November 19, 2013

Loyalties (long post)

Something's been bugging me for the last couple of weeks. An industry colleague who I respect very much all but called me a liar and a con man. She stated that I had served on the ARMA International Board of Directors for the express purpose of learning all of ARMA's secrets so that I could sell them to AIIM - after all, I am the AIIM guy. She was not the first to have made such a ridiculous claim but she is the one I had taken most seriously before this. So this post will set some things straight with regards to where my loyalties lie.

I came into the industry in 1997 when I started working for a company in the old Gartner IDARS space, IMR, as a software tester for the Alchemy product. I heard of AIIM pretty quickly - that was the trade show that our sales and marketing people went to every year. But I didn't know anything about it except that. Fast forward a couple of years, and around 2000-2001 I had moved into technical support and sales support where required. IMR decided that we needed to have a records management product offering, and I was selected to develop the technical requirements for it. As part of that process I was given a copy of TNA-099 (UK records management application specification) and DoD 5015.2 (US Department of Defense RMA specification) and was told about an association called ARMA with a local chapter.

In August 2001 I joined AIIM as a professional member, and in September 2001 I joined ARMA. I was also given the choice to attend a conference of my choosing that fall, and chose the now all-but-defunct Xplor conference over the Montreal ARMA conference.

Both associations, and really all associations, offer new members ways to get involved that "only take a couple hours a month". Heh. But I'd finished my degree and had some time to spare and quickly got involved with both organizations. Over the next several years I was formally part of the following:


  • Rocky Mountain Chapter leadership 2002-2008 including 2 terms as President
  • Standards work, 2002-2007, numerous standards
  • Conference Planning Team, 2005
  • Director, AIIM International, 2004-2005
  • Chair, Professional Advisory Council, 2004-2005
  • Chair, Master Accreditation Committee, 2004-2006 (I think)


  • Email Management Task Force, 2002-2003(?)
  • Program Committees for 2003, 2004, 2006. As an aside this was the first time my loyalties were called into question by ARMA volunteer leadership. 
  • Task Force Leader, Glossary Task Force, 2002-2004(?)
  • Professional Competencies Task Force, 2005
  • Chair, Communications Advisory Committee. 
  • Chair, Technology Advisory Committee
I also speak regularly at dozens of AIIM and ARMA Chapters. When I submitted my candidacy for the CRM in 2009 I had already delivered well over 100 presentations to chapters including monthly meetings and Spring Seminars, plus sessions and even keynotes at ARMA Houston and ARMA Canada's major seminars. I was also chosen to speak at every AIIM conference between 2003-2013 and every ARMA conference but 2012 for the same period. And based on my sessions at ARMA I have been invited to speak at every MER conference since 2010. 

In late 2006 I made the decision to run for the ARMA International Board of Directors. My stated, and real, intent was to drag ARMA, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the electronic age. I made no bones about the fact that AIIM's having developed an electronic records management course before ARMA did was stupid bordering on criminal - and the fact that 7 years later ARMA still doesn't have a comprehensive electronic records management training program remains a mystery to me. 

At the candidate forum, my friend and past ARMA President Dave McDermott asked the question that was certainly on a few peoples' mind: Where did my loyalties lie - with AIIM or with ARMA? I don't remember the precise answer I gave, but I know part of it focused on the fact that both organizations were (and are) important, and that my focus was on the industry professionals, not on whose name was on the cover of a particular resource. It must have been OK, because I was elected to the Board and served my entire 3-year tenure including a year as the Chair of one of the two committees in the two-committee governance structure we implemented. I also served on the Election Management Committee for part of that time. And I made the decision to get my CRM during that period and passed every exam on my first try. 

I'd like to think I acquitted myself capably on the board, notably because several of my peers asked towards the end of my tenure whether I would be running for President-Elect. I was not able to do that for a couple of reasons, but I have to think that those endorsements wouldn't have come had those peers had any questions as to my loyalties.

So. June 30, 2010 was the last day of my tenure on the ARMA International Board. I became JAM (just another member) and returned to my full-time day job as a happy consultant doing interesting work and also teaching some of the AIIM courses: ERM, ECM, and even a 4-day course I wrote on email management. I was looking forward to getting involved in the ARMA Mile Hi Denver chapter leadership and/or the AIIM Rocky Mountain chapter and banking some time and goodwill towards being able to eventually run for President-Elect of ARMA. 

But two things happened in late 2010 that put that on hold. First, AIIM decided to create a certification called the Information Certification (now the Certified Information Professional or CIP). It took around 8 months from the time of inception until  the contract was awarded - meaning that it was in early development while I was still on the ARMA Board. The Board had been thinking about some initiatives related to the nascent GARP program including a certification but at the time I completed my tenure I don't think anything had been finalized.  The contract was awarded to Access Sciences - the firm I worked for - on the basis of my subject matter expertise at developing certifications, having worked on the CompTIA CDIA+ and the TAWPI ICP certifications and having received training on psychometric validation of exam questions. The contract was awarded in October 2010. 

Second, later that year I was asked if I knew anyone fit for a new position at AIIM. The job description required management consulting experience, training experience, strong background in ECM as well as social media, and a few other things. It read like it had been copied from my LinkedIn profile. This was not the case and I don't think AIIM had even thought of me as a candidate for the position, but the more I heard about it the more it sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime. I accepted the position in October 2010 and began my tenure at AIIM November 15, 2010. Needless to say this change put Access Sciences in a bind for more than one reason but it significantly increased the risk of CIP not being developed on time and per AIIM's needs. As it turns out those risks did not materialize and I am quite proud of what we developed with Access Sciences in the CIP. 

Of course this also set off paroxysms in the ARMA community, with numerous directors past and present accusing me of being a sell-out and con man, much as my erstwhile colleague did in Las Vegas. A then-current ARMA Director even accused me, at an ARMA event, of that in not so many words and asked that I provide the Board with copies of all my ARMA presentations. She attended my ARMA Twin Cities keynote address and seemed somewhat mollified; I can't recall if I ever sent her all the PPTs but I think I did send her a link to my Slideshare account where many of them were posted. Never heard back from her. Another former director sent me a quite hostile email making the same accusations. Yet I told her the same thing I told them....and the same thing I told Atle Skjekkeland when he interviewed me: What I did at ARMA is ARMA's business. I have to look those people in the eye at every conference and every chapter meeting I attend. Ours is a small and somewhat incestuous industry and I'm not going to share what I did at ARMA. He was, frankly, incredulous, but accepted it and has not asked me since for any information relating to my tenure on the ARMA Board. An

So. Three years later, I have continued to speak at ARMA chapter, regional, and International meetings, seminars, and conferences. I maintain my ARMA Professional membership at my own cost - and my AIIM Professional membership at my own cost as well. I remain a member in good standing of the ICRM and was one of the beta testers who passed ARMA's new Information Governance Professional certification. 

That last point is important because it was another accusation leveled at me in Vegas - that we knew about the IGP and developed our Information Governance course to compete with it. Well, of course we knew about it - ARMA announced it. Of course we developed a course on Information Governance - is there a buzzword more used in IM circles today (besides maybe Big Data)? And we used ARMA's Principles and IGP materials as one of our resources because the thought the work they had done was very good and was appropriate to use as a reference. Competitive? I think rather that our course would do a quite capable job of preparing candidates to succeed on the IGP exam. 

I said this was going to be a long post and I appreciate anyone who has stuck it out to this point. I remain committed to AIIM as my employer and an extremely valuable resource to industry professionals. I also remain committed to ARMA as another valuable resource. I have been involved in efforts to get the two associations to "play nicely together" where that makes sense and will continue to do so because that's in the best interests of both associations in serving the professionals that make up our industry. 

I will also continue to be as transparent as possible. When I post to RECMGMT-L, if my position at AIIM is ever even remotely relevant, I disclose that. On occasion I will post situff from without disclosure but it's usually something off-topic or where my position is not relevant to my response and they are the minority of my posts. Similarly, when I speak to ARMA audiences I don't sell AIIM stuff and I do support ARMA stuff where it makes sense. 

And finally, I will not tolerate questioning of my ethics. Public, private, it doesn't matter. That is the fastest way for you to separate yourself from me personally, professionally, and permanently. To anyone who thinks this is harsh - well, calling me a con man and a liar is pretty harsh too. I don't care whether the venue or alcohol had anything to do with it; take responsibility as I know I have, do, and will. I remain comfortable that I have never demonstrated anything but the highest of ethics when it comes to my professional relationships with both AIIM and ARMA and I simply will not associate with those who would slander me. If you choose to believe vicious rumors or your own small-minded assumptions I can't change your mind but I will work to eliminate your ability to associate with me in any way. This isn't a threat - I just simply refuse to associate with people that think I'm a liar or a con man. 

Thanks for reading - now back to your regularly scheduled linkblogging. :)

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