One on One with John Mancini of AIIM

Mancini on the impact of disruptive technologies on the enterprise
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John Mancini is the long-time CEO at AIIM. He recently published an eBook on the various disruptive technologies rocking the enterprise today called #OccupyIT--A Technology Manifesto for Cloud, Mobile and Social Era (free pdf download with registration). We asked Mancini about how these technologies were changing the traditional role of IT.

FierceContentManagement: Do you think there has ever been another time where we've had such disruptive technologies all coming together at the same time?

John Mancini: I think the amazing aspect of the current time is not so much that everything has suddenly changed as it is that we are in a time when the cumulative impact of exponential changes in technology has reached a tipping point.

Andy McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson do an awesome job of talking about this cumulative impact of technology in Race Against the Machine. They use the fable of the invention of chess--the inventor was rewarded by getting one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on--to show that cumulative exponential change, whether grains of rice on a chessboard or transistors on silicon, gets really out of hand in the second half of the chessboard.  

And that's where we are right now in terms of the inexorable progression of Moore's Law through the hardware, software and bandwidth spaces. We are at a historical juncture analogous to the period 100 years after the invention of the printing press. Or think 1848, in which virtually every nation in Europe suddenly experienced political revolutions in the wake of the industrial revolution. The massive changes in both instances were driven by technological innovation.

FCM: Who benefits the most from these changes: IT, Business or end users?

JM: At the core, what we're talking about is the consumerization of enterprise IT. Kipling has a story in which he talks about various blindfolded people holding different parts of an elephant.  For someone holding the trunk, the elephant seems like a snake. For someone with a leg, it feels like a tree trunk. For someone touching the body, it seems like a wall.

As individual consumers, we tend to view consumerization through the device--how can I view all the "stuff" I need on my phone or tablet? As business executives, we tend to view consumerization in terms of potential value--how can we do all these cool things with our customers and pay for it by saving money on all that legacy stuff? As information professionals, we tend to view consumerization through how we deliver information solutions--how can we split apart monolithic enterprise solutions into apps and not lose control?  

FCM: Should IT be threatened by changes such as the cloud, mobile and BYOD?

JM: Traditional IT execs should feel very challenged. Innovative IT leaders should feel vastly empowered. How we view IT needs to change. I recently heard a CIO from a leading university say information always seeks to be free. In the current period of rapid change, this has never been more true. He said that the next era of IT leadership would focus on the logistics of information flows. The CIO of Accenture mentioned to me that IT needs to be the orchestrator of the business. These are enormously important roles to the future of any business--much more important and strategic than the traditional role played by IT. But they are vastly different than the traditional role of IT as the custodian of our technology plumbing. And they require vastly different skill sets.

FCM: What impact are all these changes having on content management in general?

JM: These changes are creating vast new opportunities in content management. The core of where business value is created is shifting toward how we manage our information assets. Those of us in the content management space have been lamenting for years that there are accounting systems for managing business' financial assets, HR systems for managing human assets, ERP systems for managing physical assets, but we have no systematic way of managing our information assets. Well, we are moving into a period in which how we manage our information assets--both structured and unstructured--will have far more to do with our economic competitiveness and viability than the other three.  

FCM: What happens to traditional records management and governance in this new reality?

JM: If by traditional records management you mean manual systems--even if they are computerized--then I would say traditional records management is dead. The idea that we could get busy people to care about our complicated retention schedules, and drag and drop documents into folders, and manually apply metadata document by document according to an elaborate taxonomy will soon seem as ridiculous as asking a blacksmith to work on a Ferrari.  

Traditional records management survived the era of Systems of Record in which we were managing a relatively limited set of information assets with high individual value per asset. It won't survive the era of Big Data and Big Content and the need to manage information that is massive in scale, has incredible velocity, and is extremely challenging in terms of variety and complexity.

It won't survive information whose primary value lies in the aggregation of large volumes of tiny assets with limited individual and intrinsic value. Organizations will be in desperate need of information professionals in the next decade who understand records management and legal principles, and can apply those principles to the structure of automated systems.

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