Digital Space: An Ungoverned Frontier

AIIM Conference sounds alarm on executive disconnect surrounding information governance



Colin McMahon


A long time ago, in a reality far, far away…the Internet was very different. While being “online” is nothing new, the fact remains that technology is increasing at an incredible pace. Being online today is very different from even just a decade ago. The functionality and flexibility of online interfaces has increased dramatically. What was once just e-mail on a desktop computer has turned into numerous communication channels across a multitude of devices—and that still does not cover the full extent of how the digital landscape has progressed. We are in the next generation of digital transformation, one brought on even faster thanks to COVID-19.


Many print companies think they are prepared but, as the 2021 AIIM virtual conference pointed out (repeatedly), this is very dependent on only having a certain point of view. The truth of the matter is that while many organizations have mastered aspects of digital transformation, they are lagging in terms of a full, cohesive strategy—and according to AIIM CEO Peggy Winton, many of those in the C-suite are part of the problem.



I Find Your Lack of Corporate Alignment Disturbing

This disconnect, this failure to see how information governance and information management aligned with an overall business strategy, was a recurring theme throughout many of AIIM’s panels. Numerous industry experts came forward to outline the problem areas they had seen and why they mattered. The overall problem was a simple one: a breakdown in communication at the top between IT leaders and business leaders. It is almost as if there are two languages, two philosophies, and neither side wants nor has the time to translate priorities for the other.


Despite this, IT is becoming more essential to business—and here, business leaders agree. They are expanding IT budgets (which is definitely a positive), but they are doing so without giving more than a passing acknowledgement to information management or governance. To give a comparison: Picture a carpenter. She keeps buying more and more tools, some very specialized, without once asking, “how exactly am I going to use this? What is the return on investment from this purchase?” So long as IT remains an alien planet in the eyes of the rest of the C-suite, this disconnect will continue and resources will not be managed as effectively as they could be.


Many of the panels at AIIM 2021 were focused around improving this communication and creating true corporate alignment where executives were aware of exactly how IT could strengthen the company, and information management specialists could align IT investment for solutions that made the most sense and could produce maximum productivity benefits. Interestingly, these panels approached the issue from both sides, so it was possible for attendees to really see how this cohesion would take place. Further details can be found in our full show report. 



That’s No Moon…It’s a Lot of Data

Data from the Internet comes in many different forms: text, images, videos, animations—each with numerous formats and some of which do not work well with others. Another key theme of AIIM was the importance of data management, particularly in using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to sort through the copious amounts of data coming in from numerous sources. While AI and ML have largely become buzzwords, real-use cases were discussed at AIIM—particularly regarding automating paper-intensive processes.


Representatives from Iron Mountain, a company that specializes in information management, were among the panel leaders, and gave compelling arguments as to why these investments needed to be made. Certain documents, especially concerning legal or financial matters, often needed to be reviewed multiple times for compliance and to ensure no mistakes were made.


Data is stuck, they argued, in siloes—many of which are built from paper. So long as data is fragmented, its effectiveness is greatly reduced, and many employees have to devote even more hours toward insuring everything is processed correctly. AI and ML then, in this case, take the place of human eyes—but must still be able to read, extract, and appropriately archive correct data.


The amount of information out there will continue to grow, especially as wearables add a whole new realm of data intake to current quantities. Communication, as Winton mentioned in her keynote, remains paramount; although, in this case, we are talking about communication between paper and computer and not between human beings in leadership roles.


 Bring Balance to the Future

Data surrounds us. It connects and binds the world together. Should the Internet disappear tomorrow, our access to an amazing level of productivity and efficiency would be lost. That said, the information generated by this new generation of digital transformation does not innately belong to businesses. The burden is on them to seize and properly use the data that is available.


AIIM focused on taking this next step—not just investing in the latest and flashiest technologies, but understanding how to manage and govern the data they will collect. A carpenter with the flashiest tools will always be bested by a carpenter who truly understands how to use what they have effectively. Information must be governed if it is to see its true potential.


Let’s close on one last analogy. Although the Force dominates the worlds of Star Wars, only a trained Jedi can hope to harness its power to bring balance and move the galaxy forward. In many ways, data is the invisible Force of today—so let’s be Jedi and make it work for the greater good. May the Fourth be with you!



Subscribers to our Production and Office Advisory Services can log in to the InfoCenter to view the full show review. Not a subscriber? No problem. Just send us an email at for more info.