important in our space, but was not present at, arguably, the most important conference in that space. Slack, which I use with some industry peers, is a marvelous tool for collaborating and sharing content. Via integrations with other tools it can be a part of an enterprise information / content management play. Other vendors that are critical players in the IG/M space include companies like Box, Dropbox, Splunk, Egnyte, Microsoft, Facebook (yes), …, the list is huge. The point is that there are hundreds of vendors out there that are producing platforms and apps that people use EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to work with and analyze the information they need to do their jobs. I’m talking about the simplest stuff (creating a document or email) to the most complex data analytics. People are doing these things using everything from supercomputers to mobile phones; in dedicated buildings and on tops of mountains.
For fun, take a look at this page on Box’s site; each of these Box technology partners could and should make up part of an organization’s IG/M technology package. So why were most of them missing from AIIM and IRMS? By asking that question I do not mean to imply that vendors like IBM, HPE, Onbase, Laserfiche, OpenText, etc. don’t innovate. They do. They’re just not overly exciting anymore. They are the legacy, staid, established vendors. Sorry guys, but as good as you are you’re just not cool anymore. I got excited about the Documentum-LEAP thing, but that didn’t last more than 5 or 6 minutes.
Since I kind of do the industry analyst thing on occasion, I do know why some of the cool vendors don’t bother with AIIM, IRMS, and other similar conferences; they don’t get the leads. However, I think they are missing a marvelous opportunity to educate and transform the market, including the associations themselves. I believe that these vendors need to look at two or three years of conference investment before they can reasonably expect to use the conferences as sales opportunities. That said, these vendors, individually, probably have little idea of what they’re really on to. And let’s face it, individually most of them aren’t significant in a IG/M or RIM (Records and Information Management) context. It’s as a whole solution built of the best bits for the job that they shine. And that is a beautiful thing.
I think the whole IG/M space, including the associations, is having a bit of a tough time with its own transformation. It’s not an analog to digital thing; it’s more of what should we be doing and to whom should we be doing it. Both conferences featured sessions about the evolution of the space and those who practice in it, but not enough, in my opinion. The transformation of the space was missing. I.e.: what is IG/M going to look like in the not too distant future? Like it or not, there are some key vendors out there that are going to have a massive influence on what our profession will look like, and they weren’t at either conference.
One of the things I’ve been seeing lately is this concept of “content as a service”. Essentially it’s having a managed repository serving as a platform on which to build actual business solutions. The back-end takes care of all the IG/M stuff like versions, policies, security, etc, while applications that solve actual business problems are built on top of the platform. Why am I mentioning this in this particular post. BECAUSE THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE WHOLE IG/M or RIM PROFESSION SHOULD BE DOING FOR THE ORGANIZATIONS THEY SUPPORT!!!
Very soon, if you’re only (don’t take this the wrong way) a records manager or archivist your career will be over. The titles may stay the same, but the skill sets and thought processes must evolve. All information, regardless of medium or storage location, must be in scope. I think that with the right mindset, training, and skills, today’s information professional can become tomorrow’s internal management consultant and strategic advisor. I’ve said more than once that information assets must be treated with the same gravity and urgency that financial assets are treated. There is, in my view, a small window of opportunity for those of us currently in the profession, in whatever role, to make that happen. You / we can specialize in certain disciplines that make up IG/M, but we’ve got to have an understanding of the whole.
Everything we information professionals do ought to be done in support of the core business of the organizations we work for. This does not mean we take a subservient approach to doing our jobs. Far from it. How many other professions are as well placed as we are to actually understand what’s happening? How many other professions have as holistic a view into an organization as we do? As professionals we need to look around our organizations and start to ask what problems or challenges we can help with. And it’s not just how to file something, how to prepare for litigation, how to defensibly delete something, or how to save money on storage. We need to be asking questions about how to grow the business, how to better compete, how to better serve citizens, i.e.: ask strategic, forward looking business questions.
We need to be pushing IRMS, AIIM, ARMA, and every other professional organization we belong to to ask those same questions of companies and of vendors. Associations need to be our voices, especially when it comes to defining what our profession will look like in the future. We need to step up and make sure our associations are positioned to attract the right vendors / sponsors, to answer the right questions for end-user organizations, and to provide the thought leadership that we as professionals need in order to learn and grow.
Miscellaneous Closing Thoughts
You’ll notice I’ve stayed away from using the term ECM; that’s because it doesn’t matter anymore, if it ever really did. What matters is solutions. ECM is just background stuff, which is exactly as it should be.
I’m scratching my head a bit over the IRMS offering the Foundation Certificate in Information Governance (FCIG); there seems to be quite a lot of overlap with AIIM’s Certified Information Professional (CIP) thing. Don’t get me wrong, the FCIG is a good thing that covers a little bit that the CIP doesn’t. Is it enough to warrant a separate certificate / certification? Is it a manifestation of the differences between the North American and UK markets? I dunno. I do, however, wish the IRMS and AIIM all the best with their programs.
This being my first IRMS conference, I didn’t know what to expect. What I encountered was a massive attack hug (thanks Emily), a wonderfully warm reception from the entire IRMS executive and the event organizers, and a fantastic experience in Brighton. This was definitely a records management focussed conference, with most (80%+?) participants being from one form of public sector or another. Now, many of you know what I think about pure records management and may assume that I started to itch and twitch, but I didn’t. I think there is an openness to a more holistic approach to managing information that doesn’t seem to be present at other records focussed events I’ve been to. There was also a much more palpable sense of community and intimacy than what I’ve previously experienced.
That one conclusion I alluded to in the title …
This profession of ours is as much in a state of transition as the industries and professions we support. I don’t really know with any certainty what that’s going to look like in the next few years. However, I think those of us practising our profession had better embrace a little uncertainty, tempered with a lot of flexibility and creativity.
Information surpassed people as an organization’s most valuable resource a few years ago. There is no reason to believe that things will ever go back to the way they were. More than likely the value of information will continue to increase as its volume grows. Therefore, those of us who really know how to govern and manage it, how to leverage its value, and how to mitigate its risks … well, there’s no stopping us.
 If you added information governance / management related sessions to Boxworks, it could actually be a better info gov conference than AIIM, in terms of having relevant vendors show up.
AIIM – Here’s What I Want
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.
From the Podium – My Perspective on AIIM and ARMA Canada Conferences
On June 10th I presented, for the third time, at the ARMA Canada regional conference. Earlier this year, in April, I presented for the first time at AIIM’s annual conference. The experiences were both positive, but very different. This post isn’t really about those experiences; it’s about a comment I received on the evaluation forms from my ARMA Canada session.
The comment was that I was “preaching to the choir”. Uhm, yeah, I was. The topic of my session wasn’t related to the “why” of information governance, it was about a variant of how to do it. I’d fully expect that the session would be attended by people that already understood why information governance is necessary. That said, I fully agree with the sentiment.
Whether it’s at industry conferences, at vendor events, at analyst events, or on online communities, we (IG / IM practitioners) do spend a lot of our time preaching to the choir. But, it’s not always our fault. And I’m going to keep my focus on conferences …
Pick a conference you’re fond of attending, go back over the last few years’ agendas and pick out what’s really fresh/new/exciting year after year. Not much, really. Even at a single conference you can see tons of repetition, albeit using different PowerPoint templates. So, what are we going to do about it? My guess is not very much, but here’s a few suggestions anyways.
Presenters need to give themselves a kick in the hindquarters to get out of their comfort zones. I’ve got my topic for this year, but I will go on to something different next year, or I won’t bother to submit a proposal. Here’s a thought … try something new that doesn’t just address the latest SharePoint release or, if you’re a vendor, the latest version of your product (new branding doesn’t count).
Attendees, you need to get active in conference planning and let the organizers know what you want to hear and see. I know that some of you are there primarily for the networking opportunities and vendor swag, but the sessions can be pretty useful too. In order to make them useful you need to jump in and provide direction. Here’s a little secret … YOU’RE PAYING THE FRICKIN’ FEES YOU ARE THE FRICKIN’ CUSTOMER!!!
Conference organizers need to do a better job of screening and selecting content. Before you slit my throat, I do appreciate that your lot isn’t easy, and you really do a pretty terrific job. I do realize that it’s not easy to get people and organizations to show up and speak for however long you need them to. But, I’d rather see a two day conference with stellar content, than three days that includes some pretty mediocre content. If you’ve got one session that addresses “the state of IM in 2020 and beyond”, you really have more than enough.
As for getting people not in the choir to attend … I don’t know. But I would start with making sure the content to be presented is appealing to them. When was the last time you heard a CMO say “I am so gonna attend that session on managing documented images as records in SharePoint 2013!”? I’d love to see more attendance from IM beneficiaries instead of practitioners.
As for comparing my AIIM experience to the ARMA Canada experience … sorry AIIM, ARMA Canada wins by a landslide because the session was way more a discussion than a lecture. And the credit for that goes to the 39 people that came out at 8:15am (though some did linger a bit over their breakfast). So here’s my proposal for next year’s AIIM conference: I’ll put up a slide with my contact info only. I’ll field questions, challenges, comments from the audience and we’ll all have nice chat for 25 minutes or so. We can call it IM Improv. Deal? Oh, I’ll also try not to step off any stages this time. 🙂
To those in the audience being critical – if you do it the right way, I appreciate it because it makes me better the next time. My contact info is included on every slide deck I use; call or email me to offer criticisms and suggestions. I received some criticism after my AIIM presentation and used it to make my ARMA Canada session, I hope, better. As long as you’re not just being mean I’ll use the input to improve.
Lastly, to those of you sitting in the choir and not singing, get up on stage and join us. I’m certain you’ve got stories, wisdom, and experience that we could all benefit from. The experience is always rewarding, whether it’s by making new connections, learning something, or seeing that “aha” look on someone’s face. It’s hard work and can be nerve-wracking, but it is so worth it.
Help Wanted – Testing a Survey
I am putting together a survey for an upcoming project and I need your help. I am testing two things: 1) whether or not PollDaddy is a reasonable tool to use, and; B) the survey. You can send feedback via the survey (last question), via this blog post, or directly to me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please feel free to pass this on. Depending on the responses received, I may use the results to come up with a clever hypothesis, or not.
The project, as originally defined by the client, is to develop a records management strategy. However, between the client and I we’ve redefined the project to encompass all information and support corporate objectives (I’ve actually read and understood their corp strategy docs). The current phase is to document the current state of records and information management, come up with a target state, and develop an implementation roadmap to get from here to there.
The intended audience for the survey is the entire organization (they’re not really that huge). Survey completion will be mandatory for all directors and above, for everyone else it is optional. My point with doing this survey is to have information that is directly applicable to the client, rather than relying on industry or generic information.
The survey http://christianpwalker.polldaddy.com/s/records-information-management-what-you-know-what-you-think