No Such Things as InfoGov Projects


Last week the Information Coalition hosted an InfoChat. During the chat a question was asked about who the most important stakeholders in Information Governance projects are. I answered that I don’t believe in InfoGov projects.

 

Instead of writing a whole post about why I don’t believe in InfoGov projects I thought I’d give you all a break and, instead of reading my stuff, let you see and listen to me. 🙂

 

Anyway … my thoughts …

AIIM – Here’s What I Want


aiim-logoIn 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.

Networking

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.

Thank You

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.

The BA and the Shiny Objects


diamond-1186139_1280A few weeks ago I was approached about working with an organization to help them put together a new SharePoint 2013 site to replace the one they currently have (SP2010). The business unit that approached me is responsible for engaging with stakeholders when the company wants to build infrastructure in their operating region; let’s call the unit EE (external engagement) for the sake of discussion.

Now, before I get all ranty and critical, you should know that EE wasn’t getting much love and attention from IT; this post is not about assigning blame to EE or their Business Analyst, with whom I’ll be working pretty closely. The fact is that there are problems in how IT engages with the business that are way beyond the scope of this post. As you read this post, keep in mind that a business case has been prepared and approved by IT (a VP) and EE (a Director and an SVP).

To enable [EE] to capture the benefits of SharePoint in our department, we need to revisit our existing 2010 [EE] Team site.” That quote is the first sentence of the main body of the approved business case for the project. The case goes on, in excruciating detail, to describe in non-quantifiable terms how implementing various features and functions available in SharePoint 2013 will benefit the department. What the case doesn’t contain is any sort of goal or objective from the business indicating why the project is necessary and what the measurable business outcomes ought to be. Nor does the case contain any criteria upon which project success will be based.

If I were to summarize the business case as it’s currently written, it would be something like “There’s a bunch of cool SP2013 stuff that isn’t being used and we think we can use it to make our site look pretty and show people what we’re doing and we’ve started a Proof of Concept (PoC) that we’re going to finish soon to show you just how pretty those SP2013 things will look on our site and we’re going to do whatever we want whether it’s standard or not even if it’s stuff that other projects and departments are really responsible for. Okay?”

In addition to containing a shopping list of SP2013 features to be deployed, the business case also makes assumptions about the way in which many of the features will be deployed. Now, having some insight into the organization, I can tell you unequivocally that many of those assumptions are incorrect because they don’t comply with standards and guidelines that the organization has adopted. To be fair, had IT paid more attention, these deviations would have been caught and much time and money would have been saved.

I, and others, have advocated for trying to get the most out of the technology organizations have on hand. However, that doesn’t mean that organizations should invent requirements that provide no discernable business benefits simply to make use of some feature that’s currently sitting on a shelf. What it means is that, once real business needs and benefits have been identified, organizations should look at the tools they have on hand before going out to acquire something else. Of course, this should all be bound by an organization’s standards and guidelines.

Fortunately, the business case has been approved only to get the business requirements done. The organization uses a pure waterfall, gated SDLC so I’m going to use that to our advantage and try to get things back on the right track. I’m also going to try and get the PoC descoped or killed altogether. Things aren’t so far down the path that they can’t be corrected, but it will take a fair bit of cajoling and coaching of the BA. We’ll also have to get IT more engaged but I have a pretty decent PM to help with that bit.

Things to take away from this story:

  1. Only deploy technology based on identified and accepted business needs;
  2. Have measurable outcomes defined so you can actually determine whether or not you’re succeeding;
  3. Business and IT are partners and must work together;
  4. If your BA isn’t that strong, make sure they are properly coached and supported;
  5. Don’t sign off on a business case that doesn’t contain business objectives, business drivers, or success criteria;
  6. If you’re not going to comply with corporate standards and guidelines, cool, but have solid justification for not complying[1];
  7. If the first sentence in your business case is something like “To enable [EE] to capture the benefits of SharePoint in our department, we need to revisit our existing 2010 [EE] Team site.”, you don’t actually have one;
  8. Shiny Object Disease is both preventable and curable.

 

[1] Many years ago I had a contract gig with a major airline. My sole responsibility was to evaluate non-standard IT requests to determine whether or not the provided justification was sufficient enough to warrant approving the request. I.e.: Standards and guidelines can occasionally be broken if there is valid justification.

Technology Doesn’t Guarantee Success


spamont1There’s an old saying in car racing that goes something like “you can’t win the race in the first corner, but you can lose it.”  There is a similar truth when talking about software. The right software will not fix your problems, but the wrong software will surely exacerbate them. This, then, is a little story about choosing the wrong software.

Just prior to Christmas 2015 I took on a small project in Vermont. It was a bit of a weird situation in that the project was a mashup of two projects I’d done the previous year; the client was in the same business as another client, and the project was the same as a different client. No matter.

The client wanted to find out why their staff wasn’t in love with the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution they’d deployed a few years earlier and why things were failing. With a few exceptions this could have been a copy of an assessment I did for a university (detailed in this post & case study). The key differences were the technology chosen and the business the two organizations are in. In the case of the university, at least they chose the right type of technology for their needs. The folks in Vermont kinda, sorta, almost made the right choice, but not quite.

Back in 2008/09 their legal folks decided that they needed something to manage all their documents, so they went out and sourced a document management product targeted to professional services organizations. At the time no one was thinking holistically about what the organization needed. Whatever, it’ll all work out. Uhm, no.

As they were researching what to buy, they determined that their compliance and procurement departments had similar document management needs, so decided to deploy whatever they bought to those groups as well. There’s nothing wrong with trying to get more bang for your buck, assuming that the fit is right. Right?

My client went out and selected a product and got it implemented. Now, the implementation did not go smoothly, but that was nothing to do with the product and everything to do with selecting a less than stellar implementation partner. However, that’s not what this story is about, though you really need to be careful about selecting an implementation partner.

Once they got the implementation under way, they decided that the product they chose would be their ECM standard. There was a tiny problem; the product they selected was not an ECM product. As stated on their website [name withheld] “is the global leader in professional work product management”. The vendor’s target market is primarily law firms. Over the course of the project I spoke to the vendor and a couple of peers that work for organizations that use the vendor’s tools. They all agree that the product is not suitable as an ECM platform. The two peers I spoke to said that the product is very good if you use it for what it’s designed to do, but you’d be mad to try and use it as an ECM platform. To get back to my race car analogy; it’d be like trying to compete in the Dakar with a Formula One car.

But really, how bad could it be? Well, prior to implementing the product, everyone in the company knew where to find stuff, even though it was a pain. While they weren’t thrilled about using file shares, FTP, and email to store and share content, they knew how to work with the tools they had, regardless of how prehistoric they were. Now that they have the new platform, most people in the company are more than a little fed up:

  • They file stuff and can’t find it again;
  • They’re supposed to send links to colleagues, but have to rely on email because security is borked;
  • Where previously there were standards, now many have their own way of doing things;
  • Irritation with previous tools has been replaced, in many cases, with hostility;
  • This list is not complete.

It’s gotten so bad that my client is seriously considering ripping out the solution they implemented and going back to using file shares. I wish I were kidding.

As my university client found out, choosing the right technology is no guarantee of success. However, as my Vermont client found out, choosing the wrong technology is a guarantee of failure. Choose wisely and do all those other things that come before selecting and implementing technology. After all, a solution / system is a combination of people, processes, and technology.

Info Pros are to Info what Accountants are to Money


note-376397_1280Information Management is a profession[1], not an industry. Steve Weissman of the Holly Group wrote a pretty good post about IM/IG being a profession rather than an industry last year. Like HR, Accounting, IT, legal, etc., Information Management is here to support the core business; this does not imply subservience. And like the other support functions, there are several types of professionals practicing Information Management.

Don Lueders wrote a post comparing Accountants and Records Managers (one type of IM/IG professional) a couple weeks ago, so I’m going to take what Don and Steve wrote a couple of steps further. I’m also doing it because like money, information is a corporate asset.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I believe that IM/IG Professionals are to information what Accountants are to money. And just like there are different types of Accountants, there are different types of IM/IG Professionals.

Accountants, at least in Canada, fall into three broad categories: 1) Strategic; 2) Tactical; 3) Governance/Risk/Compliance. Hmm … IM/IG professionals can be lumped into three broad categories: 1) Strategic; 2) Tactical; 3) Governance/Risk/Compliance.

Need I go on?

[1] I know this because I am a Certified Information PROFESSIONAL.

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