information
Human Resources

Information Professionals: CIOs need to take the 'I' part of their job more seriously

“CIOs need to take the ‘I’ part of their jobs more seriously,” says John Mancini, CEO of AIIM who is about to give up his leadership position and move into the role of AIIM Evangelist. There is a tendency for CIOs to focus on the technology infrastructure – the pipes that make the system run, he explains. “They should place more emphasis on what flows through those pipes.” In other words the information.

AIIM describes itself as “the global community of Information Professionals” and I’m meeting Mancini at the AIIM UK Forum in London. The place is bustling with delegates and sponsors in the Enterprise Content Management space. But I still can’t help wondering: who exactly are Information Professionals and why do they need a bespoke organisation?

Mancini, who has been with the company for 20 years, laughs when I ask him. “There is an argument that everyone is an Information Professional,” he says. However, as this would be a bit ridiculous, the area which his organisation now focuses on is the intersection between people, processes and technology. These individuals “pull together those three building blocks” he explains.

AIIM runs certification programs that give individuals a recognised qualification in this area. Still in the very early stages, Mancini likens it to Project Management certification. When this launched back in the 1980s nobody could see how an approach could be standardised to cross industries. Now these qualifications are well recognised and individuals across many areas will seek them out to make themselves more employable.

“This is a skillset the CIO needs to own,” says Mancini, whether it is this individual personally or someone on their team. At the moment though certification is sought out in a very bottom up fashion and may offer a career valve for individuals who want to move out of their siloes and take more holistic roles within the organisation. “It needs to become more top down” to become better recognised, he adds.

AIIM began life in 1943 as the National Microfilm Association and, as Mancini details in his Digital Landfill blog, has gradually transitioned over 73 years into content and information management. “The world is not as neatly compartmentalised as it once was,” he says, different areas are running into one another.

Mancini feels this is most pronounced in the sphere information. He divides this into three clear areas: traditional data, unstructured data – which usually means the information collected by sensors – and unstructured information, like PDFs and apps. “The red headed step child in the mix becomes the third one,” he says.

This is because the first two sets of information often get bundled together by an organisation. Customer records and IoT data are exactly the kinds of data that a Chief Data Officer might handle, for example. (“There are a gazillion new titles,” warns Mancini.)  Yet the third set of information, which usually defines the fundamental business processes that make any organisation run smoothly, is hard to manage, doesn’t sound very exciting and can often get left behind.   

Customer experience – which is word de jour at present – “is overly fascinated” by traditional data and unstructured data, says Mancini. Yet if you have a poor customer experience because of bad invoicing or processing which operates in background, you undermine any initial great front facing brand experience.

“My wife describes me as a cranky old man with social power,” he says. If something goes wrong “I get straight on social media”. The majority of businesses usually do respond and then they fall into one of two categories. The error is either fixed extremely quickly or it takes a very long time and reveals clunky, non-joined up back office processes.

“Some joker is trying to work out how to keep Mancini happy,” he concludes, which is probably not a very strategic way to run information in a business.

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