Thinking Strategically About Chapters…

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We’ve had a number of Board and internal conversations about engagement and how we build a model of engagement that is appropriate for the web/Internet/Facebook/LinkedIn era. I should add at this point that LOTS of other associations are having similar conversations right now.

After a lot of round and round, and likely getting way too tactical too soon, I decided to try and write down a draft set of strategic principles for the future. My thought is that this might serve as the basis for lots of conversations — both here, in person, and with staff, as well as with the President’s Advisory Council — that could lead us to a discussion at the AIIM Board meetings in September and December.

So here goes. A set of draft principles — consider it Draft 1.0 of “Strategic Principles for AIIM Engagement — 2016.” Would love your thoughts and ideas.

Draft Strategic Principles for AIIM Engagement — 2016
-It should be simple, enjoyable and rewarding to be a chapter leader, with the emphasis on leadership and engagement rather than administration.
-“Chapters” are a way for our community to organize to meet and discuss their particular business problems online and in person. Although “chapters” are currently defined solely in terms of local geography, local geography is not the only way for AIIM community members to organize.
-Chapters should be extremely easy to create, join, leave, and close as needs change.
-Chapters should be as open and as friction-free as possible – i.e., professional membership in AIIM should not be required to engage in a chapter activity.
-Chapter growth should be a top priority of AIIM HQ.
-It doesn’t matter what size chapters start at, as long as they continue to grow over time.
-Chapters should be fun, engaging and collaborative to attract a younger audience.
-The structure of chapters should be flat and flexible, but also standard.
-We need to move beyond our current rigid structures driven by legalistic bylaws and their associated title-based structures (treasurer, secretary, president, vice president).
-At the same time, in order to have a structure that is predictable, supportable, and scalable, there needs to be a consistent organizational and operational framework for chapters.
-All new initiatives should be in this structure.
-All existing chapters should fold into this structure at an agreed-upon point in the future.


John – I agree with your thought process regarding chapters. AIIM (the organization itself, as well as the community of members) has a wealth of knowledge to share. The traditional chapter format is not as effective as it could be.

Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance De Pere, WI

Thanks for the comment, Ken. My prism in thinking about this is “What would it take to get my son (works for Google) and daughter-in-law (info mgmt in pharma) to go to an assoc chapter meeting of any sort (not just ours) given everything they have going on?”


As an SAA member I have seen an increase not only in the number of sections and roundtables, as they call them, but also in the activity on the listservs that these groups run. I have found a real community of practice and sharing of information on topics of immediate need or long term interest in a way that I have not seen even on AIIM’s Open Forum. I find myself turning to some of the more active listserv over and over.
As I understand it some, if not all, of these groups are open to non-SAA members as listserv participants as well as to members. This might be a model for AIIM to consider. One still needs to be a member to access the SAA directory, to get member only information and to get discounts on educational events and purchases, etc. One difference between SAA and AIIM is that most of the listserv members are end users not vendors, which may account for the greater openness about what works/does not work.
That said I would not knock the value of a local chapter meeting where you interact with real people and bump into a variety of individuals: end users, vendors, different industries, different job titles, different corporate cultures, etc. It’s still a good experience and good exposure, as we all know from workshops, annual conferences, etc.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn

Thanks for these points, Joseph, and the reference to SAA. I’ll nose around and take a look at their structure and terminology.
Also thanks for the reinforcement of in person activities. Believe me, a total believer in that as an important complement to what sometimes seems like an impersonal on-line world. What I think we (and other associations) need to figure out is how to get the two working in sync with each other in a very flexible way. More to come.
Thanks again.


Chapters should be fun, engaging and collaborative to attract a younger audience.
This is ageist. A less offensive statement would be that chapters should appeal to those in all age groups, including younger members.

Thanks, David. Good point and good catch. Even though I’m in a “senior” category myself, sometimes I forget that language matters. You’re correct.


This is a little different slant on engagement — more reflective of my OWN association work as a member of the American Society of Association Executives — but for those interested in this overall topic of “engagement” and what it means moving forward with more of a slant toward on-line, I thought some might find it of interest —
A Manifesto/Rant — Why are Association On-line Communities so Unsatisfying?


I like almost all of these guiding principles; except #4 where I categorically disagree with the latter portion of the statement. I believe you need to be a member, or, at the least, accompanied by a member, to attend chapter events.
One of the partly strategic, partly tactical ideas I would throw out there to increase participation in both local chapter events, as well as other chapters (to promote cross-seeding of ideas, experiences, and capabilities beyond the geo-model), would be for each and every chapter to try to ensure remote access/participation in meeting and events. In other words, ensuring the chapters have capabilities such as telepresence so that a busy individual (as in the example you gave in your follow on comment about your son and daughter in law) is able to participate, in a quasi in-person way, without being mandated to have to go to chapter meeting/event location.

Thanks, Lorne. Yes, I see where you’re coming from. This is one of the issues we need to debate and discuss. It’s at the heart of a lot of association discussions right now in professions/industries other than ours. Really good point.


John, I don’t see any of your points with which to necessarily disagree. However, I do believe we should explore the implications of that the fact you felt the need to put the word “chapters” in quotation marks.
Perhaps that term may be outdated and a new one, like “community groups” or “communities of interest/practice” might be more appropriate. My preference is communities of practice (CoPs) because, for busy people, interest alone may not be worth the time and trouble.
Also, I’m not sure that continuous growth should be an expectation for all groups formed under the auspices of AIIM. As implied in your third point, some groups may be project-oriented and either disband or become generally inactive when the desired result is achieved or as technology changes. (Creative destruction is not only good but essential for survival of organizations in competitive markets.)
Finally (for now), I’m not sure we should worry too much about the structure of the groups themselves. Instead, what seems to me to be important is the *infrastructure* AIIM can provide to support not only the objectives of each group but also each of AIIM’s members individually.
If the support services AIIM provides enables its members and groups to achieve their own objectives, the results will speak for themselves and growth will occur naturally, by word-of-mouth.
It will come as no surprise that I believe AIIM could benefit by building support for AIIM’s StratML standard into its information services infrastructure, thereby enabling its members and prospective members to document their own objectives and easily (dynamically) form CoPs around objectives they hold in common with others.
In any event, AIIM should strive to become a leading practices organization. Perhaps a good next step might be to brainstorm the standards and best practices that AIIM’s processes and systems should implement and support.

AIIM StratML Committee

Thanks for these points, Owen. Appreciate them.
I spoke a little about the word “chapters” on the call with our traditional geo chapters yesterday because Jack Frost from NCC raised the same issue as you. We should give this some thought. On the one hand we used the word chapters because we didn’t want to seem like we were trying to disenfranchise anyone, which we’re not. On the other hand, using “chapters” seems to carry a lot of past assumptions and past structural assumptions with it. This needs some more thought, and I appreciate you raising it.


John, if any AIIM group wants to call itself a “chapter,” more power to them. It certainly should be made clear that geographic proximity is a valid cause for creating an AIIM “community” — particularly if the geography implies a special set of information management standards and practices (e.g., the DC area, Silicon Valley, etc.)
Indeed, even if the purpose is primarily social — to rub shoulders with those who have a general interest in AIIM’s values and objectives — that’s great.
Such bureaucratic matters should NOT be the focus of AIIM’s strategy. Helping ALL of AIIM’s members and prospective members accomplish THEIR objectives should be the driving focus.
If AIIM’s infrastructure and processes don’t do that relatively efficiently and effectively, what its groups are called will be of little consequence.
BTW, no one should be excluded from any group simply because of geography. Even for geographically based groups, AIIM’s infrastructure should readily accommodate remote and asynchronous (time-shifted) participation (unless the objective is strictly tied to physical space and time). To do otherwise is to needlessly constrain AIIM’s potential … and make the organization look archaic — especially to young people.

AIIM StratML Committee

#3 resonates with me right now. I’v been trying to figure out how to join the FL Chapter since I’ve moved here 4 months ago without success. I’ve tried to do it online and I’ve sent emails without results. I’ve been frustrated to the point that I’ve given up. I also like your ideas for thinking about changing the focus and attitudes of the Chapters. They should be more like a CoP and less like a club, though I do believe that their should be some membership requirement involved.
Largo FL artschlussel@… –

Thanks for the thoughts Art — and my apologies for the FL chapter issue. The problem more likely lies here than there, so let me take care of it.


Dear, Let me speak my mind about these topics. All of my bullets are going to be about my context, what has worked for me and what has not worked. Forgive me if this takes you a lot to read or if you find some words with errors. I’m not a native speaker, and I have not practiced english a lot lately.
I’m going to start with introducing myself and what I do. I’m a co-founder at Soultech. I started with a friend this as a garage company and we have grow from 2 consultants (my friend and I), to 65 in 6 years. What we do is mostly consulting on BPM, Content Management, digitization and programming. I only tell you this so I can make a point with what I will express. All the time there are 65 persons in the company looking for these kind of knowledge.
In yesterday leadership’s call, you expressed that younger meant for you people between 30 and 40 years old. The average age on the company is around 27 years and my age and my partner age is 30 and 32 respectively.
My question to you is, Why are you so eager to aim to a younger age in particular? Is it because you want to grow the organization and this is a target group that can have the most growth?

I strongly believe with David Walter about not being ageist. I believe the objective shouldn’t be to have a particular set of people with a particular age, I believe should be to become THE REFERENCE SITE to learn whatever can be learned about the topics of AIIM.

About the term “chapter” and not “chapter” I believe you shouldn’t have to worry and put a lot of thought on what the nobility term is going to be. If you want to do some changes on the mechanics just do it, don’t change the name. The name is the least important thing, and you will never know what are going to be the best changes.

When I read something like “The traditional chapter format is not as effective as it could be”. I don’t know what that means, just change what you want to change, take a chapter as a pilot and after it works introduce the change to all the international chapters.

I strongly believe with “Chapters should be as open and as friction-free as possible – i.e., professional membership in AIIM should not be required to engage in a chapter activity.”. The objective for AIIM should be to evangelize as much as you can about the organization, and the only way you can do that is to share with as many people as possible all the knowledge. People that attend chapters are already people that has a very special need and interest to give some of their free time to continue to learn instead of being with their family. Those are the people that most interests you to have on your side, it doesn’t matter if they are professionals members or not, if they like what they see, I bet you they will start telling all of their co-workers, and clients, and communities they are engaged about AIIM. From a business point of view it doesn’t matter if they aren’t professional members, they will get more than one suscription with this work of evangelization they are going to do.

“Chapters should be fun, engaging and collaborative to attract a younger audience.

” What is “fun” in a chapter. I don’t want my chapter to be fun, I already have friends and hobbies. What I want is to have whatever information I need at hand, and to provide me with more and more knowledge about the topics.

Last but not least, you could take some examples with communities not only technological that are very successful. For example.

Stackoverflow – Not a very pretty design, just what you need, rank questions and answers, provide “gamification” for the people that collaborates. This community has become so important that in some jobs if you give them your nickname on stack overflow, is going to be a resource so importante for you to present to your employer. The people ranks the best content and a lot of people generates the content’s.

Reddit – forget the content, see the mechanics, is a lot similar to Stack Overflow. Not that all the AIIM page should be like this, but instead of a forum it could instead be something like this. You want to know something, not really that you are looking for something.

Oracle Unlimited Learning Suscription – They have something I liked a lot and they call it “Learning Stream”, I suscribe to the topics I care, and everyday I have a suggestion on my homepage of a video no more than 20 minutes, 10 to 15 minutes in average. So instead of browsing facebook, reddit, or whatever procrastination I can do, I take my coffee with one video every day, and I learn something.

Just so I can finish, I don’t use facebook or reddit or whatever any social network else is out there, (only linked in), most younger people use another social network now, not the traditional ones, i don’t want another news feed or a digest, because like you I will mostly delete it.

I don’t think that because now AIIM is going to be on social networks a lot of people are going to say “Hey I have a facebook or linkedin or whatever social network that says something about taxonomy, I’m going to become a loyal, engaging and collaborator member”.

Ok, that’s all. A lot of thoughts, my 2 cents on the topics.

You don’t have to have a Single big change, you can start with a lot of small changes and also to take them away until it becomes a much better community and a much better reference site for knowledge, thats all that matters, not the name, not the nobility name for the members.

There are a few of Eduardo’s comments I really agree with:
– What is “fun” in a chapter. I don’t want my chapter to be fun, I already have friends and hobbies. What I want is to have whatever information I need at hand, and to provide me with more and more knowledge about the topics.
– Oracle Unlimited Learning Suscription – They have something I liked a lot and they call it “Learning Stream”, I suscribe to the topics I care, and everyday I have a suggestion on my homepage of a video no more than 20 minutes, 10 to 15 minutes in average. So instead of browsing facebook, reddit, or whatever procrastination I can do, I take my coffee with one video every day, and I learn something.

One thing I’m going to do from this point on — rather than post a thought every time somebody posts one, I’m going to let a few accumulate and then offer any perspectives in a single post so this stays an AIIM conversation and not the “JM show.” I really appreciate all of the thought comments both here and on the phone call yesterday.


What we know tends to be from what we have experienced. Former AIIM chapter members in Chicago say the best meetings were built around an engaging speaker. That speaker told a story based on a personal experience in a relevant area. (i.e. “How we migrated to DxxSxxxx from SxxxPxxxx” or “Managing End User Expectations” ) The venue was generally donated, a meal was provided and a fee was collected to cover costs. The content was the draw: there was significant opportunity for questions, which sparked other discussions.

I’ve heard recent feedback from meeting experts who agree somewhat with Eduardo’s comment about fun: ask people to give you 90 minutes, give them expert content that will make a difference in their work, and let them find their own fun, and even food, before or after the event.

I’ve been involved with HIMSS for several years. Their ability to provide high level expertise at chapter meetings is impressive. CIOs fly half way across the country for a presentation that highlights a personal experience or expertise. I don’t know if it’s cultural or because healthcare is so dynamic in general. But the personal experience aspect is fundamentally attractive.
We intend to use this Fall’s Chicago AIIM Roadshow to ask attendees about what they would be willing to support with their time and attention.
Best regards,

Ricoh USA

Hi John,
Thank you for drafting a set of strategic principles – I think its a great start.
I have to comment on #4 – I know some people want only AIIM members to attend – in Western Canada that doesn’t work. Often we have people who are not AIIM members but they want to attend the session or come and learn more about AIIM – why would we restrict that? Let them attend – they maybe future members.
As far as #7 – being ageist – unfortunately that is our other reality here at AIIM West as there are many of us with many years of experience who are on the board. We need to engage younger people and it might not be with a traditional chapter or a traditional board – we need to be open to change.
thank you, Sherri

Hi John, Thanks a lot for allowing us to contribute to this process by providing you with feedback from the field.

I’m leading the bilingual Montreal Chapter community, we have been working with Betsy in the journey to setting up the chapter, her support and guidance have been key to our initiative.

I have few comments to share with you and the chapter leaders: With regard to # 1 and #4:

Right after set up process we were prompted to ask for sponsorship and financial support from local businesses, which is ok and a well known practice for us. AIIM however should assist new chapters by providing the minimum financial support needed for a new chapter to get started;

Instead of making board officers to pay for the AIIM Professional membership AIIM could grant officers on duty with one-year membership as a means to reward and recognize officers’ work, engagement, time and effort invested.

With regard to #3 and #5:
It was easy, straightforward process and outstanding guidance was provided. The part that didn’t follow was the codes for new members to use when completing the purchase-renew membership process.

With regard to #9:
As an international, global community AIIM needs to evolve and change its rather rigid, legalistic procedures into flatter, transversal structures that accommodate and facilitate basic things such as:
Providing the means for a chapter to meet regional-local regulations and requirements to start up and operate in other countries;
Translating training materials in collaboration with local chapters;
Delivering chapter’s site content in other languages (good quality, professional translation

Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute. We are looking forward to the «how» this set of principles will be deployed, if we can help please let us know.

If you were able to adjust your tour itinerary, please do come to visit us in Montréal! You will find a fun, dynamic, young chapter working hard to build up a stronger community.

John – this is a really difficult topic and I understand your frustration as one cannot please everyone. Personally, I am so busy with my core responsibilities to my employer that I can’t dream of keeping up with all the different channels of social media to discuss or engage in the topic of the moment even when it concerns my job. So — if there was one feed from all the sources this would be a great answer for me. Then I could monitor ONE place and read/engage in the topics of direct interest to me or my corporatation without missing anything.
I know there are services out there that feed information in one feed from multiple sources for specific industries — securities for example. I think we need something like that – a service which crawls through all the sites and takes those feeds and condenses it into one feed. This would be ideal for me.

Additionally, being of “senior” persuasion myself, I still like the face to face contact to energize my soul, and to continue to grow and understand, therefore, I would encourage quarterly in-person events for those who want to continue and delve deeper into the discussions gleaned from online posts.
Just my two cents worth!

John, I largely concur with the draft principles but have a few specific comments. Principle #1: Being a chapter leader should be enjoyable and has been for me for a very long time. If it isn’t fun, we won’t be able to recruit new folks as old timers like me retire. Of course, any community of practice requires some administration to be successful. Principle #2: I would categorize local geographic chapters as a type of community of practice even though they could be open to anyone, not just local folks.

As to principles #9-#12, they seem to potentially be in conflict with each other. (standard and consistent organizational and operational framework but not title based) I don’t disagree with any of them as currently proposed but the proof of the pudding is in the eating as we begin to have conversations going forward, conversations that are useful not only for AIIM but any voluntary association that wants to remain relevant and valuable to the communities they serve in these changing times.

Thank you for raising this topic. It’s been at the top of my list for the last 10 years. I wonder if we’re addressing this question in proper sequence or not. Do we top/down this discussion, and first raise the question with the context of understanding AIIM’s value proposition / strategy? Or, do we take a bottom up path and use the compilation of what comes out of this and other questions to put AIIM’s value prop / strategy together? This is a question I wrestled with throughout my Board tenure.

Teams are effective when they have a purpose. I’m taking a lesson from Master and Commander (Patrick O’Brian’s series) here. Captain Jack Aburey quelled a near-mutiny by sailing up to the French coast and pounding the crap out of a French fort with cannon fire. The crew felt aligned with purpose and the series of novels sailed on. While the state of AIIM’s chapters does not come close to Aubrey’s crisis, the chapter purpose of yesteryear no longer suits today.

For the convergence of users, consultants and vendors to work effectively, that convergence needs a purpose that brings value to all participants. Education has already been a hallmark. Solving a problem (beating up on the French, to bring M&C back) is another. And here’s where the past can help guide our future. For users, it’s about doing this stuff the right way. And I think in a much bigger context than we’ve approached this space over the past decades (we should be way more than the digital file room). For consultants and vendors, it’s about establishing name recognition and finding leads.

All of this leads to the user value prop because no users = no consultants / vendors. Why should users spend any time with AIIM at all? How can we help them learn? How can we help companies “get” what they don’t “get” in a meaningful way? Clearly, AIIM is now competing with various search engines and online “free” universities. But this may be AIIM’s “chapter” opportunity. These online sources present foundational learning. Similarly, the retail shopping process has evolved significantly over the years with savvy buyers walking into the store (showroom?) ready to have a much different conversation than would have been appropriate a few years ago. The sales process has been forced to change.

Clearly AIIM offers training well beyond what’s available on various social media. But I’d like to think that most companies would want their staff to take the art/science combination of this space far beyond what YouTube can teach by adding the practical real world experience that only professional peer exchange can provide. A formula that focuses on how to convey what users need to learn and aligns AIIM’s training with the foundational social media with the right peer interaction (in person or online) could get AIIM to a point where top/down and bottom/up converge. jc

Thanks everyone for all of the awesome comments — just back from vacation and still digesting some of them.
Here is a revised set of principles based on some of the comments I have reviewed. This will be the set we’ll seek to modify/approve at the Board meeting in September, and then move from there to determine the operational implications of the principles.
Look forward to continuing the discussion
Draft Strategic Principles for AIIM Engagement – 2016
-It should be simple, enjoyable and rewarding to be an AIIM leader, with the emphasis on leadership and engagement rather than administration.
-Engagement at AIIM takes two forms, geographically based
-CHAPTERS and role or industry based COMMUNITIES of PRACTICE (CoPs). Chapters and CoPs are where experienced information professionals meet, discuss -ideas, build the profession’s body of knowledge, and transfer and share that knowledge with the next generation of information professionals.
-As such, participation in Chapters and CoPs should be as open and as friction-free as possible.
-Growth of Chapters and CoPs should be a strategic priority for AIIM.
-Chapters and CoPs should be extremely easy to create, join, leave, and close as needs change.
-The current organizational structure for chapters — driven by legalistic bylaws and their associated title-based structures (treasurer, secretary, president, vice -president) and requiring separate incorporation – is outdated and needs to change.
-A new, common, and consistent organizational structure for Chapters and CoPs needs to be defined by 12-31-2015.
-All new Chapters and CoPs should be created in this structure.
-All existing Chapters should fold into this structure by 12-31-2016.


John, are chapters encouraging Open Space Technology? Maybe somehow AIIM web services could include open IM chat to support CoIs and Open Space.
I’m in the hinterlands, about 150 miles from a chapter. It’s just too much time to commute for administration laden meetings. (Yes, I’m assuming). Even though I’m a woman of a “certain age,” I’m comfortable with virtual gatherings, especially if the objectives are compelling problem solving.


As the PAC Chair, I want to thank John for starting such a great conversation, as well as all of you who have contributed. I’ve been following the conversation and just gave it yet another read through, top to bottom. Among the many insights, I picked up on a few reoccurring themes and thought I would add my two cents. (…in no particular order)
-In-person vs virtual – It’s not an ‘either/or’, it’s both. SIG’s clearly call for a virtual structure, as do geographically challenged areas. In person meetings are very rewarding for those who can do it. I’ve combined both concepts by opening up a ‘Live Hangout’; those who can’t make it can watch from their laptop. (As a bonus, it automatically creates a YouTube video for review and sharing)

-Uniform Chapter Structure vs Innovation Culture? (with AIIM HQ Support Infrastructure)
– We keep talking about doing something different, but we get stuck in the blueprints trying to create a ‘one size fits all’ model. Let’s be honest, by the time we settle on a set of apps or services for chapters to conform to, the next big thing will be coming down the path.) I think we need to encourage chapters to innovate and support them with a full time resource at AIIM HQ dedicated to community development. As it stands, we have a wonderful, but part time Administrator. Owen Ambur and John Chickering were both getting at the core of the problem. If Chapters are to be a strategic priority (#5), professional staff resource allocation should reflect it.
-Vendor driven vs End-User driven – The perception is that AIIM spends a majority of its time coordinating the messaging of industry vendors. I see this reflected in local chapter event attendance. Is it also true of the ELC? (…I can’t find a membership list.) It also makes me wonder how internal sales staff are incentivized. Are we going after end users as much as vendors? All of this leads me back to thinking about how a full time chapter resource might spend their time?:

50% of their time developing/supporting chapter initiatives
-Assisting with local marketing
-Cross pollinating what’s working between chapters
-Fueling engaging conversations like this one!

50% of their time doing business development with End-Users
-Prospecting End users and engaging them with AIIM
-Defining needs and aligning with Chapter programming
-Encouraging local participation, fostering miniregional ‘ELC’s’?

Chapter Events, Fun vs Substance – Two points I’d like to make on this topic. Generally we are referring to the chapter leaders who dedicate their time and effort; it needs to be fun and rewarding for them. We are not talking about the meetings themselves. That said, to imply our focus must be on one OR the other is a ‘suckers choice’. We achieve both at every event. Each chapter can do as they please. (And if we had someone focused on cross pollinating success, more chapters would try more new things. 😉

Thanks again for taking time to share your thoughts as this conversation has helped me prepare for the upcoming board of directors meeting in September. Feel free to contact me directly any time, although it’s great to see everyone’s comments in a public forum like this one. You can also feel free to join the 64 members of AIIM Chapter Leadership Forum by searching it in Google+ ‘Communities’. (

Tesserae Talent Strategies

Thanks for posting your views Tom, I have to say I fully agree with you. It matches my experience of successful groups of a similar type. I’ve also had the opportunity to participate in the AIIM Oil & Gas SIG, which is a new kind of chapter and has made a good start. I fear that without the right encouragement it could fail to capitalise on that initial enthusiasm. The fact we’re debating this and uncovering the issues should help, though it needs to be applied and that will take commitment, time and money. Best wishes, Neale

Lockheed Martin

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