Event planners in San Diego tell conference organizers to schedule their most important speakers on the first day of their event. On the following days too many attendees will be lured outside by the weather and the nearby tourist attractions.

Whether it was the pressing problems of the industry, the appeal of the speakers or the opportunities for face-to-face collaboration, the AIIM Conference 2015 proved the exception that broke the rule this week.

Despite its bay front location and 75-degree weather in March, conference attendees filled keynote seats, filled roundtable rooms and spent time with vendors and colleagues from the pre-conference sessions Tuesday through today.

In an era of multiple ways to connect via technology, meeting face to face still carries value. Despite the growing array of tools available to solve the everyday problems faced by their companies and organizations, information managers agreed the real solutions rest within an understanding of the people called upon to manage the processes they devise. 


Making Magic Happen

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Dan Elam, shown right, is president of Techead, a staffing and solutions company for financial services, technology, and government clients. In his keynote address, he noted that no matter how high quality the technology, it dies without social acceptance.

Google Glass has not been widely accepted because people are uncomfortable with the technology. “It hasn’t caught on, it’s kind of creepy ... The engineers don’t think anything about the information. They don’t have to worry about the social aspects. But everyone else does,” he said.

Tools can’t simply be functional. Users must accept them.

Andrea Chiappe, Director of Innovation and Strategy at Systemware and an architect of the Systemware Content Cloud, concurred.

In her roundtable discussion, “Managing Information Shouldn’t Make Work Hard,” she said the best solutions in the world go nowhere without buy-in. “If you don’t have it, things won’t get done. It’s strikingly different (among clients) depending on the buy-in. It’s a critical piece,” she said.

Chiappe said she’s struck by the evolution of the business user.

“I’ll say it and determine whether I’ve upset anyone. I see the business user has been able to evolve and understand technology faster due to consumer use than the tech person has been able to evolve and understand the business side.”

"If we’re not on the same page, everybody’s guessing,” said attendee George Worden, programmer/developer and integrator for USAA Insurance.

Conference speaker Lubor Ptacek, vice president of Product Marketing at OpenText, in San Francisco, said technology alleviates the burden on individuals to manage content. But their existing business process must be at the heart of it.

Processes Start at the End

Chiappe said the information management process needs to be turned inside out.

“We all know we need content strategy. We don’t necessarily know how to get there or where to start. Over the next five years it will be more important. From digital to mobile to cloud to social, the info deluge coming into the world. It’s not unusual for us to say, 'Where are we going?' We don’t know where to start."

Even when answers weren’t easy to come by, attendees took solace in finding their colleagues across industries as diverse as cosmetics (L’Oreal), banking (Bank of America) and government (U.S Department of Agriculture), sharing the same challenges.

Steven Osbourne, strategist at UK-based Interact, said “(It’s) interesting to see the challenges are universal. Culture crosses boundaries.”

While the conference participants enjoyed illuminating discussions, they didn’t let the real thing get past them, reveling in sunny selfies and taunting the folks back home. “Hey UK – here’s where sunshine is - remember it?” tweeted Osborne.

AIIM’s mission is to ensure that information professionals understand the current and future challenges of managing information assets in an era of social, mobile, cloud and big data. Founded in 1943, AIIM builds on a strong heritage of research and member service.