Update -- A short history of where Information Professionals Came From
John Mancini

By: John Mancini on May 5th, 2016

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Update -- A short history of where Information Professionals Came From

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A Short History of Where Information Professionals Came From.

I concluded my previous post with this thought:

Many people do not realize that AIIM was founded in 1943 as the National Microfilm Association. Many people are mystified about how an organizational journey could somehow begin in 1943 with microfilm, and wind up in 2016 with content and information management.

So what is the connective tissue in this strange story?

I think it boils down to 3 words.

People. Process. Technology.


So continuing....

A Short History of Where Information Professionals Came From.

Of course, what People + Process + Technology adds up to IF DONE RIGHT -- is intelligent information management, which is what AIIM is all about. The reason I say “If Done Right” is that over the course of managing this triad, organizations have tended to get parts of this equation right, but seldom do they get all three working in sync. Which is why there is so must frustration out there. I happen to think that an “Information Professional” is the person that weaves this story together, but I’m getting ahead of myself.


Let me go through a very short pre-history of how we came to think there was even such a thing as an “information professional” in the context of this triad of PEOPLE and PROCESS and TECHNOLOGY.

From 1996 to 2006, the PROCESS questions we asked in our organizations centered around this fundamental question: “How can we automate content-intensive, complicated, and mission-critical processes?”

On the TECHNOLOGY side, most implementations in this period were complex and custom and expensive. There was no standard body of knowledge. Technology expertise was lodged in the consulting community. Looking over to the PEOPLE side of the equation, solutions were difficult to use and required LOTS of training. But nobody really cared because the people who used the solutions were specialists and were only a tiny percentage of the overall number of knowledge workers in our organizations.


“Professionalism” in this world was narrowly defined. If you think about the overall universe of knowledge workers, you can divide them into Gurus, Techies, Line of Business executives, and Everybody Else (in other words, those pesky end users). “Professionalism” in this world was defined principally by AIIM with its MIT and LIT designations (“Master” and “Laureate” of information technology) and by ARMA/ICRM with its Certified Records Management (CRM) certification. And the focus was on the tippy top of the pyramid.


In this tight little world, something was missing. Even 20 years later, there are still less than 1,000 CRMs in the world. The CRM certification was (and still is) extremely valuable, but it only tapped into the surface of the education needed by technology and business people. There was clearly a need for industry-standard technology education, focused on standardizing the hodge-podge of consultant delivered training that was the norm in 2006.

In 2006, the nature of content, records, and information management training changed with the launch of AIIM’s ECM Practitioner, Specialist, and Master training programs. AIIM followed up its standardized ECM training with training in Electronic Records Management, Business Process Management, SharePoint, and a host of other content technologies. By 2010, the concept of “professionalism” was stretched to also include the “techie” and line of business communities via the AIIM designations.

In 2010, AIIM came to the conclusion that there was an opportunity to standardize an even broader body of knowledge under the concept of a “Certified Information Professional,” or CIP.

AIIM’s original conception of what it meant to be an “information professional” was not unlike the definition of professionalism that came to be accepted in the 1980s and 1990s in project management. In the early stages of the professionalization of project management, if you had proposed that there was a common body of project management knowledge that could stretch across a wide variety of domains and industries, people would have thought you were crazy. “How could the project management knowledge to run a software project possibly be similar to that required to build a bridge or that required to construct a building?” In the course of the 1980s and 1990s, the Project Management Institute succeeded in establishing the PMP as the standard body of knowledge associated with project management across a broad variety of disciplines.

It its original conception, AIIM thought the CIP would become an “everyman’s” certification, relevant to gurus and techies and business people alike. The reality after 1,000 CIPs and six years is that it has come to signify something different.

The CIP has come to represent a badge of competency and knowledge at the top of the knowledge worker pyramid for those entrusted with the task of building an information STRATEGY in a time of digital disruption. Broader than Records Management and Information Governance, Information Professionals are charged with these questions:

Who owns the BIG PICTURE for how information is managed in our organization?
Who owns our information management STRATEGY?
Who can helps us treat information as the critical business asset it has become?

The accelerating pace of Digital Disruption makes this role more important -- and different -- than ever. But before going there, how exactly is the emerging era of Digital Transformation different from where we are now?  More to come in the next post.  

CIP Study Guide


Here's the keynote deck in case you missed it. Socialize it and share it if you are so inclined. Also a fun compilation of AIIM16 Tweets HERE.



About John Mancini

John Mancini, president and CEO of AIIM, is an author, speaker, and respected leader of the AIIM global community of information professionals. He is a catalyst in social, mobile, cloud, and big data technology adoption and an advocate for the new generation of experts who are driving the future of information management. John predicts that the next three years will generate more change in the way we deploy enterprise technologies and whom we trust with this task than in the previous two decades. His passion about the evolution of information workers into information analysts spurred John to establish the Certified Information Professional (CIP) program to enable anyone, anywhere to benchmark and develop new and strategic skills. His commitment to education includes the continual development of leading-edge training and publishing of ongoing industry research to help guide new thinking. As a frequent keynote speaker, John offers his expertise on the transformational challenges and opportunities facing information professionals and attracts over 100,000 visitors annually to his blog Digital Landfill. He has published six e-book titles including “#OccupyIT — A Technology Manifesto for Cloud, Mobile and Social Era” and the popular “8 Things You Need to Know About” e-book series. He has a Klout score in the high 60s, is ranked #5 in online SharePoint influence by harmon.ie and #42 in the KnowledgeLake SharePoint Influencer50. John can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as jmancini77.