A lot is written these days about information management and information governance, and analysts are predicting that effective information management and governance can be a game changer for companies.
Hang on, one might ask – doesn’t this sound a lot like Enterprise Content Management, or ECM? Aren’t there already plenty of successful vendors, ECM installations, and ECM strategies at work across companies at all levels, for many years now?
ECM and IG are not the same
In the world of enterprise content management, everything hangs on the principle that each document is unique, serves a defined purpose, and is therefore managed.
ECM is critical to regulated industries such as pharmaceutical, where even the specific revisions of drug labels must be managed and ECM solutions provide reliable, defensible tools. ECM aids companies who regularly develop collaterals, training materials, as well as mundane activities like tracking contracts, document revisions, and so on.
This is not information governance, however – nor is it information management as the world is beginning to understand it. The ECM world already assumes a one-to-one relationship, which is why ECM has never proven to be a solution for information governance.
Information management and governance – the one-to-many conundrum
In the information governance world, the rule of thumb is one-to-many. This is driven largely by email. Email by its nature is repetitive: even email archiving systems, such as the ones Barracuda provides, cannot and should not eliminate this duplication.
In cases where an author sends the same document to multiple recipients, a technique called single-instance storage is usually deployed, meaning all copies point back to the same central document, but as that document moves outside the organization, is commented upon, and becomes the foundation for an email dialogue, the same information will be repeated.
Therefore, information governance has to go beyond the notion of identifying a single document or item and then tracking all derivatives. In the case of email, these derivatives are really branches – in other words, conversations. A hierarchical management solution can’t handle this situation, at least not easily.
Managed per content vs. managed per value
Another way to look at ECM is to look at how information is managed. ECM manages based on content: what’s in a document determines how it and any documents that relate to it are managed.
In the information governance world, there are simply too many variables. Going beyond mere duplication, there is also the challenge that content simply “comes into” an organization via email and then forms the basis for other content. The process is random.
Therefore, the key to information governance is understanding the value of such content and then applying management. Value has been elusive, but think-groups like the Information Governance Initiative have begun to identify how companies are being successful in valuing information. Often, the mere age of the information is a measure of its value: email is transient by nature, and unless mail refers to a specific subject that is managed differently (example, emails discussing broker/client relationships at financial institutions), its value decreases as it ages and it ultimately becomes worthless. Companies have successfully ascribed any pre-determined aging to such documents and, unless they are covered by legal holds or compliance regulations, delete them after a defined period.
Does a company need both ECM and information governance?
The answer is probably yes, but it is easier to answer whether or not they need enterprise content management first. There are a number of ways to handle content within an organization, and solutions regularly overlap. Multi-disciplinary solutions like SAP and Oracle provide content management as well as enterprise resource management, routing, tracking, programmatic responses, and the like. Rarely do they provide information governance for unstructured information like emails, and in cases where they do, that email is often associated with other content.
Information governance, on the other hand, can be simply an archiving solution at its simplest: capture and preserve email to satisfy regulations and later search and discovery. At its most granular, information governance can, similar to ECM, play a role in identifying unstructured content, categorizing it, and applying very content-specific management rules.
Companies need both for different reasons. Companies usually need ECM because the information being managed is critical to their business. Companies need information governance, on the other hand, because there is too much unmanaged and unstructured information flowing throughout their organizations. Without management, they are unable to mine any potential insights from that information. Without management, they are also unable to mitigate any risks that information may pose.