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Information managers: Embrace the information management chaos

The volume and velocity of data is exploding. Information managers have to accept the reality of the situation to get a handle on it.

Information managers are struggling to find ways to manage information cost-effectively, efficiently and without...

a lot of manual fuss. But the volume and velocity of information is growing exponentially, so they can't keep up. And increasingly they are finding that the conventional methods and systems to manage information overload aren't sufficient anymore.

In the past, conventional enterprise content management (ECM) systems aimed to address this information explosion and manage files. But increasingly, many information managers have found that these conventional IT technologies have met only some of the needs of an increasingly mobile dispersed workforce. So too, workers are increasingly IT-savvy and have found alternatives to conventional technologies that they prefer and find more efficient.

That is why, in late March, more than 800 information management professionals gathered at the AIIM15 conference in San Diego to explore the theme "Embrace the Chaos." We chose the theme intentionally: Clearly, the "chaos" part of the theme is all around us: the combined impact of IT consumerization, cloud computing and mobile devices, and the Internet of Things are rapidly signaling the end of the ECM era as we know it. Organizations are struggling with best practices and norms as they make the transition to a new technology era dominated by mobile, analytics, cloud and collaborative (MACC) technologies; meanwhile, the vendors that are part of this change are struggling with their identity as an industry.

Given the fast pace of technology development and the identity confusion in the industry, how can information managers embrace the chaos? Certainly, some are choosing to resist the chaos. Some pretend the chaos doesn't exist. Some think they can somehow turn back the clock and reverse the chaos.

The "embracing" component of the theme means understanding that several key MACC-stack-driven trends are on the 2020 horizon. Given that 2020 is just only five years away, we'd better stop procrastinating. Here are trends that are on the horizon or here today:

  • New approaches to privacy and security
  • Ubiquitous broadband connectivity
  • Bottom-up rather than top-down innovation
  • More virtual and distributed work
  • A shortage of IT analytical skills
  • An Opex-vs.-Capex procurement model
  • Increased regulation of the cloud by national governments

Organizations have dealt with the challenge associated with the intersection of people, processes and information through a series of technology waves. In each wave, or era, it took time for best practices and standards to emerge. Ultimately they did -- generating widespread adoption of that particular technology, only to be disrupted by the next wave of technology innovation.

A couple of issues are constants during periods of transition:

  1. In-between eras, the technologies that ultimately become dominant in the next era struggle for an identity and a label. Ultimately an "industry" of key players emerges, and once this happens, the chaos that was characteristic of the time between eras is forgotten.
  2. In the early stages of each era, early adopters struggle with an absence of clear rules and best practices on how to best proceed. Again, these rules ultimately emerge, but not without a great deal of confusion during the interim.

As we prepare for the massive change ahead, we need to do so with consciousness that we're lacking best practices. But the community forged at AIIM15 represents the community of leaders who will help devise them.

If you strip away the fancy technology terms and insider acronyms, there are two fundamental questions our community needs to answer if we are to help our organizations actually embrace the chaos.

And the questions we need to answer need to be very firmly anchored in the day-to-day challenges facing knowledge workers.

The first fundamental question is this: "Where should I put my stuff so that it is secure, shareable and searchable so that my organization can accomplish its goals?"

In a period of rapid change, that question is daunting on its own. But there is a second core and related question that we also need to answer: "How can I do so in a way that works with the way I work and is useful to me in getting my job done?"

Without answering the second question -- and answering it with equal weight to the first -- IT departments around the globe will constantly be playing an unwinnable catch-up game. We are in the era of user-centric IT, and no matter how we might wish it were otherwise, an organization's desire for order and control will always lose out in the face of the need for individuals to get their work done -- no matter it takes.

Come to think of it, that sounds like a pretty good agenda for AIIM16 next year in New Orleans.

Let's get to work.

Next Steps

Going paperless -- and to the cloud?

Some basic governance policies for information management

SMAC is coming to your company -- yesterday

Asset-based security in the age of cloud-based ECM

This was last published in April 2015

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What are the most pressing issues facing information managers?
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I think information managers need a basis in reality. Too often the C-suite personnel are as lost as our governing bodies. They talk a good game about the issues that affect individuals (consumer protections, etc.) but they don't actually use these things. The biggest and most recent example is the furor over healthcare while none of our congress people are actually eligible for the plans they are legislating over. When it comes to information, our managers should actually spend some time consuming content in the way their clients and audiences do. Get on a real mobile device and visit the company Website. Download resources from the company site to see that it can actually occur outside the firewall. And think like your audience...not like the person making decisions over the information empire.
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