Joe Shepley

In his work as vice president and practice leader with strategy consulting firm Doculabs, Joe Shepley keeps one thing in mind at all times: his clients.

Shepley helps his clients get strategic with how they manage information, knowing that "success" is something readily defined but challenging to deliver. He recognizes that the buzzwords and bells and whistles the industry provides only serve as distractions from what should be the final goal: improved findability. 

Knowing that information management doesn't necessarily carry the allure that other organizational initiatives provide, Shepley regularly offers CMSWire readers advice on how to build business cases for information management initiatives that catch the attention of those who hold the purse strings. 

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2016?

Never take anything for granted — on a number of levels. 

First, I think this election cycle has shown us that so many of our assumptions about how the world and our society work don't have to be the case. And while that can be a scary thing, I think it's also liberating: if things don't have to be the way they are, that means you can change them. 

It also means folks you don't agree with can change them, so get out there and become a change agent to make the world the place you want it to be. 

Second, I had a number of client interactions that reminded me that, no matter how good your relationship might be with an organization, it can change in a split second: you earn it in pennies, and spend it in dollars, as they say. 

So never take that relationship for granted. Work to keep it strong every single day, every single interaction. 

And finally, we had our second of four children enter grade school, and time has started moving much, much faster ... I see why parents say that once your kids hit elementary school, you'll blink and they'll be leaving for college. So I try not to forget that and to pay attention to every moment I get with them despite my crazy travel schedule.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction at work?

Serving clients. The only reason I get on 130 plus flights a year is to try to make organizations better: to help them more clearly understand their problems, articulate some solutions that could solve them and then help them plan how to execute a solution. 

Sometimes that's part of the sales cycle, and they hire us for an engagement that solves them (and sometimes they don't). Sometimes that's part of an engagement, and you hope that they carry through on the work. But in either case, hopefully the time I've spent positions the client to get better — that's where all the satisfaction in my work comes from.

Name one work-related moment that surprised or gave you an a-ha moment in 2016.

I was sitting in an ARMA regional seminar listening to the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of a single-state Blue Cross organization speak, and he articulated perfectly the new world that I've been seeing on the horizon for almost two years now: the merging of information security and information management. 

Those of you that read my articles on CMSWire may be sick of hearing about the importance of InfoSec for information management, but trust me, this is going to be the next paradigm shift in our world as content management practitioners, and we need to get on board ASAP if we don't want to be left behind. 

InfoSec is going to make great headway on information management at the majority of firms in the next three years: do we want to be a part of that, or do we want to sit on the sidelines?

Did you ever take on a job you thought you couldn't do?

No, and maybe that's because I think I can do anything if I try hard enough! Now, whether in all those cases I knew how I was going to do the job, that's another story.

Almost every job I've had has been a stretch for me, not in that I didn't think (rightly or wrongly) that I could do it, but in that I had no idea how in the world I was going to do it. And so when you take a job under these conditions, you need to be open to thinking and working differently (because you've never done it before) as well as to networking and leveraging others, because without the wisdom of others, it will be much more difficult to figure out how to succeed.

If you had to get rid of your computer or your phone, which would it be and why?

Phone, although I don't have a computer (I use an iPad for work). Other than phone calls, I can do everything I can do on my phone on my iPad, and, honestly, other than the occasional personal call, I'm usually annoyed to have to talk on the phone! 

Add to that the fact that the iPad allows me to write, read, do research and play the occasional game of, and it's a no brainer ....

When you were seven years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Nothing. Literally, that's the answer I gave my dad when he asked me, and he thought it was the best, most profound answer he could imagine. 

He was a bit unusual: a famous studio and jazz trumpet player in NYC who fit every stereotype you can imagine when you picture what that would be like. So that he would like that answer is probably not surprising. 

Yet far from indicating a lack of ambition, I think he thought it meant that I wasn't locking myself into some career that, at seven, I couldn't possibly know whether I wanted. I honestly don't remember what I was thinking those 40 years ago, but I do know that I've always approached my career as a wandering in the woods rather than a straight line from A to B. 

All the folks I admire in business and life did not pick their careers freshman year, major in the associated field, get a job right out of college in their area and work their way to the top. Most of them took circuitous paths to where they wound up, paths that would have been impossible to predict. The only unifying thing between all their decisions and jobs seems to me to be, "does this satisfy me or not," and I think if you move towards what does, you'll have a wonderful career no matter what you end up doing.