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Engaging the Community: AIIM's Jesse Wilkins On Social Business

If you survey records colleagues about Jesse Wilkins, the resounding chorus is “Jesse is committed to advancing the profession.” He has spent the past decade commenting on XML first and then email management. In the next year, he will stake a claim in social media governance on behalf of his new employer, AIIM (aiim.org). It’s a huge gamble.

Mimi Dionne: Let’s introduce you.

Jesse Wilkins: It’s an interesting thing. Fifteen years ago I joined IMR and broke into this chunk of the industry. I was in IT; I had been fixing printers and the like. I started learning crazy weird terms like metadata and indexing. Around 2002, IMR decided to develop records management software, and I was picked to be the quality assurance lead. I got a copy of DoD 5015.2, the TNA-099 spec from The National Archives of the UK and a charter to determine the requirements for our RM module. 

I’d already known about AIIM, but as part of my research I stumbled across a group called ARMA and joined them both as a paid professional member in the fall of 2001. When you join, they immediately ask you what you can do for them. It’s all in an effort to keep an organization vibrant and moving forward. I had the opportunity to serve on a number of committees and task forces, and got the chance to meet some really good people, which led to my leaving IMR in 2004 to join IMERGE Consulting. During my tenure there I did a number of consulting projects and also got involved in delivering the AIIM Certificate Programs, which led directly to my joining Access Sciences, a Houston-based ECRM consulting firm, in 2007.

MD: Why AIIM? Why now?

JW: I joined AIIM in November 2010. I was NOT looking, I was VERY happy at Access Sciences. This position, the Director of Systems Engagement, AIIM only advertised through social media channels. The job description looked like it had been written for my résumé and background: Experience in management consulting, content management and social tools and the ability to present and write. Before I submitted my résumé, I solicited feedback from close confidants, including a guy I thought would apply. Everyone said I was perfect for it.

AIIM has been around for more than 60 years. First it was micrographics, then imaging, then web content, now AIIM has turned its attention to social media. Last year, AIIM commissioned a task force led by Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm) to take a look at the future to determine where the industry was going and how AIIM would be able to remain relevant. The staff determined significant need to manage social content more effectively. Many companies out there are managing from marketing or collaborative perspectives. No one’s doing it from a governance perspective. If a company wants a guideline, there’s nothing much out there around that.

AIIM has been the definitive resource for content and information management since its inception and I want to position AIIM as a resource for social content in the same way. We’ve already published a 35-page roadmap; an infographic related to the roadmap; a number of training events and we’re creating an information management certification. We’ll also hold a virtual social business event in September.

MD: When did you turn from email management to social media?

JW: I can’t put a single defining moment on it — but I’m not sure I’ve changed my focus that much. At IMR, I worked in content management, managing images and then electronic documents; we later started to move into managing email and XML content. By 2007, 2008, Twitter was founded and Facebook was taking off. “These are fun,” I thought. “You can approach these the same way you approach email.” It’s true. Industry conferences focus on media. But ask the question, “How can we ensure management once the statute of limitations is gone?” and companies look at you like you’re crazy.

My audiences so far have been how to manage content. Now that I’m doing some work in the social content space, I notice the records folks and the E2.0 audiences don’t overlap very much at all. A lot of ARMA chapters are trying to learn. A lot of highly regulated firms are jumping into social media — and many of them don’t understand the implications at all. I’ve had a number of experiences where I’m talking about governance and social content and folks think I’m speaking a foreign language.

MD: What tools that you have intimate knowledge of do you recommend to the readers?

JW: I really like Facebook and Twitter. What I think is so fascinating is when people say we need to create our own Facebook (for example, NASA created Spacebook). There are 650 million users on Facebook. Organizations have to come out of their comfort zone. They’re trying to block that when everyone has smartphones and iPad2s. It [social media] will not be managed as closely as they like. It’s that old saying, “the Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it." Replace Internet with IT or the compliance functions, and it’s not that far from the truth either. 

So, I recommend that organizations do it sensibly, and sooner rather than later. The chorus before was, “We’re not doing email until we manage effectively.” Enterprise-class tools can provide the security and authenticity and governance that organizations require. Given the choice between email and Twitter, I would drop email like a bad habit with no regrets.

MD: Who are the movers and shakers right now in the social media management world?

JW: AIIM is doing some interesting task force work right now with Andrew McAfee. A number of leading organizations are participating in that effort, which will help define and refine use cases for social business. I’m watching a lot of vendors that are trying to provide social media suites/platforms. It’s not just about blogs or social networking, but about metrics and reporting, publishing workflows, aggregating streams and expertise. It’s the business process management and content management plus knowledge management features and capabilities that no one in the social space thought was important enough to bother with in the past decade. 

But those winning in the space now are doing the analytics. It’s not sexy, but….so what if 10,000 people like you on Facebook? What are you spending for the 10,000 likes? Today we have analytics that will show just how expensive those likes really are — or that they really are a better value than some other traditional marketing approaches. 

MD: The more traditional news outlets have written lately about the resurgence in tech. Do you credit the social media movement in this — or is it more cloud-based?

JW: Look, I’d love to have John Mancini quoted in the WSJ. I think it’s an interesting thing because I think social always moves faster than mainstream media can keep up with it. On the other hand, when you look at the trade publications like InfoWorld and InfoWeek, they’re starting to focus on the grown-up stuff like analytics — but only fresh green tendrils of it in their stories. But tech advancement always outstrips the ability to govern itself. Yes, the buzzword is cloud and it’s being abused like “e-this” or “dotcom that” was ten years ago. Folks are sprinkling cloud pixie dust. I think some of them are finally trying to get it. They tend to be behind the times, more mainstream, less tech-focused press.

MD: Does records have a place in social media management?

JW: One of the concerns AIIM has voiced over the past six months is we can’t approach social media through the paper paradigm of the 1940s. Social media is not in the direct control of the organization. With the Social Business Roadmap, we’ve got something out there to address the same bubble as instant messaging five years ago, email 10 years ago, and the Internet 20 years ago. If we believe that records needs a seat at the board level, then records must align with business as IT had to align ten years ago. We need to rethink the records management paradigm in the context of social. There’s a place — it’s just not where we’re at right now.

MD: Given your work in the past decade, discuss your hopes for the records professional of the future.

JW: I’m ready to answer part of this: Applications that are much easier to use? Their complexity is hidden from end users, whether they’re tech-agnostic or tech-challenged. I know records folks who are on Facebook, but they don’t like computers. We need to understand tech at a higher level than I see too many records folks display — just like we want IT folks to understand records and governance-type issues better. Until some talking head comes along and says, here’s what you need to know, those who are 9-to-5ers are doing themselves and their organizations a disservice. The ability to negotiate with their peers and position records as efficiency experts and NOT the records police is important. The fear factor doesn’t play well in the board room. If we can drop our cost from $35 to $20, that speaks volumes.

 

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