Thoughts on the 2018 AIIM Conference

When considering the fact that our industry does not currently have a name, it is hard not to think about how the world reacted when Prince changed his name to a symbol. As you will recall, there was no pronunciation for the symbol, so people starting calling him “the Artist formally known as Prince.” So, I guess we could be the industry formally known as Enterprise Content Management (ECM), right?

Labels obviously serve a purpose in life, and the software industry makes great use of labels, often just three letter acronyms, to define market segments and more. But labels also have a downside, too. They can be laden with negative connotations and stereotypes, warranted or not, and once you have a nickname, it can be hard to shake. In addition, labels place parameters on what may reasonably be included in the generally accepted definition behind the label. Plus, labels can also make us a bit lazy. Instead of going to the trouble to really communicate what we really do, we just throw out the label and assume the recipient will get it.

So, as I enjoyed a few days in beautiful San Antonio, Texas at The AIIM 2018 Conference this past week, I found it interesting to see how the participants dealt with our nascent identity problem. You know what? They did very well, indeed!

The first thing I noticed was that Vendors were embracing new ECM technologies at an accelerated pace to create innovative solutions that will have a big impact on the use cases traditionally addressed with ECM. All across the show floor, vendors had the chance to show off their machine learning, artificial intelligence, analytics and Robotic Process Automation. In addition, perhaps due to the lack of rigid labels, the vendors focused on really communicating their service and value.

As for the end-user attendees, they appeared unfazed by the new technology. They viewed the vendors exhibiting as a natural source for hybrid solutions built from a combination of historic ECM technology and the newer, modern offerings. As a matter of fact, they were one of the most optimistic, engaged groups of end users I have ever seen at an event in our industry. 

I also want to commend the AIIM folks for the hard work and reflection they put into this conference. AIIM made a pitch, suggesting our industry be rebranded as “Intelligent Information Management,” which is the new meaning of the “IIM” in the AIIM name. However, they didn’t force it. Much like those of us without the language to describe our work, they also focused on communicating the value that we bring by delivering innovative solutions that enhance business processes and minimize risk. I especially appreciated that AIIM touted the benefits of improving the customer experience through our solutions — the UNDRSTND Group fully endorses this strategy, and we look forward to expanding its use.

So, as I made my way back home from the Alamo City in my home state, I reflected back on the AIIM Conference with a smile on my face. And thought to myself — you know, maybe it isn’t so bad not having a label for our industry … In fact it can be a bit liberating.

Brent Bussell
Founder and Managing Partner