AIIM17 – Information Management taking off in 2017

Information Management. If you don’t know what it is, should you care? Get it right and everything is easier and your organisation is more successful. Get it wrong and you miss out on efficiency and transformational opportunities, whilst adding risks to your business.

The news is full of organisations from public sector to finance and industrial, to service businesses, either telling of amazing advances and new players or tales of woe from data loss, safety issues or costs dragging people down. Two things to note; firstly, keep out of trouble, secondly, use your information to work smarter and do things that were not possible even a few years ago.

The direction of travel is clearer and the pace of change is increasing. People want less friction in their business activities and they want to move from reacting to situations, to getting in front of things and deploying decision automation.

There is historical baggage to consider but if we don’t think more freely about information challenges then others will and whole businesses can vanish in record quick time. In the digitally transformed world there is no such thing as ‘too big to fail’.

Every year a large tribe of Information Management professionals from around the globe gather in the U.S. organised by AIIM. From its origins in 1943 AIIM has seen many changes in the forms of information and how it is governed and consumed, from Microfiche to social information and data lakes. The AIIM17 conference was held in Orlando, Florida from March 14th to 16th. I attended the conference preceded by the AIIM board meeting on March 13th. For those who weren’t able to attend I have distilled some observations and would encourage you to participate in this information community, particularly as it offers a lot of independent thought leadership.

AIIM now stands for the ‘Association of Intelligent Information Management’, which highlights the shift in perception from record keeping to a community who help organisations derive maximum value from the information they handle. This is a subtle but important shift. Information managers have tended to be downplayed by organisations and seen as administrators. Whilst that function is vital to control risk and meet compliance needs it does not reflect the enormous additional value that IM professionals can help unlock.

Microsoft now reflect this in their mission statement “Our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”, it’s not about putting computers on desks any more. It is good to have computers and information but to state the obvious, what really counts is what you do with it.  The table below presented by AIIM shows the nature of information system evolution.

Information is transforming all our lives and the boundaries are blurring between individuals and corporations, between work and social. Corporate systems have struggled to match the agility of social systems and are losing value, hindering companies.

Gartner recently announced that the term AIIM coined ‘Enterprise Content Management’ or ECM is now dead. This term is too associated with large centralised and rigid systems, often with excess features and controls and an inability to adapt to new information demands and use cases. That is not to say the ECM concept has no place, there are many use cases where very structured information with high regulatory and governance needs exist. What the community is now saying is that this alone is not enough and that other capabilities need to wrap around that, or replace it. The new discussions are centred on ‘Content Services’ to provide coherence across many systems.

This change in the market has been demonstrated by some vendor consolidations, such as OpenText acquiring Dell EMC’s Enterprise Content Division, including Documentum. Microsoft is accelerating developments in SharePoint that bake in features that used to require custom development. The landscape is shifting, and the pace increasing. However, businesses are less likely to spend time on architecture, designing and building solutions. They want to try out ideas, confirm they add value and then get them into production fast. This more fluid approach can provide great tactical results but can cause long-term or serious issues. Businesses really need to have a well thought out high-level information architecture to avoid some major pitfalls (such as data loss, wrong analysis, fines, and brand damage).

Businesses are feeling torn between finding their own solutions or asking traditional ‘IT’. Increasingly they are moving ahead independently, selecting and using software as a service, with many examples from CRM to HR and Finance. People increasingly use apps like Box, Dropbox and Evernote to supplement their information management needs and make life easier. They are also demanding more insight from information; dashboards, trends, analytics and decision automation. This presents a number of challenges. New legislation such as GDPR is going to compel organisations to demonstrate their control of information.

The message coming from AIIM and its community of practitioners and vendors is that there is no technical magic bullet. So what is the recommendation? It is to get informed. Information Management professionals can navigate the challenges and make organisations more effective, and in some cases transforming them entirely from old business models. Understanding your information needs allows you to map out a suitable information architecture, making the best of what you have, adding what you need, making connections and surfacing your information more easily so you can do more with it.

As if to highlight the way things are taking off, we were lucky enough to witness the launch of the Spacex Falcon9 transporting the Echostar XXIII broadcast satellite to orbit. It’s an obvious analogy but information and analytics are taking off too, with big obstacles to avoid but great prizes to those who take advantage and get smart.

AIIM can help as an independent community of 153,000 people, publishing many industry watch papers, research, events and training through certified information professional programs (www.aiim.org). If you are in Europe you may wish to attend the AIIM UK Forum on 21st June, held in London (www.aiimforum.co.uk). Sword can help you work more productively with your information as part of a process described as digital transformation.

My thoughts boils down to this:

  1. Understand and control the information you have
  2. Don’t let things damage it, or let it leak out
  3. Use that information to be more effective in what you do (tactical improvements)
  4. Be radical and make a transformational leap forward (strategic shift)

If you want to discuss any of these themes you can contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or mail me at neale.stidolph@sword-group.com or @nealestidolph

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