December 1, 2021

ARMA Opens Call for Proposals to Speak at ARMA InfoCon 2022

 ARMA has announced its Call for Proposals to speak at ARMA InfoCon 2022, scheduled for October 16-19, 2022 in Nashville, TN. Proposals are due no later than January 31, 2022. For more information, or to submit a proposal, visit

When Solution Providers Speak at Events

I try to keep abreast of industry events, even if I don't plan to attend them. When I see calls for participation, I try to share them widely - here, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. - because I know event producers often struggle to get good speakers. 

What's a good speaker? In a nutshell, I think a good speaker should be: 
  • Knowledgeable. I mean, that's the reason you'd want them as a speaker in the first place, right?
  • Prepared. The session is logical and flows well, and the speaker is rehearsed and comfortable. 
  • Interesting. The speaker doesn't read the slides (or a canned script) to the audience, and doesn't bore everyone to sleep with a monotone delivery.
  • Responsive. Marketing takes time. Send your bio and description over in a timely fashion. Send the slides by the deadline. Be reasonable. 
  • Flexible. Things happen at both ends. This doesn't mean bending over backwards, or eating travel costs if something comes up from the event planner's end, but it does mean recognizing that, for example, COVID may require changing from in-person to virtual.
  • Focused on education, not selling. Good speakers don't pitch their wares to the audience, either, unless the session sets those expectations. For example, if I attend a solution provider's demo, I fully expect to see the solution demonstrated. Same thing with a case study. But even solution providers should focus on educating, not selling. 
This brings me to the point of this post. As a consultant, I am a solution provider. I'd like to think I'm a decent speaker as well. I would never dream of pitching to an audience, and I think 20+ years of speaking, nearly all of it while working as a consultant or for a company that sells software and/or training, supports my assertion. But being a speaker and solution provider raises a number of issues for me and that I see constantly. 

1. Selling from the podium. Event planners always have a concern about solution providers selling from the podium - and for very good reason. There are still far too many solution providers who send speakers to events with presentations that are long on their solution, its features and capabilities, and how superior it is in the market, and short on anything remotely educational. If you're a vendor, and you do that, I'm walking out, and you shouldn't be surprised or offended - you're the one wasting my time. 

2. Pay to play. At industry events, there seems to be an ever-increasing link between sponsoring and speaking. And this is not just for "expo hall" sessions, but in the main tracks and even keynotes. For several well-known events, if you are a consultant or solution provider, you can't speak at all unless you sponsor the event. The reason generally given is that there are only so many slots, and it wouldn't be fair for Vendor X or Consulting Firm Y to get to speak for free while other vendors and firms have to "pay to play." And it is pay to play - very few of these events even review their speakers' sessions, much less hold the line on the amount of sales-y content they include. And they wonder why their event registration numbers are in decline....

At the same time, the right solution providers, and the right people working there, can deliver fantastic content, chock full of great learning, stats, etc. that are educational and entertaining. Often they bring years of experience as an end user, tempered with experience with a number of different organizations by virtue of working for that vendor. Yet because they work at solution providers, these speakers are off limits. Again, I get it, but I've seen a number of them create their own companies with innocuous names, or even submit using just their name, and hoping that the event planners won't connect the dots. So you still end up having the same problem, because someone will recognize them as being with Vendor X. 

3. Perceptions of quid pro quo. This last is very personal to me because I take my professional ethics very seriously. Especially at smaller events, I'm generally willing to at least get a booth, and I may kick in for other sponsorships if they make sense for me and my consulting firm. But I also want to speak at those events where I think I have something of value to share. What I don't want, and I've been very explicit about this, is to connect those two things. I don't want to "pay to play". I don't want an event to consider me as a speaker in the hopes that I'll write a check - or turn me down if I don't. 


Solution providers: recognize that the audience appreciates your content when it's educational, and if you try to sell, you're liable to turn them off. 

Event organizers: Ease up on the "pay to play", and label those sessions that are vendor-provided. Put them in their own track, call them "Industry Intelligence" or some such, but let us know in advance. And do your due diligence in setting their expectations! 

For my part, I think I'm going to start posting the agendas of conferences and breaking down end user vs. solution provider sessions, and if I attend, the "good" (non-sales-y) vs. "bad" (pure pitch) solution provider sessions, in the hopes that it will help to improve the overall educational quality in our industry. 

November 22, 2021

How Are You Preparing for 2022?

Technically, not even a full 6 weeks left - between the holiday season and December 31, 2021 coming on a Friday. But I've seen a couple of posts today to the effect that there are only 6 weeks left, so it's time to get ready for 2022. Some of these suggested you prepare by buying their stuff: their software, their training, etc. Others suggested that you reflect on the last year, or two, and think about what you want in what will hopefully be the year we really turn the corner on COVID. 

I'm somewhat heads-down on a project right now - not full-time full time, but keeping me busy. But I'm thinking about that same question: how do I want to prepare for 2022? Here are my thoughts, in no particular order. 

1. I have a stack of books to get through - change management, management consulting, several Infonomics-y books, and some product launch/product management ones as well. I'm going to try real hard not to buy any MORE books until I get through this pile!

2. I'm trying to write more and establish a more predictable cadence. I also plan to do at least one series of posts that will then become the fodder for an e-book, most likely on email management. 

3. The value of my AIIM and ARMA memberships continue to decrease - neither association offers educational content for anyone with significant experience in the industry. And the member-only events and resources are increasingly written/delivered by vendors who don't understand that it's not a question of educational content or sales, but that educational content leads to sales. So I need to figure out, or perhaps create/curate, something that would be of value to me and others similarly situated. 

For the other associations I'm a member of - IRMS, IAPP, ICRM - I need to do a deeper dive into the resources available from IRMS and IAPP. ICRM is of a piece with AIIM and ARMA right now - they relaunched their newsletter as a bimonthly and haven't sent out anything since August. Sigh. 

4. Along those same lines, trying to repopulate my blogroll / reading list. So looking for recommendations for good blogs and resources that aren't necessarily tied to a particular association. Vendor stuff is OK, if it's educational - some very, very good vendor blogs out there. 

5. Trying to get back into the exercise thing. It's a vicious circle - health issues make it hard to exercise, which leads to more health issues. But I gotta do it - 2022 will definitely be a "focus on health" year. 

6. Last but absolutely assuredly not least, I'll be spending some quality time and money on some marketing for Athro Consulting. Lots of small things to get done: Get or make business cards. Make stationery and templates (Word, PPT, invoices, etc.). Get some branded swag done for the in-person events I plan to attend in Q1. 

Back to the title, then - how are YOU preparing for 2022? 

November 19, 2021

ARMA Canada Opens Call for Speakers for ARMA Canada 2022

 ARMA Canada has opened its Call for Speakers to participate in the ARMA Canada 2022 conference, scheduled for May 30 - June 1, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. No deadline was provided in the LinkedIn post or the form. 

To submit, or for more details, visit

November 12, 2021

ARMA Opens Nominations for the Board of Directors

ARMA announced today that it is seeking nominations to serve on the ARMA International Board of Directors starting in July 2022. Positions to be filled include: 

  • President-Elect
  • Two Directors
  • Treasurer
Nominations are due by November 30, 2021. A list of qualifications for the various positions can be found here: Information on how to nominate or self-nominate, as well as the election timeline, can be found here:

Aside: I think it's interesting that I wouldn't seem to qualify even to run for the Board, despite having served a full 3-year Director term as well as serving on AIIM's Board (and of course having been AIIM staff for nearly 11 years), just because my term was too long ago. I wasn't planning to run this year anyway, because I don't think I've been gone from AIIM long enough, but I wonder if the Election Committee might want to rethink that "within the past 5 years" element of qualification - not just for me, but that seems like a pretty significant limitation, and if I recall last year's election, it was all by acclamation due to a dearth of candidates. Eh bien.... 

November 8, 2021

Irregular Update to My Speaking Schedule - November 2021

Updated 11/22/2021 to finalize ARMA Toronto and add ARMA New England, and add link to ARMA Canada CFP. 

I posted a few weeks ago that I'm back on the speaker circuit. Here's my schedule for the rest of this chapter/speaker season (through June 2022). 


  • Nov 19, 2021 - Austin ARMA, virtual
  • Dec 14, 2021 - ARMA Mile Hi Denver, virtual
  • Jan 19, 2021, ARMA Toronto, virtual
  • Feb 8, 2022 - ARMA Twin Cities, may end up being virtual
  • Mar 31, 2022 - ARMA New England, may end up being virtual

Still working to finalize, hear back re: call for speakers, or hear ABOUT a call for speakers: 

I still have decent availability for events starting in 2022. If you're interested in having me speak at your event, check my blog post above for details about topics, expenses, fees or lack thereof, etc. For in-person events, I am vaccinated x2 (Pfizer) and recovered from COVID-19 as well and will observe all health & safety protocols. 

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at

November 3, 2021

Here's What I Charge as a Consultant

I recently wrote a post that made reference to Marcus Sheridan's book and methodology, "They Ask, You Answer". He argues that price is one of the first questions customers ask, and one of the last that  solution providers, including consultants, want to answer, for a couple of reasons. Let's take a look at these, with my take on them through the filter of an independent consultant. 

They are worried their competition will undercut their pricing. That's probably a concern in a transactional, commoditized market. For things that are not so transactional or commoditized, such as Acme's proven methodology to improve sales closing rates or employee onboarding or whatever Acme excels at, your competitor isn't necessarily another firm. Rather, it's inertia, or budget, or competing priorities for the client. 

They think it will scare off their customers. But you're going to have to talk about cost at some point anyway - why waste a prospective customer's time, and yours, if their, and your, expectations are wildly out of line with each other?

There are too many variables to give a price. Yes, there are a lot of variables, whether the project in question is Sheridan's swimming pools, or a records management assessment and roadmap, or the mix of server and client applications and modules to meet the client's business requirements. 

But the approach can be consistent - for example, an interview supporting the assessment is priced at two hours - one to conduct the interview, and one to analyze the response and, if needed, tweak the questionnaire for the next interview. 50 interviews = 100 hours x the consultant's rate. Factor in, and be transparent about, information gathering and analysis, project management and reporting requirements, and travel time and costs. Similarly, your sales people know the rate sheet rates as a starting point. 

They think their customers won't understand how rates are set - or will balk at exhorbitant rates. "What makes you think you're worth $250 an hour?!" Well, you can, and should, expect that that consultant is bringing you significant and specialized experience, expertise, best practices, lessons learned, and the ability to hit the ground running and come up to speed - on your organization, your business practices, your challenges - quite quickly. In other words, you're not paying so much for the 100 hours your project will take, as for the twenty-plus years that preceded them. (You're also not paying the taxes, health insurance, etc. for a full-time employee to do that work.)

All of that said, there's also a case to be made, and Sheridan and many others make it, that clients are already doing their own research. They've used consultants before or have reached out to others - hence the concern about undercutting, above. If you massively overbid, of course you'll miss out on work. If you underbid, however, they may feel that you're less valuable compared to the others they are considering. In other words, they don't need to know the specifics of how you got to your rate, as long as it seems comparable to others they've researched and offers value at that price. 

So What Do I Charge?

In the interests of transparency, and practicing what I preach, here are my consulting rates for Athro Consulting.

Base consulting rate for 2022: $250.00/hour. 

Travel rate: $125.00/hour, 4-hour minimum. This is for travel to/from/between client sites. I do not charge this for travel to/from speaking engagements. 

Speaking fees: 

  • Typical non-profit chapter/regional meetings: free for the 2021-2022 chapter year
  • For-profit event: Starts at $1,000
  • Half-day workshop: Starts at $1,500
  • Full-/multi-day workshop: Starts at $2,500 per day or $300/hour for live virtual workshops

These fees do not include typical travel costs if applicable: 

  • Airfare - in most cases I look for the cheapest scheduled coach fare I can find on Southwest or United, 21 days in advance or as far ahead as I can. 
  • Lodging - I don't need the Ritz Carlton, but I'd prefer to avoid the No-Name Motel and Suites(!) when possible. 
  • Ground transportation. I try to balance my and the client's convenience and associated costs; sometimes a rental car is cheaper, sometimes it's Uber/Lyft, sometimes it's a cab. 
  • Meals. Again, I'm a pretty cheap date - I generally prefer bars or lounges to 3-star Michelin restaurants. 
  • Any other incidental expenses - for example, visas or inoculations. 
My fees are negotiable on a case-by-case basis; we can look at different, creative ways to stay within your budget. I can also break projects into phases to reduce their individual costs. Finally, if you're not sure what you need, I offer retainer packages that give you the flexibility to determine how best to leverage me. 

If you're interested in engaging me, either for a consulting engagement or to discuss this post, you can reach me at

October 27, 2021

When Associations Edit the Past

I'm a bit peeved, personally and professionally, about a disturbing turn of events I've now seen with two of my associations, AIIM and ARMA. It seems that both of them have taken to editing previously published content without disclosing that fact. It's their content, so it's their right to edit it, but it seems a bit...unseemly to do so without disclosing that they are doing so. 

I consider Nick Inglis to be a professional colleague and a friend. He's done some incredible stuff over the years to move the disciplines of information governance and information management forward, and while I don't agree with all of his actions, I know they are coming from a genuine desire to raise the visibility and efficacy of information professionals. 

On October 22, 2021, he noted that ARMA had removed all of his bylines from their assets. Where they used to have his name, now they simply show "ARMA International". You can see an example in this post: Note the byline, dated February 1, 2021. Now click the link to download the article, and you end up here:, which clearly shows Nick's byline. 

At the same time, here's an example Nick cites of an article written by Jeff Whited, who left ARMA several months earlier than Nick did: I did do some searching around for other departed staffers and it may be that ARMA has decided to remove individual staff bylines, and simply missed the article by Whited. But again it would not have appeared as petty had ARMA made some sort of announcement about it. 

For my part, I've seen a lot of edits to posts I wrote for AIIM in the past as well. For example, I wrote a post comparing AIIM and ARMA memberships in April 2020. I looked at it today in reference to another post, and noticed that many, but not all, of the training and membership references now refer to AIIM+ and AIIM+ Pro. Which is fine, though I think the post date should have been updated, or at least a note to that effect added to the post (e.g. "This post was updated in October 2021 to reflect AIIM's change to the AIIM+ and AIIM+ Pro model."). That's just the right thing to do when updating a post in my opinion. 

But what makes it worse is that some of the edits make the posts distinctly more sales-y. And at the same time, no edits were made to the current number of professional members, or the drop from 16 online chapters in the community to 7, including the closure of all non-US chapters except AIIM True North in Canada. If you're going to edit for accuracy, I think you need to be consistent and edit for accuracy all the way around. 

I no longer have any visibility into AIIM's finances, marketing efforts, etc. but I have to wonder at the time spent to update nearly every blog post I wrote in the last couple of years - mostly to change calls to action to AIIM+, but some to change training descriptions to AIIM+ from e.g. the Modern Records Management course - and whether that's really making an impact on AIIM's revenue. And it's probably not just my posts that were edited like this - so what's the ROI on doing that editing compared to all the other things the marketing team could have been doing? 

So, for anyone from AIIM or ARMA reading this, what's my recommendation? First, don't edit stuff you've already published unless you need to clean up specific errors or links that are now broken. Second, if you're going to edit, have the courage of your convictions to edit all the obvious errors or changes in the resource. Third, if you're going to edit, NOTE THAT FACT in the resource that's been edited. Or keep stealth editing, and lose more of your credibility. We notice. 

October 26, 2021

ARMA Canada Western Chapters Looking for Speakers for November 2022 Conference

Update: Updated due date to Jan 7, 2022. 

The five westernmost ARMA chapters in Canada are hosting a conference October 5-7, 2022 in Kelowna, BC. They are actively soliticing speakers and sponsors for the event; the call for speakers is open through January 7, 2022. 

For more information on speaking or sponsoring, visit

October 17, 2021

Transparency in Association Pricing

In a recent post on the Pricing for Associations blog, Dr. Michael Tatonetti asked a provocative question, "How Do We Talk About Price without Talking About Price?" He made a couple of key arguments: 

  1. Pricing provides financial sustainability for an association. Charge too little, and you don't have the wherewithal to survive recessions, pandemics, etc. 
  2. Pricing and financial sustainability allow associations to do whatever it is they do.  

He notes, 

"I don't know about you, but I am a member of other associations, and I want to pay my dues. I want to pay to go to luncheons. I want to pay to go to annual conferences. I want to pay for continuing education because I not only want the value that I get from that, but I also want to empower my organizations to do even more work and reach new members, and reach new sponsors, and be sustainable, so that I can continue going back and getting what I need from them." 

I generally agree with these points. In particular, I agree with paying the fees myself, so much so in fact that I paid my membership at an association for more than 10 years, even though I was HQ staff, and even after I got lifetime membership as a Fellow. 

However, there's another consideration, which is that some people, including some of an association's audience, think that non-profits should give everything away, probably work for free or minimum wage, etc. It's not universal, of course, and there are associations that charge pretty stiff fees so they can have HQ upgrades, staff bonuses & premium pay, etc. 

Similarly, people aren't transparent about pricing because it will scare customers off. I saw this all the time with training, even though a survey of more than 70 different training programs showed that that association's training pricing was exactly inline with what others were charging - competitors, solution-specific training, complementary training, all of them. Some of this goes to self-funded vs. "need to submit for reimbursement"-level costs, but confidence in pricing also shows confidence in the product.

Finally, I think a lot of associations are hesitant to talk about price because they think they'll get undercut by their competition. This has always struck me as silly because at some point they do have to give customers a price, and it's a few seconds to Tweet or post that to LinkedIn. I subscribe more to the Marcus Sheridan "They Ask, You Answer" school of thought. That is, post pricing wherever possible, and if pricing is highly variable, post what pieces you can with an explanation of the variables. That also means that you shouldn't be hiding pricing behind a registration screen - I see this all the time with conferences where either the conference fees, the conference designated hotel fees, or both require prospective attendees to provide a ton of information first. 

October 11, 2021

ARMA Houston Announces Call for Speakers for Spring Seminar 2022

I normally don't post about individual chapters like this, but ARMA Houston is one of a handful of chapters that offer conference-like spring seminars - numerous vendors in an expo area, multiple tracks of speakers, etc. I very much enjoyed the opportunities I had to present at, and participate in, ARMA Houston's spring seminars in years past. I would plan to go again this year except that it's the same dates as AIIM22. 

The conference is scheduled for April 26-27, 2022 in Houston. Submission deadline is Dec 20, 2021. For additional details, or to submit, visit

October 10, 2021

IBM Cloud: Process Mining vs. Process Modeling vs. Process Mapping

IBM Cloud: Process mining, process modeling and process mapping are distinct, but related, methods of visualizing and analyzing business processes. To keep reading: 

However, see the pushback from Mark McGregor and William Thomas on the LinkedIn post here:

October 7, 2021

How to Determine the Ownership of Information Stores

It's a key outcome of any system inventory, data map, system map, etc.: who owns a particular system or information store? Let me start by saying it's rarely IT - they provision, support, maintain, upgrade, update, and eventually decommission systems. But they don't own them - rather, they are custodians for them on behalf of the organization generally and the business process the system supports. 

In other words, it's generally the business process owner that owns a given system. Sales owns the sales forecasting system. Marketing owns the marketing automation system. IT *does* own the help desk ticket system. For systems that are generally enterprise-wide, like email, an argument can be made that IT should be considered their owners, but I believe that in this case the owner is either the CIO or another member of executive management - perhaps even the CEO. 

But organizations change. Systems get consolidated across multiple departments. Business units and work processes get reorganized, and merged, and split apart. This can lead to systems, and the information they hold, being orphaned, without a defined owner. If the result of the reorganization is that a system is decommissioned, and its data dealt with appropriately according to existing information and data governance policies, this isn't an issue. However, it's quite common when doing an inventory to find folders, applications, and entire systems where no owner can be identified. So what is to be done with them? 

There are a couple of ways to track down the ownership of an ostensibly orphaned or abandoned information store. 

Ask someone. It's pretty unusual for a system, and the information it stores, to be completely unknown to anyone in the organization. If the system isn't decades out of date, you may still have someone on staff who remembers the system and its purpose. Then you can assign ownership to whoever owns that function today. If the function has been completely done away with (not just renamed), you may need to go to legal to explain the circumstances and figure out the right way to proceed. 

Ask IT, records management, and legal. IT should know about all the systems that are or were on their network or that they supported. Records management should have a records and information management inventory that identifies systems that could potentially generate or store records. Legal may have a data map from previous litigation. All of these could provide valuable clues about a particular system or information store, especially if any of these groups keeps previous versions. 

Examine the system. Databases have database definitions, and data dictionaries, and can probably be queried by a competent database analyst to determine what data they hold. For unstructured systems, such as abandoned network file shares and folders, someone with appropriate access rights can review the contents of those information stores to at least get a sense of what they deal with. For an abandoned email inbox, it may be as simple as drafting a new email and seeing what comes up in the signature block. Again, if the function persists, the system can be assigned to that function; if not, check with legal. 

Run a report. Most repositories and databases have audit logs that track things like date last accessed and who accessed them. There are dozens of tools that can do this for networked file shares as well. These can provide valuable insight into potential ownership. And if nobody has accessed that data or that system for 5, 7, 10+ years? Great point to make to legal. 

Do some research. This approach assumes that, not only can you not find an owner, but you can't even determine what the system is - think legacy, deprecated applications, old databases, or unknown file formats. Do your due diligence - there are tools online that can potentially identify unknown file formats by their extensions. But if you can't even access the information on the system to figure out what it is, it clearly has no business value, and you're at even greater risk in the event of litigation or an audit. Document your work and take it to legal. 

Turn it off. This one I recommend as a last resort and at your own career risk. If you truly can't figure out who owns a particular system - nobody will claim it, nobody wants it, several groups point fingers at each other asserting *their* responsibility for it - this will get you a response one way or another. 

Turn off access to the system. 

Whoever screams about it first, or loudest, is the new owner! And if nobody screams about it for a week, a month, three months, etc., that's a pretty good indicator that the system and the information it contains no longer has current business value. The fact that you turned off access 90 days ago and nobody complained is a pretty powerful data point to be able to take to legal. 

Before you act....

In every instance, before you do something that cannot be reversed, it's important to talk to your legal team (and probably risk management and compliance as well, if you have them). Ordinarily I'd include the records team in this as well, but absent ownership of a system or the ability to determine its use, there's not going to be much for records management to do here. 

October 5, 2021

AIIM+ Launches

I noted last month that AIIM announced a new approach called AIIM+ that introduces a couple of significant changes. First, Professional membership has been replaced by a subscription model. 

AIIM+ is available in two tiers - AIIM+ and AIIM+ Pro. The latter includes unlimited access to AIIM's training offerings for an extra $33/month. AIIM+ is live as I type this. 

It's not super-intuitive how to access the updated AIIM+ training content - when I click Education/My Courses from the AIIM home page, it takes me to the prior learning portal with all my old course content. I did see an AIIM tweet announcing AIIM+ and taking me to this page: From there, there is a button that says Browse the Training Library; clicking that takes me to the new course listings

I got the email announcement around 10 am Mountain time, but it was pretty brief and left me with a number of questions I don't yet see addressed. I did check the FAQ at the bottom of the landing page as well. 

What happens to the long-form courses like MRMM and FIIM? They aren't listed on the website anymore, but I still have access to them in my current (old) learning portal account, which isn't surprising given the need to transition. Maybe there will be future communications that address an end of life date for the old portal and content, and how non-Pro or even non-AIIM+ persons will gain access to their transcripts and CIP status. I'm also curious as to the impact AIIM+ will have on existing training partners. 

Related, for FIIM in particular, I wonder what this means for CIP, given that FIIM was *the* prep course to prepare for the exam. The newly launched content covers some of the same topics, but it does not cover 100% of the exam content as FIIM did. AIIM+ may come to cover all of CIP at some point, but I can state with confidence that it does not at present. 

What happens to the external courses developed by AIIM partners like Practical AI and Confident Change Management? They aren't listed in the updated course listings either. 

When students complete AIIM+ courses, will there be some sort of certificate, or badge, or credential? What happens to the legacy Specialist and Master designations? 

How does CIP interact with AIIM+? So far I'm not seeing any changes; on the new landing page, there is this benefit of AIIM+: "Prove to your boss, co-workers, and yourself that you know your stuff by getting certified." 

I continue to wish AIIM success with AIIM+. Full disclosure - as an AIIM Fellow I was granted a free AIIM+ (not Pro) subscription in perpetuity, but I don't currently plan to get the Pro subscription so I won't know what that content actually looks like. 

September 30, 2021

Where I Ended Up - a 30-Day Update

30 days ago today was my last day at AIIM. Over the last 30 days I've done a lot of reflecting on the past and thinking about the future. I have to admit that I have not yet found the answer to life's eternal questions - besides, Doug Adams already did that

So what did I do the last 30 days? I've read a ton of books on everything from certification development to AI to association management to product marketing. I've taken quite a few online courses from Coursera and LinkedIn on those topics. I've started working on my exercise regime again - after all, if I'm available for in-person events, at some point I will have to put on pants that fit. 

Tell Us Already! 

Oh, I also started a company, Athro Consulting.  This is the answer to the question in the title. I'm offering consulting services in a couple of key areas: 

Information governance and information management consulting. In particular, I focus on strategy, planning, and process-type issues like business assessments, building program roadmaps, developing information governance and records management programs, and identifying and upskilling required staff. 

Training development and delivery. I've been a trainer since 1993, when I graduated United States Marine Corps Drill Instructor School and became a drill instructor. In terms of industry training, I started teaching courses on IMR'S Alchemy product line in 2000 and on CompTIA's now-retired CDIA+ program in 2003. IMERGE Consulting was AIIM's first training partner in North America, and I taught AIIM's first in-person training course in North America in January 2006. 

In the nearly 16 years since, I've developed or updated more than 20 AIIM courses and delivered more than 200 workshops including public, private, train-the-trainer, and custom to students around the world. 

In the months to come I'll be developing and delivering some of my own workshops, as well as partnering with some organizations that I support. In the meantime, if you have training you need delivered, particularly relating to information governance, information management, records management, etc. let's talk!

Certification program development and delivery. This is a little more esoteric in that not everyone needs a certification program developed, but there are a lot of ways for a certification program to go sideways if not planned and executed properly. I led the technical development of the original AIIM Certified Information Professional (CIP) program in 2011 and the overall development of the program updates in 2016 and 2019. Before I joined AIIM, I worked on the now-defunct CompTIA CDIA+ and TAWPI ICP certifications as well. 

Note that we're not limited to personnel-type certifications like CIP - I've also developed a couple of vendor partner certification programs.

Evangelism and thought leadership. I love writing and talking about this stuff. I love learning new stuff and sharing it. I love theory, and I love practical application. I love learning lessons learned and sharing them, and hearing horror stories and sharing them. Despite having been a vendor, a consultant, or a training provider for most of my career, I've always been focused on the message of improving organizations through effective information practices, regardless of who signed my paycheck. 

    You can see some of my presentations on Slideshare - I need to add some of the more recent ones, but even the ones there now will give you a feel for how I approach speaking. 

    If you're reading this, you know I blog; I also have a number of posts on the AIIM blog. I've written some longer-form things too, including the AIIM Social Business Roadmap and How to Conduct a Social Business Assessment, and, more recently, two editions of the CIP Study Guide. I'm always excited to learn about something new and then understand, and help others understand, how it can improve the way their organization works. 

    How I Work

    Here's what Athro Consulting offers in terms of approach. 

    I'm a professional, and I have very strong ideas on ethics and their importance. 

    My role is to be a guide. I know some stuff about how good information governance, records management, etc. can and should work. I don't know everything about everything, and I'll be honest about my limitations. I am a quick learner, and will go overboard learning about something if I need to. 

    I believe in standards and best practices and will make the case for why you should follow them. That said, it's your business, your training program, your culture, and my role is to help your organization be more efficient, more effective, and more successful. If that means following different standards and practices sometimes, so be it.  

    I believe that consulting engagements should not stretch on indefinitely, but should end, and should end with the organization having the knowledge and ability to continue to drive things forward. 

    I'm willing and able to travel as needed. I'm vaccinated for a lot of stuff, and I'm a pretty cheap date, given sufficient advance warning. 

    If you think I can bring some value to your organization, feel free to drop me a note at My permanent Gmail account,, still works as well. I'm happy to have a call, Zoom chat, etc. at your convenience. 

    Ness Labs: The educational and economic necessity of lifelong learning

    100% agree. I'm biased, of course, because I'm in the training business. But I really do believe in the three reasons the article gives - lifelong learning helps you to: 

    • Adapt to an ever changing market
    • Spot new opportunities
    • Explore different career paths

    The second bullet goes on to note, "By exposing ourselves to more knowledge across various fields, we are increasing our chances to discover a need or a gap to be filled." 

    To that same end, I wholeheartedly recommend the book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein.

    H/t: WBT Systems (

    September 29, 2021

    How Much Does Your Product Cost?

    This is the first in a series of posts I plan to write on pricing in the information management industry. 

    I saw an interesting ad today for some training of relevance to me. It was developed by one of the industry's leading experts on the topic, looked to be of great quality, and packed a lot of content into a very short course, which is perfect for me. I decided to buy it, but there's no pricing and no way to purchase. I checked the package it's part of, and same thing. I finally found a "Store" button, which showed me the pricing, but it took several more clicks because I had to decide how long to have access to it as part of the purchase process. The time it took me to find pricing, evaluate the options, and get to the payment page took almost as long as the runtime of the course itself. 

    I'm a big fan of the "They Ask, You Answer" approach to marketing developed by Marcus Sheridan. One of the key tenets of the TAYA approach is that there are 5 really big questions that almost all customers have, and that you should be answering: 

    • How much does your solution cost?
    • What are the negatives or issues with your solution?
    • How does your product or solution compare to alternatives?
    • What is everybody saying about your solution?
    • What is the best solution available?
    He notes that most organizations are afraid to answer these, for fear of scaring customers away. Instead, he argues, organizations that don't providing pricing drive customers away because they get frustrated. You may have experienced this yourself when shopping for a car. There is generally a price, but it's understood that that's the starting point for haggling. This process has been so uncomfortable for so many people that we've seen a surge in "no-haggle" buying - there's a price, you take the car at that price. 

    The information management industry is notoriously opaque in its pricing. Go to the website of any vendor listed in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, Forrester Wave, or any other analyst report. Go to the website of any vendor you've seen at a conference or whose webinar you've attended. 99 times out of 100, you won't be able to find pricing for their products. If they are really transparent, you might be able to find pricing for training, or certification exams, etc. And hardware often has pricing listed, too - it's pretty easy to find scanner pricing, for example. But you likely won't be able to see and compare two RM solutions. 

    I know what you're thinking, and what the vendors are howling: Every organization is unique. Yes...and no. Unless you're delivering custom software for every customer, at some point a customer is getting a set of capabilities. You know how much those capabilities cost - if you are on a government schedule, that pricing is probably public, and certainly your sales people know where the starting price is. It should be pretty straightforward to make at least your "sticker price" available. 

    If you disagree, please reach out to me at I will keep your name and organization, and any organizations you reference, confidential. 

    September 23, 2021

    Happy Birthday, CIP!

    Today is the 10th anniversary of AIIM's Certified Information Professional (CIP) certification exam and program. On September 23, 2011, the CIP exam went live as the Information Certification and the first 50 or so CIPs who worked to develop the exam were grandfathered in. We don't number CIPs in this fashion, but I suppose Atle Skjekkeland, the architect and main creative force behind the certification, would be CIP #1, and I would be CIP #2 as the technical lead. 

    The first CIP exam taken, and passed, happened the next day, September 24. As of my departure from AIIM, nearly 2,000 people since then have passed the exam and earned the designation. I don't know what the future holds for CIP, but I know we did some really good work in putting the exam together in 2011 and for the updates in 2016 and 2019. I am grateful to everyone who supported CIP during my tenure at AIIM and I hold the development and maintenance of CIP as one of my personal career highlights. 

    Christian Buckley, buckleyPLANET: Evangelism is about Building Advocacy

    Great post that outlines the key roles and activities of a technology evangelist. I’m surprised, in the era of content marketing, the Challenger Sales methodology, etc. that more solution providers don’t recognize the benefits of a dedicated evangelist.

    H Layer Credentialing: Sorting Through Credentialing Confusion: Understanding the Difference Between Certificate and Certification Programs

    Good basic article on the difference between certificate programs and professional certifications. I was going to write a post similar to this, but hey. :) 

    September 22, 2021

    Certifications and Renewal Requirements

    This is an update to a post I wrote in February 2017. 

    Real certifications have, or should have, some type of renewal or continuing education requirement. The CDIA exam I took in 2001 has almost zero relevance in the technology and process environment of 2021. And in fact this is one of the key benefits of a formal certification as compared to, say, a certificate or even a full degree program - once you complete a degree or certificate, that's it. As soon as you're done it starts getting stale. 

    Certifications are designed to allow candidates to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in certain areas - but they are also markers of dedication to continuing professional development. Someone who has maintained a certification for 20 years has had to make at least some effort to keep up with changes in the industry and technologies.

    There are two basic ways to renew a certification. First, many organizations will allow or require certificants to retake the then-current exam. Assuming the exam is updated regularly, this is probably the most efficient for both parties. But certificants really, REALLY don't like to do this - it tends to be more expensive, you have to deal with the in-person or online exam registration and delivery process, many certificants have test anxiety, etc. 

    The alternative generally involves having certificants earn continuing education units (CEUs) and paying a fee, typically lower than the original exam/assessment fees. Every program determines what types of activities are appropriate for earning CEUs and how many are required; the typical figures are around a 3-5 year recertification cycle and 10-20 CEUs per year of the cycle, with CEUs awarded at the rate of 1 CEU per hour of educational activity. 

    Certifying organizations have to balance the desire to have certificants maintain their credential - and the revenue that comes from them - with the need to ensure certificants really are doing what is expected. If it's too hard, people drop the certification; if it's too easy, it devalues the value of it. 

    CEUs and Third Party Events

    One way in which certifying organizations try to balance these needs is to offer preapproval to third party event producers/trainers. This provides a number of benefits depending on your point of view:

    • The certifying organization shows its relevance and that of its designation, as event producers include its name, designation name, and logo in their marketing materials.
    • Event producers have a ready way to demonstrate their commitment to the specific certifying organization and the broader community/industry as they market.
    • Individual certificants can attend events secure in the knowledge that they are educational in nature and of some level of quality.
    • Candidates can also attend those events and for largely the same reasons; in addition, some credentials require some amount of education to even sit for the exam, and these events can meet some or all of that need.

    Every once in a while a certifying body considers this question and determines that it will only accept its events - that makes it more money, or leads, and why should it go to the trouble of accepting, or even promoting, competitive events? This is a terrible idea for several reasons: 

    • Most non-technical certifications are designed to demonstrate industry-accepted knowledge and expertise, not that of a single organization or product. 
    • Individuals won't limit themselves to consuming a single product or service - rather, they will assume that the certification isn't a "real" one since it doesn't accept their otherwise educational activities. 
    • Certifying bodies are themselves part of a community. If AIIM only accepted AIIM events for CIP CEUs, it would only be logical for ARMA, the ICRM, etc. to only accept theirs or at least refuse AIIM events for credit. This results in everyone cutting off their own noses to spite their faces. 
    • Education should be evaluated based on its value and content, not whose name or logo is on the cover. 

    Frankly, CEUs provide a way for associations to work more closely together. We compete in many ways and on many things - but ultimately we're all in the business of providing value to the members of our communities, and I view all of our various communities as part of the same, larger, information management community. 

    No Renewal Requirement, No Certification

    It’s also important to understand that the value of a certification, and its prestige, are directly related to the perception of difficulty. As Global Knowledge noted in a recent story, “The 10 IT Certifications Employers Look For”, 

    What differentiates these certifications is not only their depth of content, but also their breadth. If they were easy to obtain, would they be so highly sought after and command a high salary?

    Organizations should not look at CEUs or renewal requirements as creating friction or raising unnecessary hurdles for their certificants. Rather, they are a way for certificants to demonstrate to themselves and their organizations their commitment to ongoing professional growth and development.

    If you offer a certification that does NOT require regular renewal, what you have is not a certification. It's a certificate. Certificates are valuable in and of their own right, but anyone interested in paying for a certification knows the difference. 

    Here's a great post that compares and contrasts certificates and certifications:

    September 21, 2021

    AIIM Announces AIIM+ Subscription Model

    Today AIIM announced a program called AIIM+ that converts membership into a monthly or yearly subscription program. The program will officially launch on October 5, 2021. It has two tiers: 

    • AIIM+ - basically replaces Professional membership. $16 per month or $160 per year if paid all at once
    • AIIM+ Pro - includes AIIM+ as well as unlimited access to on-demand training. $49 per month or $490 per year.  

    I like the subscription approach for both tiers because it changes membership and training from something you need to get approval / reimbursement for to something you can probably cover out of pocket. $49/month isn't trivial - but I bet it's less than your cell phone OR your cable bill. 

    They are also running a small introductory discount - if you buy by October 4, you can save $20 on an annual plan for AIIM+ or $40 for an annual plan for AIIM+ Pro. 

    The announcement doesn't address what will happen with existing AIIM training or, importantly to me, if / how it will address CIP. But maybe more information will be made available on October 5. 

    AIIM's blog post, with more details, is available at

    September 18, 2021

    I'm Back on the Speaking Circuit!

    I'm happy to let everyone know that I'm available to speak at chapter and industry events. It's been a while, for a lot of reasons. But getting to talk with people is truly one of my favorite things to do in the industry. 

    By way of background, I've been speaking on information management-related topics since around 2000. I've been privileged to speak at AIIM 2003 - 2021, ARMA 2003 - 2011, a number of MER conferences between 2010 and 2021, and more than 300 other events since 2003. I've also delivered a number of keynote sessions at conferences, user group meetings, and solution provider events. 


    Here are some topics that I'm very comfortable doing - I speak on them regularly, albeit with different nuances for different audiences. This is not an exhaustive list, just the things I've done more recently. If you don't see your topic or angle on the list, reach out to me anyway and we can discuss. 

    • Professional Development for the Information Professional
    • How to Build Your Own Professional Development Plan
    • The Best Certifications for Records Managers
    • Harnessing Your Information to Create Business Value
    • How Modern Records Management Practices are Essential to Your Business
    • How to Implement Social Media Governance
    • How to Improve Email Management Through Automation
    • It's 2 a.m.: Do You Know Where Your Information Is? 
    • How to Conduct a Business and Technical Assessment

    Some of these can be done as half- or full-day seminars or workshops, complete with checklists, guidelines, templates, etc. 


    I am quite comfortable doing in-person events, but you or your organization might not be. That's OK; I've been doing live remote events since 2004. For remote, I have access to Zoom, Slack, Teams, Webex, Google, etc. and if you have a different platform I'll figure it out. For in-person events, whatever venue you use, I can make work; I've spoken in bars, a bowling alley, and even Fenway Park and the Boston Zoo. 

    Fees and Scheduling

    Because I'm just now getting back in the groove, I'm not charging any speaking fees this year for association chapters for a typical 30-60 minute chapter meeting. I will charge a fee for half- or full-day events; that fee will depend on the topic, the audience, and whether it's in-person or not. For in-person events, even chapter meetings, I do need to recoup travel costs, but I'm a pretty cheap date. Solution providers and end user organizations? I'm available to speak at your events as well, but I do charge a fee and travel. 

    If you're interested, reach out to me at or to discuss. Right now I'm scheduling about 60 days out; if you're interested in a Spring Seminar-type meeting, the sooner we chat, the better as I think my schedule will fill up. 

    September 16, 2021

    Why I Don't Like Virtual Events

    In a post earlier this year, I noted that I am available to attend or participate in in-person events. In this post I'll share my thoughts on virtual events and why it's really going to take a special virtual event to get my attention. 

    The Move to Virtual

    As I noted in that post, until recently my last in-person event was the AIIM20 conference in Dallas, TX. That was one of the last in-person industry events before COVID shut us all down. But even in a pandemic, there's still a need for education, and for developing or honing skills, and to satisfy that need for basic human interaction. I'm an introvert, so my day-to-day didn't really change that much, but I know extroverts in particular were heavily impacted by the loss of face-to-face interaction. 

    So we all went virtual. Our kids attended virtual school, many of us worked from home and interacted with our colleagues virtually, and events all went virtual. Virtual satisfied the need for interaction and to get things done - most of the time, some of the way. Local association chapters found that by making their events virtual and open to all, they were significantly increasing their attendance. Some associations found that reduced-price tickets and the convenience of virtual attendance resulted in decent revenue, especially compared to the alternative of canceling events altogether. 

    The Event Planner's Perspective

    Virtual events still require similar amounts of planning as their in-person counterparts. While the logistics required are different, they are no less important to ensure an optimal user experience. Presentations have to be planned, practiced, and, often, recorded and uploaded. The platform has to be tested for capabilities and under load. Vendors have to be set up in the expo floor or its equivalent. Etc. 

    It's also very difficult to justify charging in-person pricing for a virtual event - and this applies to attendees and sponsors alike. I'll look at this from each of those perspectives shortly. 

    The Vendors' Perspective

    Depending on the conference, it's not uncommon for vendors to spend tens to hundreds of thousands or more to gain notice and attention from the attendees. This includes, but is not limited to: 

    • Booths - the cost of the booth, the cost of the amenities and tchotchkes, and definitely the cost of staff to work the booth. 
    • Onsite events like team dinners, client dinners, happy hours
    • Sponsorship opportunities - the lanyards, the bags, printed brochures and data sheets, lunch and refreshment breaks, and the list goes on, only limited by the creativity of the event planners. 

    The idea is that you're planting your logo and tagline in attendees' heads, and, ideally, having conversations that can lead ultimately to sales. 

    In a virtual setting, this looks a little different - there is a booth, but there aren't really tchotchkes or amenities, and staff costs are definitely cheaper, if only due to travel costs. No onsite events to pay for. And the sponsorships are much more limited (though again not nothing). 

    So how does this translate to mindshare and conversations? The plural of anecdotes is not data, but I have heard anecdotally from a number of vendors that they really don't get the same types of value as they do from in-person. Some of this is on them, but I think some of it is that you don't have that dynamic of someone walking by, they see something interesting (which could be your trade swag), and they stop to have a conversation. Attendees have to make the positive decision to click a vendor's virtual booth and engage the team. 

    The Attendees' Perspective

    Different attendees have different needs and expectations from an event. Setting aside potential sightseeing and junket reasoning, we can sort attendees into a couple of non-exclusive groupings: 

    • People new to an organization, role, or profession who need basic education and orientation
    • More experienced people looking for specific learning content 
    • More experienced people looking to solve a specific business problem and looking to identify solutions that can do so
    • People with stories to share. This isn't necessarily limited to speakers, but speakers definitely fall into this group. 
    • Long-time community members who go because they always do and are expected to. 
    • Networking with like-minded people - renewing old acquaintances and making new ones

    The first four groups may be able to get what they need from a well-planned virtual event. Virtual events can be pretty good at providing different levels of content focusing on different angles and issues. Motivated attendees can probably get some solution-focused information and demos, scripted as well as more flexible. 

    But the events, and the platforms, vary wildly in their capabilities and how well they leverage them for the last two groups. I attended a virtual conference earlier this year where there were after-hours events scheduled, via Zoom, but the setup was such that there was almost no interactivity available between the attendees. The conference app didn't really provide any capabilities to interact either. 

    Some events have tried to leverage some mix of pre-recorded and live sessions. For the pre-recorded sessions, some events have asked the speaker(s) to engage with attendees and their questions and comments in a chat stream. And sometimes that happens! But that's a lot of "some" and "sometimes". 

    The conference aspect that I'm most looking for, and missing in a virtual environment, is the serendipitous meeting. That is, I can run into someone between sessions, or at a scheduled networking event, or at the hotel bar, etc. I can see someone across the room and wave them over to introduce them to someone I think they should know. While in-person events have schedules, there's no schedule or specific end time in the hotel lobby or while wandering around town looking for dinner. 

    But in a virtual environment, networking sessions have schedules and they end at the scheduled end time. And I haven't really seen a platform yet that made it easy for attendees to continue conversations in that unstructured sort of way. I know some events have started to look at 3D / virtual reality-type platforms, but I don't think that addresses that idea of serendipity and the types of tangential directions those conversations can take. I attended the InfoGovWorld Conference and Expo in September 2021 and it was probably the best application of virtual reality I've seen in a conference setting, but it still didn't really address chance meetings and the creative synergy they can spark. Avatars are also terrible at reproducing human interaction - facial expressions, body language, etc. just aren't really available. 

    Aside: Why is movement still so jerky and painful in 3D conference platforms? I play World of Warcraft way more than I probably need to, and movement is fluid and realistic and has been for more than a decade. I think Blizzard Entertainment might be missing a trick - set up a VR conferencing solution with a business-oriented Barber Chair and transmogrification gear and charge $50/attendee. Give me a way to present as well using built-in audiovisual tools, and I'd pay twice that per attendee. 


    The first conference to figure out the serendipitous networking thing will make a mint. If you know of one that's doing it right, let me know - even if it's not in this industry - so I can check the platform out. But until I find that elusive unicorn, I'll continue to take my convalescent, vaccinated, precautions-taken chances at live events.

    September 10, 2021

    When Cheating Exam Cheaters Cheat

    Recently, Amazon recommended to me a product called "CERTIFIED INFORMATION PROFESSIONAL (AIIM IQ0-100) Exam Practice Questions and Dumps: Exam Study Guide for CIP AIIM (IQ-100) [sic] Exam Prep LATEST VERSION". 

    IQ0-100 was the code Prometric used for the original CIP exam, which ran from September 2011 to April 2016. I didn't buy the book, but I know what it contains, because this isn't the first one I've seen. 

    If you're not familiar with the term, "brain dumps" in this context refer to actual exam questions from actual certification exams that are made available to candidates for a fee. Security is a big deal for certifications, but there are ways to get these exam questions, including unscrupulous test center employees and candidates who take the test over and over again, memorizing different questions each time. 

    The idea behind brain dumps is terrible, because candidates who shouldn't pass the exam because they don't have the requisite knowledge and experience end up eking out a passing score. This leads over time to the discrediting of a certification because nobody knows if you earned it - or bought it by memorizing compromised exam questions. 

    At the same time, many of them are absolutely laughable. In many instances, it's a simple "cheat sheet" - e.g. 1. A 2. B 3. A 4. C and so forth. Almost all certifications today use question and item randomization. That is, the actual questions are randomized, so if 3 candidates started their tests at the exact same time, one might get a question from Domain 1, one from Domain 3, and one from Domain 6. And the individual question distractors and responses are randomized too - so that for a question on, e.g., determining the appropriate retention period, for Candidate 1 the correct answer is A, while for Candidate 2 it's C and for Candidate 3 it's D. 

    They also tend to be outdated. As noted above, IQ0-100 refers to the first version of the CIP exam. AIIM is currently on the third version, updated in June 2019. Many of the topics on the first exam have been removed, and while there are some topics that have been consistent across exams, all of the questions are rewritten pretty much from scratch each time to reflect nuances in their focus. So, if you purchase this or another brain dump that refers to IQ0-100, you're getting badly outdated questions for a badly outdated exam. And if you rely on that to pass the current CIP exam, you may perform even WORSE than if you didn't get the brain dump at all. 

    I've even seen a few where someone wrote their own questions, which only tangentially relate to the exam at all, and sell them somewhat successfully. 

    And these aren't cheap - I've seen them for over $150. These higher end products often include an exam delivery engine - aka random software from a sketchy site. I'm not saying they are all malware - wait, yeah, I pretty much am. If you install it, you deserve what you get. 

    So how can you tell if you're about to attempt to cheat the process? Here are some easy ways to tell.

    First, if you're looking for these at all, you're doing it wrong, and I hope you fail the exam, whether it's CIP or any other certification. I may even laugh at you and call you out publicly. 

    Next, the website will be PLASTERED with guarantees about how you'll pass. Money-back guarantee! Good luck getting your money back - and not having your identity stolen. 

    The exam will rarely be referred to by its actual name; instead, it will be referred to as IQ0-100 (CIP), or 350-601 (Cisco CCNP), or MS-101 (Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security), etc. For example: 

    Our PDF of MS-101 exam is designed to ensure everything which you need to pass your exam successfully. The MS-101 Questions & Answers covers all the knowledge points of the real exam. We update our product frequently so our customer can always have the latest version of the brain dumps. 

    The descriptions will also often be extremely generic with little to no detail about the domains, the topics covered, etc. 

    Finally, if you look at the various exams covered on a particular site, you'll see identical verbiage for each exam, e.g.: 

    • Our IQ0-100 Exam Dumps PDF contains Complete Pool of Questions and verified Answers including references and explanations (where applicable). Our objective to assemble IQ0-100 Dumps is not only help you pass exam at first attempt but really Improve Your Knowledge about the latest IQ0-100 Course
    • Our MS-203 Exam Dumps PDF contains Complete Pool of Questions and verified Answers including references and explanations (where applicable). Our objective to assemble MS-203 Dumps is not only help you pass exam at first attempt but really Improve Your Knowledge about the latest MS-203 Course
    • Our PMP Exam Dumps PDF contains Complete Pool of Questions and verified Answers including references and explanations (where applicable). Our objective to assemble PMP Dumps is not only help you pass exam at first attempt but really Improve Your Knowledge about the latest PMP Course.

    You can find literally thousands of these sites, mostly automatically generated, using a search for the exam code, e.g.

    So. Do yourself, and your industry, a favor. Don't try to take the easy way out - and probably get burned in the process. There are legitimate prep courses and workbooks available. Put in the work, put in the time, learn all the things, and you'll crush the exam and be prepared for whatever doors the certification opens for you. 

    September 8, 2021

    My Take on ILTACon 2021

    I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to attend my first ILTACon conference. I attended the in-person event, which was held in the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV. Attendees were required to show proof of vaccinations in order to receive badges and masks were mandatory (but more on that shortly). 

    The conference content

    I attended a number of sessions - some in-person to support the speakers, some streaming from my room while I worked on other things. Overall I thought the sessions I attended were pretty good. They were as a rule very lightly attended - the biggest one I sat in on was 29 people in a room that could have held at least a couple of hundred. 

    The expo floor was almost completely empty every time I went in except at lunch, and even then the attendees seemed to be more focused on refueling than in speaking with the vendors. (Aside: the food was really good; I like the repeated takes on "shakers" full of salad and dressing.)

    The size of the conference, even if everyone had attended in person, didn't really match the size of the venue, so it felt a bit like the last couple of peas rolling around in an empty can. There were more than 2,100 registered, but only about 650 attended onsite, and at least two large vendors, Litera and iManage, didn't send their teams to the conference either. ILTA has some wrap-up stats at

    I found some of the discussions with attendees fascinating - some of the issues they described are things that I think many organizations have already solved or at least addressed. I felt a definite maturity gap between this audience and the ones I'm more familiar with through AIIM and even ARMA. After talking to a couple of colleagues there, I think this gap was even more pronounced between law firms, who still seem to be very paper- and dictation-focused, and corporate law departments who seemed to me to be further along in their digital transformation efforts. 

    I mentioned masks earlier. As I noted, masks were required unless an attendee was eating or drinking. I'd guess at least half the attendees made a point of carrying something to eat or drink pretty much constantly so they could dispatch with the masks to some extent. This was also the case at the networking events at the end of several of the days - everyone had a plate of food and a drink, and masks were the exception. 

    And who brought the dog?! I didn't see a service vest on it; while I love dogs in general, this one looked absolutely miserable every time I saw it including at several of the networking events. 

    The conference venue

    As noted above, the conference was held at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino in Las Vegas. The first couple of days we shared the hotel with some kind of music festival. Despite signs posted all over the hotel, many of those attendees went mask-free or poorly masked - lots of chin masks on display. In fairness this was also true of the random people walking around the hotel - again, lots of coffees and bottles of water on display to justify the lack of mask. 

    Lots of restaurants, multiple Starbucks on site, a nice shopping area in the mezzanine between the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor, so it was a nice getaway. Crazy silly ridiculously expensive though - my large black coffee was $5, and the little Starbucks breakfast sandwiches went for $6.95 each. Dunno if this is how Las Vegas is now, but it was a little eye-opening. 


    I think ILTACON was a well-designed event for its attendees, who seemed to be much more focused on improving existing law firm processes and operations than on things like e-discovery or information governance. I think they did a fair job with producing a hybrid event and ensuring the safety of attendees. I don't know how the solution providers felt about the value provided but it didn't seem like very much to me. As for me, I may be willing to give ILTA 2022 in Washington DC another shot, depending on my employer by then, but at this one I felt pretty out of place and disconnected between what I do and what the conference seemed to focus on. 

    September 7, 2021

    MER Announces Call for Speakers for MER 2022

     MER has announced its call for speakers for the 2022 MER Conference, scheduled for May 10-12 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Proposals need to be submitted by October 15, 2021. For more details or to submit, visit

    August 31, 2021

    Developing Training: In-House vs. Outsourced

    So you want to develop some training, but you're not sure whether to use in-house resources or farm it out to someone else. This post will help you think through the pros & cons of both approaches, while examining some different ways to blend the models. I assume that you are looking for high production value content that will be reused for some extended period of time, not a one-off or something designed to be consumed casually. 

    In-house Training Development

    Whether you're doing it in-house or hiring someone to build it, there are a lot of moving parts to developing effective training. For content of any length and complexity: 

    • Someone has to provide subject matter expertise (SME) on the topic at hand
    • Someone has to get that expertise out of the SME in the form of content that actual humans can understand
    • Someone has to develop the materials to be delivered, which could be any or all of visual resources like PowerPoint or Articulate Rise; workbooks; handouts; activities and exercises; hands-on labs; any social learning platforms or resources; and assessment activities or questions
    • If using audio or video, someone has to script, frame, record, edit, and publish those resources
    • Someone has to source or create graphics, charts, infographics, etc. 
    • Someone has to copy edit all of this stuff
    • If using online training, someone has to put that content into the online platform, learning management system, etc.
    • Someone has to do quality control on all of this stuff, during the development process and certainly before it is delivered the first time

    That's a lot of someones - and most of those roles bring pretty specialized expertise to the table. But what if you're a lone wolf, jack-of-all-trades training developer and don't have access to those roles? 

    In a previous post I talked about how long it takes to develop training - research from one source suggested 1-3 hours per minute of finished content. Even a 20-minute workshop will require 20-60 hours from start to finish. If you're looking at a 3-hour workshop, you can safely estimate 180-540 hours of effort will be required to build it. That's 1-4 months of full time engagement for a single person - and both examples assume that that person also has the SME to do it. 

    Outsourcing Training Development to Professionals

    So what about outsourcing your course development project to a contractor, consultant, or training development company? You're buying their expertise in adult learning theory, instructional design, training development, digital asset production, access to SMEs, and even their project management expertise. You're also buying access to more resources - that is, they should be able to do multiple workstreams of courses or modules in parallel. 

    Outsourcing isn't cheap, either - a recent article by eLearning developers Racoon Gang suggests that a single hour of eLearning with reasonable interactivity and engagement - i.e. not PowerPoint + audio - costs somewhere between $8,000 and $36,000. This would not include your project management and quality control costs, nor any required train-the-trainer or other turnovers, and if you were uploading to a content or learning management platform, that would likely be extra as well (or you'd have to do it yourself). 

    Outsourcing Training Development to Volunteers

    Sometimes organizations will try to leverage their lone wolf internal developer as a project manager for a volunteer-driven project that uses volunteer SMEs and/or content developers. The volunteers could be internal, for an internally-focused training project; many associations look to leverage their volunteers in one or both capacities. 

    But this approach may be the worst of both worlds. Consider the following: 

    • Volunteers have day jobs, and lives, and your project may not be their priority. This can massively impact schedules and delivery dates. 
    • Volunteers aren't always good at following style guides or formatting and editorial requirements.
    • Volunteers may have deep expertise - but be unable to translate that into something others can understand.
    • Volunteers may not understand issues around intellectual property (yours or others'), citations, or fair use and may inadvertently introduce legal liabilities.
    • If external volunteers are solution providers or consultants, they may have a tendency to use their own solution- or methodology-specific terminology, names, or product names
    • If you're farming out work on related content to multiple volunteers, the content they jointly create may suffer from gaps, overlaps, inconsistencies, or even outright contradictions. 
    So What's the Answer?
    If the question is, which approach is best, you know that the answer has to be, "It depends". If you're looking to develop something good, quickly, you should look for a full-service training development company or consultancy. If you're resource-constrained, you can do it all internally, but it's gonna take a long time - longer than you think because you won't, ever, be working on things with 100% of your availability. I generally don't recommend using volunteers at all for the reasons above - volunteer industry SMEs are critical to the development of things like standards and certifications, but I have rarely had success with them for significant training projects. 

    As a lone-wolf or very small training development organization, you might want to focus your efforts on finding SMEs and getting information out of them, and converting that into draft content, but use outside specialized resources for things like digital asset creation, voiceover, video production, etc. 

    August 30, 2021

    How Long Does it Take to Develop Training?

    One of the most frequently asked questions about training is, "How long does it take to develop training?" Its close cousin is "How much does it cost to develop training?" Of course the answers to both are some variation of "It depends". In this post I'm going to look at some of the variables that go into answering this question. The key thing to keep in mind is that developing training is much more than throwing some bullets into slides and recording them - that is, if you want it to be engaging, meaningful, and valued. There are some nuances around in-house vs. outsourced development, but I'll look at that in more detail in another post. 

    The Data

    The Association for Talent Development has conducted periodic research on this question - you can see their 2020 results at They looked at instructor-led vs. e-learning vs. microlearning and different levels of complexity for each. Unsurprisingly today, learning assets are shorter than the hour Chapman uses; setting aside microlearning, the average length of a module was 17-26 minutes and the average time to develop a module was 48-155 hours. At the midrange of each of those ranges, a 21.5 minute module would take 107 hours. Extrapolating that out to a 10-hour comprehensive certificate program to run over 2-3 days, you could reasonably expect it to take nearly 3,000 hours, or 18 months for a single full-time resource. Because of the different skillsets involved, your development schedule wouldn't need to start on September 1, 2021 and go to March 1, 2023 - subject matter experts could be drafting one module, while instructional designers and voiceover talent work on others, and the LMS expert on still others. 

    Articulate is a well-known provider of tools for creating training content. Someone asked this question in their forums around 2013 and the general consensus was a minimum of 1 hour per minute of finished training content; courses with significant interactivity were 3-6+ hours per minute of finished content. So again, if you're looking at a 10-hour or 600 minute course, 600 hours is a fair minimum for instructor-led and basic e-learning and it will likely be more like double that - or more - if it's any more sophisticated than PowerPoint and audio. 

    The Chapman Alliance has done extensive research on this topic, which you can find at While the figures are quite dated now, they did provide additional insight by breaking the development time into more granular tasks. For instructor-led classroom training, they suggest the following as percentages of development time spent on the various tasks required. 

    • Front-end analysis: 12%
    • Instructional design: 16%
    • Lesson plan development: 12%
    • Creation of handouts: 8%
    • Student guide/workbook development: 11%
    • PowerPoint or other visual development: 16%
    • Test and exam creation: 8%
    • Project management during development: 7%
    • SME/stakeholder reviews: 8%
    • Other: 2%
    For e-Learning, the tasks are similar, but there are some differences: 

    • Front-end analysis: 9%
    • Instructional design: 13%
    • Storyboarding: 11%
    • Graphic production: 12%
    • Video production: 6%
    • Audio production: 6%
    • Authoring/programming: 18%
    • QA testing: 6%
    • Project management: 6%
    • SME/stakeholder reviews: 6%
    • Pilot/Test: 4%
    • Other: 1%
    In a blended model, some costs could be saved/shared through reuse, most likely in the areas of front-end analysis and instructional design. 

    This does not mean that you have to develop a 10-hour course all at once, of course. It's very useful to get content out the door as it's available so you can "kick the tires", make sure it meets the audience's needs, assess the quality of everything from the marketing to the content to the learning management system experience, and so forth. But someone needs to keep an eye on the bigger, course-focused picture to ensure that the various pieces can come together in a logical flow that meets the overall course learning objectives. 

    Note that neither set of tasks includes loading anything into an LMS, nor developing any sort of awareness campaigns or other marketing activities, both of which are complex and intensive streams of work. I'll look at how to market training effectively in another post. 

    But Webinars! 

    By now many non-training-developers will be scoffing at these figures, arguing that, "Well, it doesn't take that long to do a webinar - let's just repurpose those!" Depending on the nature of the content, maybe - webinars can be educational, of course. But they are often not designed as learning activities, with learning outcomes and a content flow that supports them. Furthermore, many sponsored webinars are little more than thinly-disguised sales pitches, and any learning that takes place is completely accidental. This is obviously not true for all vendors, or all sponsored webinars. But it is true for a significant number of them, despite associations' and organizations' best efforts to rein them in. And the same applies for e-books, infographics, etc. - some are good and educational, some are pure pitches. If you take one of those truly insightful webinars or e-books, you'll find the same level of development effort as outlined above. 

    The Bottom Line that good, effective training is not an afternoon or a week's work. The project management iron triangle applies here as it does elsewhere: "Fast, cheap, good - you get to pick two." Well-executed training can change the way organizations work, but it takes time, expertise, and experience to build something that is truly transformational. 

    ARMA Announces InfoCon 2021 to Go Virtual

    The annual ARMA InfoCon 2021 conference, scheduled for Oct 17-20, 2021 in Houston, TX, will be held virtually again this year. The full statement is available at

    For more details or to register:

    AIIM Opens Call for Board of Directors Nominations

     Via email: 

    We are currently accepting nominations for candidates to serve on the AIIM Board of Directors for a three-year term beginning January 1, 2022. The first Board meeting for selected candidates will be in a non-voting “guest” capacity on December 9 (virtual and optional for incoming directors).

    Candidate qualifications include:

    • knowledge of key industry trends
    • experience in strategic planning, implementation and budgeting
    • demonstrated commitment to AIIM and the industry
    • willingness to attend four Board meetings per year (most will likely be virtual) with one allowed absence
    • AIIM Professional Member in good standing

    Nominations may be submitted by the nominee or his/her supporter. The nomination package includes the following items:

    • nominee’s current resume
    • brief statement from the nominee regarding the role and value he/she believes AIIM should play/provide over the next 2-3 years
    • one-page statement regarding the nominee’s contribution to that process as a member of the Board of Directors
    • two letters of support from individuals that can attest to the strategic acumen and professional integrity of the nominee

    Completed nominations and letters of support can be sent to Boshia Smith, Community/Membership Administrator; questions may also be directed to her at The deadline for nominations is Monday, September 27, 2021.

    August 9, 2021

    What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been...And What Comes Next

    In the fall of 2010, in the heady days of Enterprise 2.0, Atle Skjekkeland of AIIM reached out to me, asking if I knew anyone that fit a new position he was creating. I knew about AIIM, of course - I'd been a member since 2001 when I worked at a small ECM company called IMR and AIIM was the association in our space. I'd also previously served as the President of the defunct AIIM Rocky Mountain chapter, worked on AIIM Standards, and attended and spoken at the annual AIIM conference. I even delivered AIIM's first U.S. public training course, in January 2006, when I was with IMERGE Consulting. 

    The position was for a "Director, Systems of Engagement Strategies". The job description he sent me looked like he'd copied it directly from my LinkedIn profile. I suggested to him that I *did* know someone - me. After some discussion, he agreed, and in November 2010 I joined AIIM in that capacity. 

    In the nearly 11 years since, I've held 4 additional job titles, all of them focused more or less on training and certification. I helped Atle build the original Certified Information Professional (CIP) certification, which we launched on September 23, 2011. I led the updates of CIP in 2016 and 2019, including updating the exams and developing the CIP Study Guides and the CIP Prep / Foundations of Intelligent Information Management courses. In between, I wrote or updated a number of other AIIM courses, and had the privilege of teaching and sharing with students all over the world. 

    Over the last decade I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with some seriously smart people doing important industry things. I'm intensely proud of the nearly 2,000 information professionals that have attained the CIP, and I believe that CIP is the single most important contribution I've made to the far. 

    August 31 marks the end of that chapter of my career. This is by far the longest I've ever spent at a single employer in my professional career, but now it's time to move on. I remain an AIIM member - this year marks 20 years - and I'm AIIM Fellow #223 in perpetuity. 

    So what comes next? I have a lot of thoughts. And I'm grateful to everyone for their kind words, and in a number of cases, offers to work together. I'm going to take a couple of weeks to clear my head and really think about what I want out of this next chapter. I know I want to continue to help people in the information management industry. I know I want to continue to help organizations manage their information better because it will make them more successful. I know I want to continue to tell stories and share my thoughts on how we can do what we do better. And I think it's important to do the right things, in the right way, to further that journey. 

    I don't yet know whether that means staying in the association space, or going back to consulting, or working for a vendor, or something else. But I do know that I'm excited about the possibilities and that I'm confident I can find an organization that I can help by doing those things. I look forward to this next chapter and can't wait to get started. 

    If you need to reach me, you can do so via my permanent email at, or on Twitter at @jessewilkins