Laurence Hart, a specialist in Content and Information Management, has spent the last two decades implementing and deploying information solutions in organizations such as AIIM, where he was CIO. The author of Word of Pie, he contributes to multiple publications and speaks regularly on how technology can address the challenges people face.

You’ve worked in a variety of roles in information management. How has information management changed during the past decade?

In many ways, we are beginning to return to the basics. When I started in the industry, everything was a desktop application. While distributing the application to every desktop was challenging, it made the adoption and use of the systems easy. Everything was integrated together. (I still miss the ODMA standard.) As a result, we spent more time working on how to solve business problems than on getting people to use the technologies.

Then everything moved to the web server and using the systems became extra work, not just a variation of hitting “save.” Adoption plummeted. The life of IT became easier—without people using the system, it didn’t matter.

Now we are seeing desktop applications make a comeback, thanks in part to the mobile app. Vendors are realizing that small applications can provide the smooth experience that leads to higher adoption rates. If we take this re-invented approach and couple it with the web tools we have developed over the past decade, we will start to see the delivery of the promise of information management.

 What advice can you give companies about information governance?

The biggest piece of advice is to make sure that you don’t get in the way of the work being done. People are trying to do their jobs and they don’t need anything that is going to make that job harder, even if the extra work is a perceived burden and not real. Remember, information that is not captured cannot be governed.

I focus on how we can combine different technologies to both help people do their jobs and master the compliance needs of the organization, using technologies that anyone can deploy.

In a world where virtual meetings have replaced in-person exchanges, what value do you see in old-school venues such as industry conferences? Given the time constraints IT professionals face, what makes them worth the expense and effort?

Attending conferences is about investing in yourself and your people. Any successful consultant will tell you that while billable work is important, if you don’t take time to work on business development, you will run out of billable work.

Conference attendance works the same way. Things are changing all the time. If you do not take the time to learn how the industry is changing, you will fall behind. While many argue that you can get that from reading blogs, Twitter, and articles, you really need a conference. It is the open dialogs that help you understand what is changing, and what it means for you. Conferences provide the context that you can use to apply the information to what you do every day.

My advice is to pick the conferences you attend by the registration roster. Find the conferences that thought leaders are attending. For every leader you see speaking, several more will be in the audience. Ask them questions on applying what they said to your situation. If you pay attention, you can typically find at least one nugget that you can directly apply to your job. Once you do that, make sure you give credit to the conference. That makes attendance self-perpetuating.

Lastly, propose a topic. Every story is unique. The more stories are shared, good and bad, the better a conference becomes for everyone. Speaking is also a gateway to more conversations and value.

Get out there.

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