AIIM Executive Leadership Council Summit XI – The Future of IM

Information Management is getting hot!

Blog by Neale Stidolph

14-15th June 2017 in Washington D.C. & 22nd June 2017 in London

We all hear the old tales that IM is necessary but perhaps not the most exciting topic. Business leaders don’t care for the mundane, so it is unfortunate that the practitioners of IM haven’t got them excited. Until now. IM is now one of the fastest growing sectors, but the rules of the game and the players are changing. Things are indeed getting hot in IM, which was well matched by the heat of D.C. and London over the past two weeks.

These notes came from my recent trips to Washington D.C. and London and represent my opinion based on what I heard and the conversations with people during and after these events. The first thing to note is that these summits are not sales pitches; they exist to test ideas and check the latest developments from the front line. The ideas, examples and thoughts came from greater minds than mine, you shall be relieved to know, but I can connect you with the people who specialise or have specific knowledge of points raised in this blog. AIIM will publish a ‘Trendscape’ based on the ELC meetings so treat this blog as informal and reflecting only my personal interpretation.

The first thing that should catch the eye of businesses is that things that were expensive, slow and hard have reached a tipping point, and a very dramatic one at that. At the same time, businesses are changing more quickly than ever – or are being wiped out by brand new business models and competitors. These situations are bringing business and IM together in a manner that most people have not seen before. Both parties seem a little surprised but are finding that they can actually get along well.

So, what’s going on?

The IM industry is convulsing, and may reach about 150 mergers/acquisitions this year, a scale that has not been seen before in this sector. Many large vendors are merging, but a number are struggling to change their business models as the technology is shifting so fast. They each risk cannibalising their old markets. On the flip side of that, there are dozens of startups coming along who are all about bringing new approaches to market. This is challenging for businesses used to buying from the big names, as their vision is now dubious or caught up in legacy issues. These vendors will likely have to make big acquisition cost synergies, simplify their offerings, keep old customers on board as long as possible whilst they spin up new solutions. They are fighting on many fronts. IM is one of the biggest growth areas in IT, but the names are changing.

Most corporations are not used to buying into new ways of doing things, there is a rush to be second or lag until things become well established and mainstream. That may be OK for your business if you have the time and money to wait. Here’s the forecast fall in employment, according to an Oxford Martin School study ‘The Future of Employment’.

This will also apply to many other roles where people are following rules, looking up information to give to others, and performing repetitive work.

Just a couple of years ago there was entrenched thinking; a disbelief in file sync/share such as Box, DropBox, OneDrive, mobility, and cloud tech. Much humble pie is being consumed. Hundreds of millions of pounds or more are being wagered by vendors betting on the future. We are now seeing many bets paying off and the losers fading away.

So here’s an example from the United Arab Emirates – All government to go fully digital by 2020 (and may beat that target, despite starting in 2016), based on Blockchain. UAE also founded the Blockchain Council. We’ve seen dramatic shifts elsewhere, such as the eResident scheme in Estonia. All paper records of identity such as passports, driving licenses, and a dozen more are now under one digital scheme. With that Digital Id you can set up a business in Estonia, conduct banking, deal with tax and never touch any paper, and you don’t even have to live there. Even the border permits paperless entry using your mobile phone.

Here’s another. In shipping the biggest transformation since containers is document control! 80% of the costs in shipping relate to delays caused by documents being wrong / badly prepared. Loads of time is lost stuck in ports whilst the authorities get the paperwork they need and check it all out, this can run into many weeks and impacts the whole supply chain. Shifting that into a digital process with independently verifiable document validity and audit trail means the difference between thriving and going out of business.

Why are they doing it? It’s easy, cheaper, faster and more secure. Why didn’t they do it before now? It was very difficult, expensive and slow to implement.

There appear to be five main components behind this IM revolution:

  1. Blockchain – an immutable record for authenticity spanning companies and firewalls
  2. Artifical Intelligence, inc. machine learning & deep learning
  3. Robotics – for the automation of processes, not big metal robots
  4. Internet of Things – or how to connect vast amounts of real-time data & manage it
  5. Cloud – drawing on huge storage & compute power as and when you need it

The pace is staggering. Old limitations are vanishing. For example, folks wonder if Microsoft SharePoint can hold ‘enough’ information for them. Hey, how does 30 Trillion Objects sound? Enough? IBM bought Box and we see Microsoft using 1,000 engineers to extend OneDrive. This is not your father’s File Share, for example people are building workflows and ECM-style function using Box. People want all their stuff however and wherever they need it; mobile, cloud, whatever.

There is also hazard in the new world of IM. Organisations will be using AI where it will not be possible to unpick all the inputs, data and decision making process. The computer may indeed say no, but you might not know why. Processes such as mortgage applications, tenders, and parole judgements are already becoming highly mechanised and automated. That will only increase. Business have to know that they are using the right information. It must be accurate and trusted. For critical situations such as automated surgery Humans will still be in the decision making loop (or, Human in the loop, HITL – to use an awful phrase). We wouldn’t want an algorithm to determine if we live or die.

This shift in smart tech is likely to disrupt the thing that kept the world of IM and business apart. The IM folks would try to get everyone to classify things and put them in special places. The business folks, and all right-thinking people hate doing that. So the IM world got full of people who could manage the information stores, record keeping and other necessary but dull things. As it turns out this can get very interesting and challenging if you happen to be National Archive (NARA, U.S.) and must work out how to preserve U.S. records in a world of emails, encryption and Twitter.

The result is that tech can come to the rescue and liberate businesses from the chores associated with information, and also change the focus of IM to be all about adding extra value to the business and not have to worry so much about governance.

A simple example of this is Microsoft Delve, powered by Graph. It will remind you what you’re working on, show you where it is and also be able to bring you information in context; such as the files you may need for a meeting you’re about to attend.

The ability to use insight based on information is startling. I heard that Netflix have been using deeply tuned & modified trailers for shows, based on the tastes of each individual viewer & their preferences. Imagine that, no standard trailer it just builds a trailer for you.

What we are seeing is that ‘IT’ is no longer in control and its usual mode of working with the business is quite broken. Developments that took years and cost millions such as ‘next best action’ advice for customer management can now be achieved with Chatbots on an almost plug-and-play basis. IM and IT skills needs to evolve fast to meet the new business opportunities. However, there is now a training fallacy – by the time you have trained a new person in a discipline it may be out of date. Example, applications for law degrees are collapsing. By the time you become a lawyer you won’t be needed.

An interesting point at the London session, “Agility rhymes with stability”. To be agile a business needs to have solid platforms, information & processes, enabling rapid solution design and deployment.

It has never been easier to change vendor as the tools and open connectors have improved so rapidly. Organisational culture and behaviour is likely to be the biggest brake on business improvement.

We can’t end a blog without mentioning GDPR, though in some ways I wish we could.

GDPR & Information Liabilities

You may not expect this, but a firm who stores archive boxes for your business will not know what is in your boxes, and your business may not understand what is in all your boxes either; but this does not stop both companies being legally liable for the content.

The big issue for business with GDPR will be culture and behaviour. People and businesses have to change mind-set and priorities; IT and IM alone will not save them – in fact, it can make it too easy to do ‘inadvisable’ things. Mind you, if we switched to a model where your personal data was held by you in a system based on Blockchain, with you controlling permissions then you could get back the control that has gone missing as vendors play with your details.

In conclusion, what might we take away from this? Well, the Association of Intelligent Information Management ‘AIIM’ makes the following comments, and if you would like a translation for any of it just ask me.

I hope this gives you some food for thought. If you want to discuss any of these themes or find out who could solve specific problems you can contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or mail me at

Further information:

AIIM will be publishing findings from the ELC shortly. For more details see

Some of the speakers:

Robert Kahn, Founder and President, Corporation for National Research Initiatives – Credited as one of the Fathers of the Internet

Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer, National Archive (NARA, U.S.)

Henry Sienkiewicz – CEO of OTS; The Art of Cyber Conflict (book), and expert in security

Fact Based Analysis: Alan Pelz-Sharpe – Industry Analyst, Deep Analysis

D.C. Expert panel: Emerging and Disruptive Technologies – Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning

  • Andrea Chiappe, Director of Innovation and Strategy, Systemware
  • Rich Howarth, Vice President of Engineering, IBM
  • John Kaufhold, Managing Partner and Data Scientist, Deep Learning Analytics

The Future of Information Management

  • Sonny Hashmi, Managing Director, Box
  • Greg Milliken, VP of Marketing, M-Files
  • George Parapadakis, Director of Business Solutions Strategy, Alfresco
  • Ian Story, Principal Program Manager, Microsoft

Martyn Christian, Founder, UNDRSTND Group

John Newton, Co-Founder and CTO, Alfresco

‘Capture 2.0’ – Harvey Spencer, HSA

Theo Priestley, VP - Global Evangelist, SAP

London Expert panel: Emerging and Disruptive Technologies – Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning

  • Andrea Chiappe, Director of Innovation and Strategy, Systemware
  • Johan Raedemaeker, Senior Manager, Delaware Consulting
  • Abed Shaheen, CEO, InfoFort
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