The Secret Value of AIIM: A True Story
When Tony invited me to write a guest blog for AIIM, I planned to write a techie piece on the latest document AI news. I was even tempted to ask ChatGPT to write one in the style of Monty Python. You’ll be pleased to know that moment of temporary insanity quickly passed.
Instead of techie talk, I would like to tell you a story about the secret value of AIIM and why I think it’s vital that we all pitch in and help Tori Miller Liu and the team to move AIIM forward.
In September 2016, a sudden onset of stage IV blood cancer nearly killed me. Thanks to incredible modern medical care, I survived the worst part. But the lingering side effects meant I had to step away from my career as a product and sales exec in the ECM market. I can’t even begin to tell you how depressing that was.
At the time, I was also in the middle of my second term on the AIIM Board of Directors. One of the first people to reach out to me during my hospital stay was John Mancini, the former CEO of AIIM. I was also cheered to hear from many other AIIM friends and colleagues from around the world. Soon after, without reservation or hesitation, Peggy Winton, another past CEO of AIIM, reached out to me and said they’d be happy to let me stay on the board if I could handle the occasional remote call. It was as if someone threw me a lifeline to stay tethered to the mothership, a way to keep me involved with the AIIM community I had grown quite attached to.
Just before my bone marrow transplant, my doctor cleared me to fly to Orlando to attend the board meeting at the 2017 AIIM Conference. This was all last-minute and dependent on blood tests, so I couldn’t tell anyone I was coming. I wish you could have seen the look on Mancini’s face when he saw me sitting in the hotel lobby. Seeing old friends like John and talking about the future of AIIM gave me more strength to face my own future. Two weeks later, the transplant was a success. For the June board meeting, I was still too weak to travel, so I Zoomed in, and no one recognized me at first – bald as a newborn baby, my Walter White phase.
AIIM graciously allowed me to hang in there until the end of my board term in December 2017. The following January, Bob Zagami (aka Z, the former Board chairperson and AIIM legend) asked if he could nominate me for the Company of Fellows. Since it was an email exchange, Z couldn’t see the tears running down my face. This was wholly unexpected.
Five years ago this month in San Antonio, AIIM inducted me into the Fellows, and it remains my proudest and most meaningful career achievement. Why? For me, recognition from one’s industry peers in a volunteer association is far sweeter and longer lasting than selling and buying software or software companies.
The inspiration to write this blog came from a serendipitous encounter last week. I visited my father in Florida for his 90th birthday celebration. Dad is my hero; he served 35 years in the U.S. Air Force, helped to launch the original Air National Guard program, saved the lives of many jet pilots through his innovative life support training, and was inducted into the Air National Guard Hall of Fame.
Dad handed me a very heavy box and said, “I’ve been holding this for you.” Inside the box was my AIIM Fellows award trophy, an impressive-looking blue slab. You see, immediately after the 2018 conference I moved to the U.K., and it would have cost a ton for AIIM to ship the trophy. So, ever mindful from my time on the finance committee about keeping the costs down, I asked Jessica to ship it to Dad’s address. In all the excitement and stress of moving to another country, I forgot about it.
It's just a piece of plastic, but seeing this reminded me of a greater truth: the amazing value of a peer community in the business world. A level playing field community where end users, resellers, consultants, and vendors can freely share ideas without the typical obligations and awkwardness of a sales situation. A community where an IT end-user (looking at you, Tony Peleska, Dan Antion, Mark Patrick, among others) can be elected the chairperson of a board upon which industry titans Microsoft, OpenText, Hyland, Cisco, Box, and many more also sit.
AIIM is a special community and worth fighting for the future of. We have an incredible opportunity to expand our community by embracing the AI-first generation of knowledge workers. What can we offer them that is differentiated from all the other associations and groups who are loudly banging the techie information drum?
In a world of increasing isolation, there is an added value I believe we can offer: the sense of belonging to a community. But building and maintaining a community requires some effort, and we are, after all, a volunteer association. If you are coming to New Orleans 2023 for The AIIM Conference 2023, thank you so much for the effort, that’s real community building! If you can't make it, there are other ways to pitch in. Please set a goal to attend a chapter meeting (live or virtual), enroll in an online training class, or catch a webinar this year. And if you have not yet signed up for AIIM+, I’ll not shame you by naming names.
That’s my personal story about the secret value of AIIM and why it’s vital that we all pitch in and help Tori and the team to move the community forward.
You never know when you, too, might need the community to give back.
About Dan Lucarini
Dan is a software entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience working for ECM and IDP startups and leaders such as OpenText, Kofax, and IBML. Dan served two terms on the AIIM Board of Directors and was elected to the Company of Fellows in 2018. He currently serves AIIM as the ex-officio member of the finance committee. A 2nd generation Italian-American from Pittsburgh, after living in the Colorado Rockies Dan now resides in the UK with his wife, the acclaimed British artist Dot Wade.