The association space in the information industry has been an interesting one to watch. While some enjoy the shifting nature of it for entertainment, others like myself follow it because we know the industry needs a strong association. We need to be a more well-defined profession, where we can learn and trade best practices, connect beyond our local environments, and educate adjacent industries.

Today, ARMA announced it will merge with the Information Coalition. The Information Coalition runs the InfoGovCon and was the force behind the recently released the InfoBOK, a book of knowledge for the information industry. It has been making significant strides in moving the profession forward. And now it is looking to see what it can do with a larger platform.

ARMA Needed To Change

Most people will agree that ARMA has needed a shake-up. It's been hampered by the perception that it is an organization only for records managers. The challenge has been that when it's tried to pivot to the broader world of information governance, it was perceived as merely a marketing shift. This was exacerbated by many vendors simply doing a global cut-and-paste in their marketing literature, swapping “records management” in favor of “information governance.”

Since taking over the reigns at ARMA, CEO Jocelyn Gunter has seen the need for a real shift. She has been looking for ways to not only make the adjustment but to sell it as more than just a marketing device. That is one reason ARMA has made this move. As she put it, "Sometimes you need something big like this to get the attention of both your supporters and detractors so that they really hear you and believe the change is more than just talk."

So what has ARMA added in joining forces with the Information Coalition?

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Bringing Passion and Knowledge to ARMA

The Information Coalition created a boutique conference when it created InfoGovCon. The programming has been broad in scope and not a simple relabeling of the records management universe. That understanding of today’s industry is what brought the two together. In the Information Coalition, ARMA saw an organization that knew the future was information-centric. More importantly, it saw a group of people with a deep understanding of that future and the ability to tell that story.

Nick Inglis, the president of the Information Coalition, saw the programming challenges ARMA was facing. He also shared the membership challenges facing all associations. After reaching out to exchange ideas, Inglis saw an opportunity: "What started as a willingness to collaborate between our organizations grew into a merger between the Information Coalition and ARMA International, combining our forces into the future."

Inglis realized that both organizations were driving towards the same goal: creating an organization that could help lead the information industry.

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ARMA + Information Coalition: What's Next?

What will happen because of this merger? As always, that remains to be seen, but the early indications are positive. Inglis will take on the role of executive director of Content & Programming, reporting directly to Gunter. He will lead a third of ARMA’s efforts, alongside operations and chapter support. He will be leading the efforts to expand ARMA’s programming to incorporate the broader scope covered in the InfoBOK.

Learning Opportunities

As for the InfoBOK, the obvious question is how it will mesh with ARMA’s own IGBOK. As Inglis sees it, "The two bodies of knowledge work beautifully together as a 'T,' the horizontal is the Information Coalition work, bringing together the disciplines and the vertical is the ARMA work, ensuring that Information Governance is standardized."

The InfoBOK is licensed on an open source model so it will have a life of its own outside the support that ARMA gives it. It’s success and future will be driven partly by ARMA, but ultimately will be decided by its acceptance in the community.

As for the InfoGovCon, Inglis insisted that, “we haven't seen the last of that event.” These were echoed by Gunter in that the outreach to the broader information industry was a key consideration. This will come as welcome news to many as the event attracted a broad range of speakers, from consultants, to end-users, to vendors, from across the different slices of the information industry.

What Does This Spell for the Information Industry?

As with any industry news, the next step is to wait. ARMA has its annual conference in two weeks where we are unlikely to see much structural change given the close proximity of these events. However, Inglis said we should expect to see shifts going forward. This will include new programming, encompassing ARMA’s broader focus of information management.

I’ve been watching the industry associations for years and this move definitely merits watching. The drive and energy of the Information Coalition is intense. When I met Gunter at the InfoGovCon, her enthusiasm for the future was comparable. It remains to be seen if that energy can be translated into real change.

The greatest strength of ARMA is its chapters. This is also the greatest challenge as these chapters are on the front lines of ARMA and their ability to change will determine the ultimate success of this partnership. In today’s world of instant information, people don’t need a large, centralized association for ideas. They need events, and the programming to fill them, that helps them learn, grow and connect.

If ARMA is able to successfully shift how it is perceived to match its vision of information being treated as an asset that drives business, this move will be great for the industry. However, there is a lot of inertia to overcome and it will be interesting if the new leadership team can turn the ship or if this is a move several years past its expiration date.