What is an Information Professional?

Beaker from the MuppetsOne thing I heard from MANY people at the AIIM conference was that the concept of an information professional as we understand it was flawed. The claim was that usage patterns of AIIM resources showed that members would join and engage to tackle a single project. Once that project was completed, they would leave AIIM and presumably go do something else that wasn’t information related. John Mancini, the outgoing CEO of AIIM, shared his thoughts on the current information professional in a four post series covering the history, evolution, environment, and future of the information professional.

Experience tells me that the conclusion is incorrect. There are a large number of people who spend careers in the space and dip into AIIM resources only periodically. It is also a conclusion is hard to confirm or deny because once they disengage from AIIM, it is tough to measure what people do next.

Where Do They Come From?

Information professionals come from everywhere. When working with people on projects and talking to them at events, they tend to come from four distinct areas.


  • I’ve met a lot of people from the library sciences in the industry. Many have found their way to records management while others have worked on taxonomies, search, and general findability.
  • Compliance/legal is a ripe area full of information professionals that you don’t encounter until you really start to look at records management, information governance, and the world of eDiscovery.
  • Information Technology is the area from which I came many years ago. I went from what to how and then to why. Many technologists get stuck looking at information simply as bits and not as the lifeblood of the business.
  • The last one, line of business, is a diverse bucket that is full of people who were placed in charge of a system. They may be part of a larger team from the business working on the project or the representative domain expert. These are the people that the project is meant to serve.

I ran a quick twitter poll that omitted line of business as an answer, and 87% answered “Other” as the source of good information professionals. Maybe I shouldn’t have qualified with “good” but it was clear that there was no single source.

Project Managers (PM) was mentioned out as a source of information professionals. A PM gets assigned to a project and ends up managing those types of project forever and may evolve into a program manager. Those PMs can come from any of the areas and bring with them different perspectives.

Where do those people go after the project ends? Do they really only do one project?

The Fate of Information Professionals

I will quickly concede that anyone that works on one project and moves on is not an information professional. They can benefit from the same resources and tools but managing information is not their career. What happens to people after their first project? What determines their path?


To be honest, many run away screaming. When there are a lot of failed projects in the industry, giving many people a negative experience. They state, “never again,” and move on to something more career enhancing.

Others were never destined to stick around. Regardless of where they come from, they complete the project and move on to the next challenge. This is true of many line of business and IT people.

Who sticks around? Those that own the system from the business side. Those who have to answer to the compliance requirements. Those that build iterations of the systems. Those whose job of making information readily discoverable never really ends.

Consultants stick around in the industry. If they are successful and don’t run away from information projects, they can take what they learn in a project and apply it to the next project. The more they deliver, the more they can charge. Many are eventually hired into companies that want to establish programs and have large needs that are not going to go away and want to pull on the diverse experience of former consultants.

Are they all professionals? Yes. They make their living by managing information. They may not have an active project for a new system but they are working to enhance and improve the systems with which they are responsible. They need to constantly learn about new trends and new ways to increase adoption.

None of these people may view themselves as information professionals but they are. Why they don’t is partially revealed by the next question.

Where Do You Go From Here?

For a profession to really exist, there should be an end-goal. What do you hope to be when you grow up? There was no consensus in the poll on what is the ultimate career position for an information professional. In fact, 30% said that there was no such thing. 40% said that it was to be a CIGO (chief information governance officer), a position which does not exist in most organizations, explicitly or implicitly, today.

When I attend conferences, we all share common experiences from projects. We trade stories about how we started in this industry. Very few of us have a clear-cut picture of where this career is taking us.

(As an aside, Chris Walker stated “consulting” as his answer to both questions. You are just always a consultant in the field until you are not. An endless treadmill.)

Different Stories

I’d love to look at the raw data AIIM cites. The activity that they notice likely coincides with the points where information professionals draw value. I have not been a continuous member of AIIM during my entire career since my first project began but I have been an information professional the entire time.

It is a matter of value derived at different stages of my career. In the middle stage, attending conferences was a tough sell. I’d get one conference a year, perhaps, and it was almost always a vendor conference because the value I got to pull from there to my clients was tangible. Now I attend broader industry conferences because now I am a recognized speaker in the industry. Most of my conferences are speaking opportunities. I can add one or two others a year as an investment but there have to be priorities in spending.

I will gladly point anyone new to the space to AIIM to get started. They have a lot of solid training. I will point anyone towards their conference. Otherwise, I let them choose the value that they need for themselves. I don’t assume that someone else’s needs will equal my own.

What is your story? How did you get started? What is your ultimate goal? Drop a comment or email me to the address on my About the Word page. Let’s share stories and work to really define who we are.

Pointing AIIM in the Right Direction

Jack's compass from Pirates in the CaribbeanThere are a lot of posts flying around about what information professionals need from an association. My discussion on too many associations seems to have struck a nerve and gotten people thinking. Before I dive into details regarding AIIM, I want to share these posts.

I’m not going to reference the posts moving forward but know that they have, to varying degrees, influenced this post. That said, I had a lot of thoughts on this topic already rattling around in my head. Many of the thoughts below have been shared with other previously as well to test them out.

There are two ways I can share my thoughts. I could rant and rave about everything AIIM is specifically doing wrong. It would get a lot of hits, generate a lot of discussion, and upset the very people who need to read this.


I can simply dive into what AIIM needs to do going forward. The past is written. The present is malleable. The future is fluid. It is the future that I wish to influence by helping form the present.

Continue reading

Too Many Associations

A Pie from "Too Many Cooks" spoofWe are currently dealing with a glut of associations in the information industry. In the past couple of years with the addition of:

When you take into account the long history of AIIM and ARMA in this industry, it is clear that the community at-large feels it has needs not currently being met by the existing associations. CM Pros failed after failing to determine what value they could offer, at what cost, and how they could be distinct from AIIM and ARMA.

What does the entry of these new players mean?

Continue reading

Moving AIIM’s Certified Information Professional Forward

New York CityIn December, the industry was faced with the prospect of a long needed certification being removed from the market. After the community protested that we need the CIP, AIIM backed off from closing the CIP and committed to updating it to reflect the changes in the industry since the CIP’s inception.

So far so good.

Now we the industry need to help AIIM make the CIP better. Chris Walker had some thoughts on ways to make the CIP more successful. Jesse Wilkins who runs the CIP program for AIIM made some requests from the industry on how we can support the CIP.

Now after having existing CIPs review an updated exam outline, AIIM is asking the industry to review the outline by this Friday, February 12.

Continue reading

AIIM Awoke the Sleeping Community and Listened

Paul Atreides from DuneLast week I shared my opinions on AIIM cancelling the CIP certification program. Similar opinions were shared in many blogs (Mark Owen compiled a nice list), tweets, LinkedIn, and many other channels. I don’t want to dwell on the specifics of those posts because an important thing happened shortly afterwards. Just seven days after AIIM announced the end of the CIP, AIIM reversed course and recommitted to the CIP with the promise of an update at the 2016 AIIM conference.

That’s right. The CIP IS BACK and it is because of the community.

That doesn’t mean that all is right in the universe. If anything, this chaos reveals to us that there are real problems out there. Luckily we also learned that there are passionate people in the community who can be roused to action when they feel they can make a difference.

Continue reading

The CIP, A Lost Opportunity

[EDIT: 1 week after killing it, AIIM restored the CIP after the community’s feelings about the CIP became known. Read my initial thoughts.]

Sadness from Inside Out CryingFor those that may not have heard, AIIM is killing off the Certified Information Professional (CIP) certification.

We’d like to share an exciting development with you.

To categorize the news as disappointing is a massive understatement. AIIM dumping the news on a Friday afternoon shows that AIIM knew that this would not be well received. In many ways I feel that AIIM has turned its back on the industry with this action. I am just a bit angry at that development.

Continue reading