From information and data chaos to information opportunity

John Mancini (AIIM) on the key information management industry challenges, digitization and digital transformation in the so-called era of information and data chaos.

Digital transformation is not just another buzzword. The challenges, changing customer preferences, disruptions and needs to transform with many possible drivers/causes and goals are real.

But where do you start? How do you define a digital transformation strategy? What’s the role of information? What about business processes? Content? People?

Translating the theory and research in practice and knowing the real challenges as they happen in organizations is important. John Mancini makes the issues at stakes tangible and takes us through a journey across the challenges and the solutions. Welcome to the age of customers – in the broadest sense- and of digital transformation in times of what has been dubbed ‘data chaos’. An interview.

Our processes are broken, we are buried in information and it is killing our ability to satisfy our customers.

Let’s look back at last year first. AIIM came out with several new reports. Which results and evolutions struck you most in all the research AIIM conducted?

John Mancini: When I look at our reports for 2014 and the data points within the reports, they reinforce the four core “information and data chaos” problems that are facing organizations. Here’s what I mean:

How do we get any business INSIGHT out of all the information we are collecting?

  • 71% of organizations feel that search is vital or essential, yet only 18% have cross repository search capabilities.
  • Beyond SharePoint, intranet and ECM systems, most content is beyond the scope of search tools.
  • For 34% of organizations, Big data will be an “essential” capability.

How do we AUTOMATE our business processes?

  • For 58% of organizations, a case handling system is “vital” or “very important” to their customer experience management.
  • The amount of paper in processes is still increasing for 19% of organizations.
  • More enterprise content sits outside ECM systems than in.

How do we use information to better ENGAGE customers, employees, and partners?

  • For 63% of organizations, internal collaboration is “crucial.”
  • 39% of organizations feel that external collaboration is badly supported.
  • 16% of organizations are confused by the options and pace of change.

How do we manage the RISK of growing volumes and complexity of content?

  • 42% of organizations are not confident about what is safe to delete.
  • 40% of organizations are moving from a traditional RM (Records Management) view to a much wider IG (Information Governance) view.
  • For 47% of organizations, universal search and compliant e-discovery is becoming near impossible.
4 core information chaos problems
4 core information chaos problems

Digital transformation, data chaos and the pace of change

2015 means a new edition of the AIIM Conference. The theme this year is digital transformation, related with information and data chaos. Why did you chose this theme and what should information management professionals know about it?

John Mancini: Our core mission is to improve organizational performance by empowering a community of leaders committed to information-driven innovation. Bringing together this “tribe” of leaders and information professionals is what the AIIM Conference is all about.

The challenge these leaders face is that the pace of change is accelerating faster than their ability to manage it. These leaders need new strategies to deal with this wave of digital transformation; the old approaches no longer work. Hence our tag line, “Embrace the Chaos.”

You say that in the next five years a wave of digital transformation will sweep through organizations and they’ll face a fundamental choice between information opportunity and information chaos. Can you elaborate on that choice?

John Mancini: I wrote a white paper that focuses on the tension between Information Chaos and Information Opportunity and would urge readers to use this white paper to explain to your organization the challenge that is ahead (editor’s note: check out the SlideShare version below).

Organizations of all sizes are telling us, “Our processes are broken, we are buried in information and it is killing our ability to satisfy our customers.”

Here are the kinds of things we hear from the various players within an organization:
  • From Process workers — “Quit making us enter the same information in five different spreadsheets.”
  • From Knowledge workers — “We’re drowning in information but thirsty for knowledge.”
  • From Security officers — “Information is leaking out of the organization at every turn.”
  • From Records managers and lawyers – “The volume of information that is beyond our ability to control is increasing business risk and exposure.”
  • From IT people — “We can’t keep up with the demands of the business and they are working around us rather than with us.”
  • From Line of Business People — “Productivity is declining because of our inability to automate our core processes.”
  • From the C-Suite — “We are spending so much effort just keeping the lights on that I am afraid we will miss the next wave of technology and be left behind.”

This is what I call “Information Chaos.”

In a presentation, called 29 signs of digital disruption, you looked at the move from InfoChaos to InfoOpportunity as you call it. Can you share what are the most essential disruptions and signs of disruptions you see in the scope of information and data chaos?

John Mancini: Three major disruptive forces are accelerating the pace of change and driving organizations into information chaos:

  • CONSUMERIZATION is transforming what users expect from applications and how we deliver them. We are now in the era of user-centric IT.
  • CLOUD COMPUTING AND MOBILE are creating an expectation of anywhere, anytime access and transforming how we engage with customers and employees.
  • THE INTERNET OF THINGS is generating massive amounts of new data and information, creating enormous new challenges and opportunities.

Paper: a good place to start thinking about digital transformation

Although digital transformation, as in digital business transformation, ranks high on the corporate agenda of many organizations, the reality is that many businesses still have to digitize a lot: from paper to electronic data, from paper to process and also processes as such. Where are the core digitization challenges, according to you today? And how do organizations move from digitization to genuine digital transformation of which digitization is an aspect?

John Mancini: Paper is a good place to start thinking about digital transformation, because it is the Achilles heel of most organizations. Paper clogs up processes. Paper creates disruptions to smooth information flows. Digital processes require digital information.

Here are some warning signs from our research:

  • 68% of respondents agree that business-at-the-speed-of-paper will be “unacceptable” in just a few years’ time.
  • 46% consider that the biggest single productivity improvement for most of their business processes is to remove the paper.
  • Only 35% of organizations have a maxim or policy to drive paper out of the business, with just 19% having endorsement at board-level.
  • Lack of management initiatives and the (perceived) need for physical signatures are given as the top reasons why there is still so much paper in business processes. There is also felt to be a general lack of understanding of paper-free options.

Focus on people, purpose and data at service instead of data chaos

Digital transformation is not just about technology but primarily about processes and people. How do you see the role of the CIO, CMO and other C-level executives changing in reality? And what do you think about the rise of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) role?

John Mancini: Organizations create value through the intersection of people, processes, and technology. I think the allocation of effort in dealing with this intersection should be optimally 85% people, 10% process, and 5% technology. Unfortunately, we have spent decades doing the exact opposite.

In this era of rapid change, PEOPLE will be the major source of competitive advantage. I think there are two sorts of information leaders who need new tools to deal with the challenges before them. These are: 1) Those who are DRIVING changes in the systems we use to manage information; and 2) those who are USING these systems to create new value and innovate.

The current conventional focus is all about the technology “plumbing” we need to put in place to manage the looming data chaos. We we talk about “IT,” we spend almost all of our time talking about the “T,” not the “I.” Technology staffs have focused — and have been valued — on the deployment of massive enterprise software applications, seemingly the more complicated the better, and maintaining the “plumbing” of our information infrastructures.

Even at the highest levels, most “CIOs” have not really focused on the “I” part of their job title, and part of the frustration of the CEO with the CIO is that many CIOs have been much more focused on deploying technology than optimizing information assets.

Digital Transformation is ultimately more than just data and technology. A narrow view is a recipe for unfulfilling and sub-optimal returns from digital transformation initiatives.

John Mancini on the people dimension in digital transformation
John Mancini on the people dimension in digital transformation

The people dimension of digital transformation most of all is about the customer in the broadest sense: from consumers to partner ecosystems and internal customers such as the workforce, users of the applications we build, etc. At the AIIM 2015 Conference the customer experience takes center stage in some keynotes. How would you summarize the essential role of consumers and “consumerized workers” in digital transformation?

John Mancini: If you think of the term “customer” in its broadest sense — not just our external customers, but also our business partners and our employees — this is the era of the consumer. It is the era of the end user.

When the barriers between “customers” and the organization blur or disappear, we ignore our customers at our peril.

There is probably no more vulnerable place to be than CIO in a modern organization.

Changes in management

The broad reality that lies underneath digital transformation and what Forrester likes to call the age of customer obsession has many executives and thought leaders questioning existing management models and looking at phenomena such as lean management, the collaborative economy, you name it. It seems as if Peter Drucker’s prediction from 1993 that ‘The most probable assumption is that no currently working business theory will be valid ten years hence — at least not without major modifications’. What evolutions and new/modified ways do you see in business and management?

John Mancini: The way we work is in the process of massive change. Using information to understand and exceed customer expectations is THE competitive advantage today.

In the face of all this massive change, employees like Chief Information Officers are increasingly under siege. There is probably no more vulnerable place to be than CIO in a modern organization.

One newly appointed CIO told me “CIO” ought to stand for “Career Is Over.” As as Bob Dylan would say, “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.”

The Harvard Business Review recently did a survey on the perspectives of CEOs about their IT department and their company CIO:

  • Almost half of CEOs feel IT should be a commodity service purchased as needed.
  • Only a quarter of executives feel their CIO is performing above his or her peers.
  • Almost half of CEOs rate their CIOs negatively in terms of understanding the business.
  • 57% of executives expect their IT function to change significantly over the next three years, and 12% predict a complete overhaul of IT.
Information Chaos vs Information Opportunity - courtesy AIIM
Information Chaos vs Information Opportunity – courtesy AIIM – download here

AIIM in 2015 – and a few messages

On top of networking and all the other benefits of attending the AIIM Conference 2015, what will attendees learn? What would you really like them to take away?

John Mancini: Obviously, I would like attendees to take away substantive knowledge from the awesome keynotes and speakers about how to create strategies to deal with the challenges that are ahead.

But more than that, I want attendees to walk away from AIIM15 understanding that their personal leadership is critical to the performance of their organizations in the years ahead, that they have the skills and experience to assume this new role, and that there is a community of fellow-travellers with whom they can draw advice and guidance. Ultimately, AIIM15 is about convening and encouraging a community of leaders.

Finally, a quick looking back at 2014 and our previous interview, as well as the technological side of things. Can you please complete the following sentences:

  • The key takeaway from AIIM’s “Paper Wars 2014 – Update from the Battlefield” research paper is… We’ve got a lot of work to do; the paper battle is not over.
  • Smart Process Applications… are a lot more difficult to pull off than analysts think.
  • John Mancini is interested in the Internet of Things because… it obliterates the line that we in the content industry have always assumed existed between structured and unstructured information.
  • What really matters in big data… using big data and analytics not to provide answers to questions, but to help identify new questions to ask.
  • The CIO of tomorrow… needs to focus more on the I and less on the T.
  • Enterprise content management… is both increasingly critical and increasingly invisible.
  • The AIIM report on capture, case management, information governance and mobile access… shows that the customer, their experiences, and the information that surrounds those experiences will be the focus moving forward.
  • In 2015, AIIM will… help more information professionals increase their skills and value and improve the performance of their organizations.
  • John Mancini urges every information management professional to… become an AIIM member and improve your skills.
  • Mobile and the mobile workforce… should be the first consideration in every IT decision.

You can follow John Mancini on Twitter – and connect with him on LinkedIn. Below is a SlideShare version of Information Chaos V Information Opportunity.