Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ready, steady, AIIM

Ahead of AIIM Forum UK 2018, which took place at IBIS Earls Court London on June 20, James Goulding caught up with Peggy Winton, President of AIIM, to discuss the changing world of information management

Peggy Winton, President of AIIM

A lot has happened in the 12 months since the last AIIM Forum UK, in the wider world of information management and at AIIM itself, which on January 1 changed its name (but conveniently not its acronym) to reflect the new reality of ‘intelligent information management’. PrintIT Editor James Goulding caught up with AIIM President Peggy Winton to discuss the changing world of information management and how AIIM is helping its members to develop and prosper in an era of digital transformation.

James Goulding (JG): What is the significance of AIIM’s change of name from The Association for Information and Image Management to the Association for Intelligent Information Management?

Peggy Winton (PW): As an association, we are not unusual in that throughout our long history our mission has evolved in line with new technologies and practices. The original meaning of AIIM – the Association for Information and Image Management – has obviously outlived its usefulness, and we spent the better part of last year looking at new applications of information in the workplace, the next big innovation waves and the impact that both would have on the future of our industry.

We concluded that despite all the talk of new labels – Gartner’s opinion that ECM is dead and the term should now be content services – the end game was about trying to achieve digital transformation. So, we did two things: we defined what we mean by digital transformation in information-driven terms; and we thought about the aspirations that almost any business, of any size, in any industry shares.

AIIM Forum
AIIM Forum

We came up with four tenets of digital transformation – to enrich the internal and external customer experience; to enable innovation; to execute processes nimbly and on demand; and to do all of that while minimising risk. Then we asked ‘what’s the toolkit, the roadmap, to get you there?’, which is where intelligent information management comes in. The digital transformation journey begins with intelligent information management.

We don’t disagree with anything that Gartner has said, but they tend to approach things from a technology perspective to put things in a  magic quadrant. For us, Intelligent Information Management is the practice; it’s what people do.

JG: What are the main intelligent information management challenges that organisations face today?

PW: We prefer to think of intelligent information management as the solution to what is a digital transformation challenge. The main challenge organisations face is the risk of disruption, and to combat that they have to look at how they are going to enrich their internal and external customer experience. Everything comes from that. How do you use information to be innovative and to empower people. You certainly need to minimise risk, but that’s not the key driver.

JG: Do the solutions to these problems exist?

PW: The intelligent information management toolkit is based on four things as well. Number one is modernising and rationalising the information eco-system and there are a variety of things you can do in that regard. Cloud is a no-brainer. By using cloud, by using some best-of-breed applications, you don’t necessarily reduce the number of tools and systems that people use, but you do make them more modularised and componentised, so you can plug and play. One of our really smart members said you are always going to invest in the tool that has the biggest impact on your business, even if connecting it to the back end looks kind of ugly.

The second element is something we have been talking about forever, and that’s the idea of digitising your core organisational practices. These are some of the most mature technologies in our space – capture 2.0, OCR, digital signatures. They have been around for ever and they seem trivial, but they are not. For many organisations, that’s an easy, ‘quick win’ place to start.

Along with that, you’ve got to automate the compliance and governance piece, remove the human element with auto recognition and auto-classification. Nobody wants to classify things or drag and drop; they just won’t do it. Much of the new technology, including AI, has those technologies already baked in, enabling you to free up your workers to do more exciting and innovative things.

The final pillar is leveraging analytics and machine learning. A lot of our members ask us how to do that, so maybe it’s time metadata became cool again, because metadata is the secret to taking unstructured information and turning it into machine-readable data. Our people know metadata, so let’s give them more skills in that area. The solutions are there already, but the people, the process and the mindset also play a big part.

AIIM Forum
AIIM Forum

JG: Are vendors and their channel partners doing enough to help organisations with digital transformation or are there other things they could be doing, or doing better?

PW: They certainly could be doing things better. That said, we are seeing exciting changes there. At the AIIM conference on this side of the Atlantic, we had a new crop of providers – people like Automation Anywhere and AODocs – that have a lot of these capabilities already inherent in their solutions.

Users are looking for tools that are intuitive, appified, usable without a lot of IT involvement, easy to integrate into the way they work and consumable by the drink, not by the gallon. Those are important ingredients for any solution and our vendors need to take that to heart. Gone are the days of a one-size, monolithic answer that costs millions of pounds and takes months to implement. That’s just not going to happen anymore.

JG: In the UK, we have a persistent problem with low productivity. Do you have any thoughts on why productivity in the UK is so low even though we have all these tools which should be making things quicker and more flexible?

PW: There are probably a few reasons. Obviously, it is a hybrid world and we still have what we call our systems of record. A lot of organisations have invested a great deal of money in them and they are loathe to look at anything else; people are comfortable and nobody likes change. Similarly, the solution providers that have made those sales are not going to cut off their bread and butter.

People need to look to younger workers who are coming into the workplace with a completely different mindset and completely different expectations. At AIIM, new employees under 40 have taught us so much about the tools they use every day, and it’s easier than you think to take advantage of them. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It goes back to what I was saying earlier; what tool, if you use it, is going to have the biggest impact on your business?

Business needs to drive those decisions. Five years ago, AIIM made a game-changing investment in a new age, easy-to-use, cloud native marketing automation tool, and the most astounding thing is that our IT team had nothing to do with its implementation – it was driven completely by business. To date, it is the most successful thing we have ever done, because there was a business reason to do it. It was up and running in two weeks and now 90% of our staff use this tool and we push about 90% of our processes through it. We are using it for things for which it wasn’t intended and that’s another characteristic of digital transformation.

It’s a mindset – letting business lead the decision around where the next £1 million is coming from and what tools are needed to get there.

JG: What impact have developments like digitisation had on your membership?

PW: That’s one of the most exciting things for AIIM. When we look at the AIIM membership from a functional perspective it used to be that a third were IT types; a third were line of business owners, people in accounts payable, finance, sales and marketing; and a third were document record specialists, our genus, our core, the people who would join, pay dues and come to the conference.

Peggy Winton
Peggy Winton

In the last five years, as business is getting more involved in all of this and as information management in general has become more democratised, people who didn’t have any records management or document management legacy or expertise are coming into our world. And that’s because they have to.

Today, all of us are information brokers – we are brokering information all the time in our personal and professional lives. Some of us are stewards of that information, charged with looking at the big picture, which is where AIIM plays. But over the last five years, our largest growth has been in that line of business group, because it is business that is driving these decisions. That’s exciting for us and very exciting for the solutions providers in our space, because that is where their customers are coming from.

JG: Are emerging technologies like AI and RPA a challenge to your core members?

PW: I don’t think so. Everyone freaks out that their jobs will be displaced, but history shows that every time there has been a major paradigm shift, it doesn’t eliminate jobs, it just makes different jobs. The total number of jobs never gets reduced. I think we are in that boat here.

Wouldn’t it be great if knowledge workers didn’t have to worry about things like governance and records retention policies because technology looked after that automatically and, instead, they got to work on mission-critical, customer-facing activities, to improve the business they are in and the value they provide.

When it comes to using the disciplines and the experience hey have, there are some direct connections with emerging technologies. For example, blockchain is all about ledgers, it’s all about records, so there’s a very specific play in blockchain for our records management members; and RPA thrives on text analytics and image management and OCR. Again, our people know all about that.

JG: Should the primary role of information professionals be governance and compliance or the use of data for commercial advantage? And are the two aims incompatible?

PW: I hate to say it, but nobody cares about governance and compliance. You are never going to get executives excited about it. Obviously, we have to do it; we have to protect our intellectual property; and now, of course, we have to protect our customer data.

That’s the cost of doing business. But, facing disruption, executives are always going to look to where there’s innovation around the customer experience. That’s going to take priority every time.

The two aims are not incompatible, as long as the conversations around information change. We’ve got to move away from the idea of hanging onto information and controlling it and begin to set it free. We are trying to help our records management members change the conversation to focus on what information can do for business? Yes, someone has to be the steward of that. But you don’t lead with the compliance issue – no one cares about it. You’ve got to lead with the empowerment and enablement aspect.

JG: Has the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and GDPR changed things in any way?

PW: Frankly, I’m not sure that our information management professionals are the ones heading up GDPR readiness. The more you learn about it, the more you see that so much of it is documentation and process-oriented, rather than being truly holistic. That’s my opinion. I find that the people who are doing GDPR readiness in organisations aren’t the information management folks, they’re in IT or administration.

As regards the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal, you can’t fight greed. We always express horror when there is a mining disaster or an oil spill. People say things like ‘They didn’t have good records management or good document management’. But that’s not’s what the executives choose to do with that information, and most times they choose to hide it. It’s all about greed and you are always going to have that.

JG: Is AIIM changing the services it offers in response to changes taking place in information management and the challenges your members face?

PW: Yes, it is. At a high level, we need to focus on educating the people within our member organisations who can put the policy, the technology and the processes in place that let colleagues take advantage of having content management and analytics already baked into new platforms. We need to explain how they can build on those platforms to take their businesses to a whole new level.

On that basis, we have three main goals this year. One is to fill the knowledge and skills gap around modern records management, which we don’t believe other parties are doing. Two, given the growth in our line of business membership, we need to create more relevant and digestible learning assets for the new information brokers. Training in classrooms to earn a Masters degree is just not going to cut it any more, so we are building brand new courses – all online and in small chunks – around AI, blockchain, RPA and the cloud. Finally, we are making changes to the one certification we have out in the marketplace – the Certified Information Professional.

When we launched CIP over 6 years ago, we hoped it would be the everyman certification, but two things were wrong with it – it was too mired in what we know as ECM and contained a lot of things that the rest of the world probably wouldn’t care about; and, secondly, it didn’t align well with our training courses – taking them wouldn’t necessarily help you pass the exam. We’ve now changed all that.

We’ve made our courses more digestible and relevant and we’ve made them align with the CIP, so it does behove you to take some before doing the exam. I was a sceptic about the certification, but I took the prep course and became a CIP and I honestly believe it is now relevant for people who don’t have a long legacy in our world. So, the third goal of ours is to make sure we future-proof that with regular tweaking and updates.

JG: I see you are hosting a Women in Information Management reception at AIIM Forum UK. Please could you tell me a little more about the initiative.

PW: We launched it at the US AIIM conference last year to help women take leadership roles in organisations, starting with our world, which is decidedly male, decidedly white older male. The initiative is now a year old and has a community of 2,000. There is no fee to join, but you do have to sign up. We do a variety of activities throughout the year – a lot in the form of webinars, but we do also meet up and try to connect people.

JG: I always think of the records management world as having a high proportion of female employees.

PW: It does, but they tend to have lower management positions. When you look at the solutions providers in our space and all the VPs of product marketing etc., they are predominantly male, and the CIOs are still predominantly male. So yes, there are many women records managers, but they don’t have a seat at the table. While we aim to elevate the role of records manager regardless of gender, getting more women in leadership and high-level positions is a very specific objective of ours.

JG: Finally, what do you hope delegates will have taken away from AIIM Forum UK?

PW: We want them to be really comfortable with our intelligent information management roadmap. That will provide them with a good learning path, with a good blueprint for achieving digital transformation. Our change of name became official on January 1 and I want to make sure that the AIIM Forum UK community feels good about that and understands the roadmap. The four elements of the roadmap give people something to work with other than a blank whiteboard and the assumption that digital transformation happens with a big bang. Because it doesn’t.

Please follow and like us: