Information Management and Backwards-Compatibility: Just the Fax, Ma’am

What does it tell you about the latest information management disciplines that my big success this week was sending a 10-page fax to a doctor’s office?

It tells me is that we should never forget that much of the world consists of people who are just trying to get stuff done – and many of these are not equipped with anything resembling the cutting-edge information management solutions we usually focus on. (There’s a much more significant example here.)

The Technical Back Story

About a year ago, I cut the cord to my cable service, sacrificing hundreds of channels I never watched and phone services I hardly used for a high-speed Internet connection. And all was perfectly well until the other day, when I needed to send a document to my elderly father’s physician and learned that they are only allowed to communicate via fax.

Lacking a phone line, I knew there was no dial tone to feed to my MFP. I also knew I didn’t want to sign up for an online service (too much work considering I probably won’t have to fax again for years). So I ended up buying a gadget, subscribing to a free VOIP offering, and faxed happily ever after.

The Information Management Moral

I tell this story because I don’t want you to hold the same mistaken assumption I did (albeit unwittingly), which is that anyone I need to share information with lives in the same scan/PDF/email world I do. The truth is, there are plenty of technical, philosophical, economic, and legal reasons for them not to, and yet it still somehow surprised me when they surfaced.

I still firmly believe that the latest information disciplines have the power to transform our businesses, and I know they are doing so in a great many cases. But we must always remember that the old ones have a staying power of their own, and we overlook them only at our peril.

About the author: Steve Weissman

Steve Weissman helps you do information right by bringing order and discipline to your governance and process practices. Principal Consultant at Holly Group and Co-Founder of the Information Coalition (now merged with ARMA International), he leverages a proven proprietary methodology to optimize everything from strategic planning and needs assessment to vendor selection and user adoption. He is, in short, The Info Gov Guy™, furthering best-practices for finding, leveraging, and protecting your business-critical information. A member of the AIIM Company of Fellows and holder of numerous industry designations, he can be reached at or 617-383-4655.

4 comments to “Information Management and Backwards-Compatibility: Just the Fax, Ma’am”

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  1. Ken Schiller - March 17, 2016 at 9:35 am

    The doctor’s limitation to communication via fax may possibly be driven more my HIPAA rules than the use of technology in the doctor’s office. Regardless, it’s a good reminder that not everyone advances at the same pace.

  2. Steve Weissman - March 17, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Hi Ken! Thanks for commenting. You are exactly right; HIPAA is indeed why fax is the method of choice in that office. Still came as a surprise, though, despite the fact that I know better!

  3. Ray Killam - March 17, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Here is another example: I have been scanning documents for years to eliminate the paper. I use a HP MFP to do a lot of the scanning. Suddenly, I find many of the PDFs created are “corrupted” when customers try to open them. Upon examination, I find the latest Acrobat Reader editions no longer support the old technology and Adobe disavows any responsibility for PDFs created by other vendors. What a pain!! We cannot rely on vendors to continue to support work we have done. That fact sets back adoption of technology solutions in a big way.

  4. Steve Weissman - March 18, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Absolutely! I understand why they eventually have to cut ties to their older stuff, but we less-than-enterprise-scale users don’t seem to find out about it until it’s too late. A great cautionary tale — thanks for commenting, Ray!

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