Remain Calm You’re Still a CIP

Picture Gildna Radner’s SNL character Emily Litella starting a monologue about wanting to bring an end to AIIM’s “see, I pee” promotion. Picture her rambling on until someone points out that “it’s CIP, as in Certified Information Professional.” Picture her offering up her classic: “never mind” and the skit would end.

As much as it would be comforting, I can’t hide behind a misunderstanding. When I wrote my previous post “Ding Dong the CIP,” I knew what I was doing. I was trying to come to the aid of an association that I have great respect for, and to show support for a decision that I was party to making.

I am writing this today, to acknowledge that the CIP is not dead. We don’t have the witch’s broom in our possession and we’re not going back to Kansas. The scarecrow can keep his brain, the tin man his heart, and the cowardly lion need not cower in the shadows of the forest, because, well, we’ve caused enough confusion, and besides, Christmas is only a week away.

Seriously, I’d love to explore all things CIP in this post but, being mindful of the rapidly approaching holidays, I’ll do my best to be brief, and I’ll try to stick to the facts.

Fact – The CIP is back. Again, you can read John Mancini’s explanation of why the Association made this decision. I will summarize this from the point of view of someone who was in the room when the mistake was made:

We misjudged the importance of the CIP within the industry. We heard, loud and clear, from passionate members of our community that the CIP has value and we decided to work to fix the CIP instead of getting rid of it.

I have no problem announcing this mea culpa because, I’d rather take the position of having been wrong than be accused of being obstinate after having been wrong.

Fact – AIIM is working to meet the demands of a community of professionals that is rapidly growing beyond the ranks or ECM and ERM folk. The things I wrote about in my earlier post are also true. More and more people are dealing with more and more issues around managing information, and many of them don’t identify with Information Management as a profession. AIIM will now work to adapt the CIP to fit a broader and growing body of knowledge. Fact – no organization is more capable of meeting that challenge.

Fact – AIIM is a viable and vitally important source for information about information. To the pundits that suggested that AIIM has had nothing to offer without the CIP, I would say “you couldn’t be more wrong.” The CIP is important, apparently more important than we realized. However, the CIP is far from the only good thing AIIM has to offer to the community of information professionals.

Hopefully, the CIP can grow as the body of knowledge that it is designed to certify one in, grows. Hopefully, AIIM, the AIIM community and the industry that AIIM serves can help focus attention on the CIP going forward. Hopefully, this will cause more people to see the value in holding that certification, and hopefully those people will realize that AIIM remains the preeminent source of research, standards, education and communication around that growing body of knowledge.

It’s a lot to hope for, but my history with AIIM tells me that it can all happen. I received, and accordingly I still hold a CIP. I have an ECMm and an ERMm. I still value the later designations more than the certification. The important thing is that when I needed to learn about handling information that doesn’t respond to a SQL query, I turned to AIIM and AIIM delivered. As that information grew in importance in my workplace, I continued to turn to AIIM for insight and guidance and AIIM continued to deliver. As that information worked its way onto multiple platforms, into the Cloud and onto my phone, I didn’t even have to turn to AIIM. People in the AIIM community had already prepared me for those changes. I heard them at Chapter meetings, at the AIIM Conference and, by proxy, through AIIM’s research, whitepapers and webinars.

Whatever your feelings about the CIP, don’t confuse the certification with the Association. Don’t look upon the CIP as an end point that, once achieved lets you walk away from the community. AIIM has much to offer me, you and the entire community of information professionals and the industries that serve those professionals.

Once good thing came from this mistake, the AIIM community showed that they can still get excited. More than ever, I am looking forward to the AIIM Conference in New Orleans and I hope to see you there.

Apparently I am a Dumbass

imageEarlier this week, I gave two presentations in Orlando, FL. One, at the AIIM Conference was well received; it was about SharePoint and ECM and will take a few blog posts to sort out.

The second presentation was to the Service Provider Executive Forum (SPEF) and unfortunately, it’s very easy to describe. The vendors attending SPEF are the ones who sell scanning services, document storage, printers, copiers and scanners. SPEF was one of those conference-within-a-conference deals, and my presentation was part of a ‘User Feedback’ panel.

I worked hard on this presentation. It was a good presentation. It just wasn’t the message this group wanted to hear. I’m sorry for that, but I don’t have a great history with this industry. My message wasn’t a feel-good story. I talked about why we don’t use many of these services, and how our most recent encounter has gone somewhat off the rails. I had hoped that the organizer was right when she told me:

They will appreciate your candor

Here’s a tip: if you ever hear those words, run. Drop everything, don’t tweet about it, don’t snap a picture, don’t think twice – just run.

Our story in a nutshell – we are small. This industry’s story in a my-opinion-nutshell – they are commodity brokers seeking a sale at any cost.

The best analogy I can come up with is that buying these services or products is like buying a digital camera; they all take pictures, they all have good battery life and they all let me move pictures to my PC, tablet, Cloud storage, etc. Once I decide the few, somewhat unique features (zoom, video, and form-factor) that I want, it comes down to picking the one that’s most comfortable.

The problem – that we have experienced – is that some salespeople want to be the mystic swami in your life. They don’t want informed customers. They don’t want to hear your story; they want to tell you theirs.

My presentation carefully presented our position, our real-life experience and then I took “questions” I put that in quotes because most of what I heard were not questions per se.

Why didn’t you buy a scanner? Scanning to SharePoint from dedicated scanners seems to provide more robust options than scanning from multi-function copies (MFCs)…who knew? More importantly, who cares? The fact of the matter is that we don’t have a space for a dedicated scanner, nor do we have the volume to justify one. In addition, we only want to have to learn how to use one device.

Why didn’t you do an RFI first?  Seriously, an RFI for two MFCs?

You’re ignoring the money you could save by outsourcing all the scanning to us. I reminded this person that I had explained the very, very high cost of teaching someone how to classify and index our documents.

Finally, a white knight emerged. Addressing the audience, he said:

What I’m hearing is that you guys are saying that Dan is a dumbass

Ah…well…thanks?

His point was that I failed to engage with them according to their preferred sales method. Apparently, from their perspective, that was my mistake.

One woman came up to me afterwards and said “I don’t think you’re a dumbass, but this managed metadata thing sounds like a unique requirement.” I reminded her that it’s a mainstream feature of a major product. I didn’t invent it; I just want to use it. More importantly, it was a written requirement that we were willing to explain.

One guy followed me to my next presentation, all the way telling me that if I had done an RFI he would have been able to explain why we needed a scanner. I explained, again, why we chose MFCs over a dedicated scanner.

He turned up again later as I was boarding the bus to the conference social event. He started telling me about the features of the scanner. The one we don’t want – as if he thought that if he gave the same pitch often enough I might just buy one. My friend (who sells a high-end ECM product) said:

This guy sells hammers. You have a screw, but he still has to try and sell you a hammer.” He added, “It’s a sales technique we call show-up and throw-up.”

I’ll leave you with the message in my final two slides. When we look for vendors to help us, we look for a vendor who will:

  • Be a business partner with us
  • Let us do the portions of the project that we feel we need to closely control
  • Accept that we know our business and know enough about yours to evaluate you/your product or services as compared to others that are available
  • Think long term; think beyond this sale and this commission.

Oh, and don’t lie to me. I can handle the truth.

My Annual Plug

imageI’ve been writing this blog for almost five years. During that time, I’ve talked about lots of products that we use (in addition to SharePoint of course). I’ve talked about people we have worked with and conferences that I’ve attended. There’s only one organization’s event that I’ve ever really dedicated a post to. That organization is AIIM and this is that post. It’s a good time for this post for two reasons: 1) the conference is coming up soon, and 2) my SharePoint coworker has been on vacation so it’s been a slow news week here in the office.

In about 6 weeks, AIIM 14 will take place in Orlando, FL. Right now, looking out over 4’ mounds of snow in my yard as I watch freezing rain pour down, sunshine and warmth seems like something out of a fairy tale, but they have it in abundance in Orlando. So, if you’re a fan of such stuff, you have reason enough to go. But, that’s not why I’m going. I like winter. I like snow. I’m going to Orlando, to AIIM 14, to learn.image

If you want to know “how” to use SharePoint, there are just under a zillion conferences you can go to. There’s probably a great one on Saturday or at least there will be, on an upcoming Saturday within walking distance of your house. If you want to know what Microsoft plans to do with SharePoint and what they think you should do with SharePoint, there’s something big happening pretty soon in Las Vegas. But, if you want to know “why” you should be using SharePoint (or any ECM/collaboration solution) or how you might use it better, you need to go to AIIM.

Seriously, nobody understands content like the folks at AIIM and the folks that will be speaking at AIIM 14.

OK, disclaimer time. Sheesh, this gets bigger every year. 1) I will be speaking at AIIM 14. 2) I am the Program Director for the AIIM New England Chapter. 3) I am on the Board of Directors of AIIM International.

Do I have a vested interest in wanting you to go to AIIM 14? I guess, kinda-sorta, but it’s not like I make any money from AIIM. It’s not like working with AIIM, AIIM NE, speaking at the conference or (writing this blog for that matter) will ever lead to increased sales. Well, that is assuming that none of you have an uninsured nuclear reactor hanging around. I attend the AIIM Conference to learn. That’s the benefit I bring back to the office. I have been attending the AIIM Conference, every year since 2000 in order to learn and I have never not learned something that has helped me do my job better. Every single conference has been worth the effort, worth the expense, worth the time; this year will not be different – AIIM 14 will be worth the trip.

The AIIM Conference offers one of the best conference experiences I’ve ever had. It’s big enough to attract some really cool keynote speakers, but it’s small enough to be comfy. You can meet people and actually see them again after you’ve met them. You can meet the speakers, the organizers, the staff members at AIIM, the Board members of AIIM and you will have plenty of opportunities to talk with all those people. It’s also small enough to sell out, so if you want to go, get moving.

My presentation at AIIM 14 is titled “From Hoarders to Pickers and Pawn Starsyou can read about it here, but I think it will be better in person. One of the things people have told me that they like about my presentations is that I talk about things that go wrong, don’t work or cause problems. I also try to point out how we got those things back on track. You’ll hear a lot of real life experience at AIIM 14, told by the end-users, managers, CIO and VP’s who struggled through them and a few who stepped up and hit a home run off the first pitch.

In addition to hearing and talking and taking notes, I’ve made numerous connections at the AIIM Conference that are some of the most important people in my little network.

OK, I hear the “yeah, yeah, we get it, you’re going to AIIM 14 and I should too” comments and I feel the effect of hundreds of shaking heads. There are so many choices today when it comes to ways of acquiring information that I thought I’d share my favorite way with you. Next week, I’ll have another SharePoint Story – maybe about something that worked.

No Fools in Florida

clip_image002Early next April, April 1-3 to be specific, I’ll be attending the AIIM Conference in Florida. I’ll be speaking at that conference, and even though it falls in between two great SharePoint conferences, I think the AIIM Conference has the more important message. SharePoint is the tool; AIIM is all about using the tool (any tool) correctly – for the right purpose – on the right material – for the right reasons. The title of my presentation is “From Hoarders to Pickers and Pawn Stars” and here is a glimpse (reblogged from my AIIM blog) of what I will be talking about.

OK. I admit it. My session title is a cheesy attempt to cash in on the popularity of a few History Channel shows. In my defense, I do feel the title speaks to both the problem with enterprise content management (ECM) today and the solution. Simply put, we aren’t managing content; we are hoarding stuff.

Stuff we think might have value, stuff we think we have to keep, and stuff we simply lost track of so long ago that we no longer know what it is. I have stuff like this in my inbox; you may have some of this stuff too. If you don’t, you don’t have to look very hard to find it. Maybe it’s in a shared drive; maybe it’s on your C: drive; maybe it’s still in a file cabinet; and maybe it’s already made its way into SharePoint.

There is a difference between the hoarder mentality and the picker mentality – and this can affect your organization. Hoarders keep stuff. Pickers ignore junk and seek out that which has value. If you watch the shows, you realize that hoarders don’t want to be pickers, they just want to keep stuff – ALL the stuff. For the most part in business, we aren’t dealing with the kind of hoarder whose stuff is about to bury them. We’re dealing with the people that the pickers find; the people with large warehouses, multiple outbuildings, or a fleet of abandoned school buses and RVs dotting their property. Hoarding doesn’t hurt them; it only hurts the generations that will inherit that stuff. That’s us, that’s business hoarding. We pile document after document, spreadsheet after spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentations from everywhere into all the virtual outbuildings our network has to offer – and they never fill up!

To combat the hoarders, some of us have to become pickers and some of us have to become family. As pickers, we have to ask questions like: “Where did you get this?” “How much do you think this is worth?” But, as family, we have to ask the really hard questions: “Why on Earth would anyone want this?” “What do you expect me (or my coworkers) to do with this?” Not to mention: “Don’t we have 10 or 20 of these? Do we really need this one too?”

As for becoming Pawn Stars, that’s the tricky part. One difference between Pickers and Pawn Stars is that Pawn Stars know how to repurpose stuff by turning it into more valuable stuff. They know that with the right amount of work, something interesting can become something truly remarkable. That’s the real goal. We have to find that content that has value and we have to make the right investment to amplify that value and bring it to the surface.

Let me give you a short example: We have an engineering department that performs loss control inspections of the facilities we insure. We keep those inspection reports, all of them, forever. We have them on paper, on microfilm, on microfiche, in Word Perfect files, Word files and PDFs. Up until a couple of years ago, nobody could access those reports without a guide and a Sherpa. Today, we have several years’ worth of those reports in SharePoint, easily accessible by facility, by insurerd, by engineer. Recently, we added a workflow so engineers, who are researching older reports, can quickly add them to SharePoint and expand the library of “managed” reports. We still have to work on throwing away the other media, but I’m happy that we are extracting value from the pile.

I’ll see you in Orlando.