Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Someone Give ILM a Quarter So It Can Call Someone Who Cares

When I started writing my book, Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management, I was genuinely excited about ILM. ILM promised to bring us a new set of ways to manage information. By attending to the process of information and by recognizing that that value of information changes over the its lifespan, IT managers would be able to get a handle on what was really important abouth their data. Business Process Engineering made us think differently (sorry Apple, but I don't mean it that way) about how our companies went about our business. It seemed that the same would happen for information with ILM.

So, where are we today? ILM is quickly becoming a narrow technology, so closely tied to data storage that it's original meaning is all but lost. You can sum up the current state of ILM in one word: Compliance. It's no longer about deriving the most value from your informaition. It's not a process that keeps you from spending lots of money on worthless information. Now it's all about keep the regulators from nailing you with a fine or shareholders from sueing the CEO out of a job. In short, the lawyers have taken over.

Don't get me wrong. I have a lot of friends that are lawyers and good ones at that. It's that the concerns of lawyers represent a very narrow slice of the business world. For them it's all about protecting the company from liability. That's what they are paid to do. ILM, however, was also about saving money, keeping customers happy, and productivity. All of this has been lost in the race to find a magic pill to cure the compliance woes.

What ILM has been waiting for is products. The concepts and processes were understood but there was little product support. That's no longer true but all the products are geared toward a very narrow interpretaion of ILM. By and large, ILM products either move data (not information by the way) around in a tiered storage architecture, or monitor e-mails for compliance with regulations. Much of the software involved is concerned with making sure that no e-mail is around any longer than it needs to be and doesn't disappear before then. These tools do not begin to cover the range of functions that real ILM should cover.

I can't blame manufacturers, especially the big ones. They are only responding to what their customers tell them. What is sad is that the IT community still doesn't get that information has value and needs to be managed like an asset.

There is little chance for a change in attitude now. Technology operates like a feedback loop. Since customers asked for a narrow definition of ILM, the products fulfill that, industry groups glom on to what the companies are selling, the press reprots on it, and now that's what everyone thinks it is. And so on and so on...

Some of us are trying to reshape ILM into a broader category called Information Management. A couple of my more recent articles and presentations do this by outlining a full set of information processes and technologies and calling them something other then ILM. That's okay since ILM was always just a special case of Information Management. But that special case was based on the ILM attributes of time and value. Neither is particularly a trait of ILM anymore.

So we shift to the next thing. We accept the equation {ILM = Compliance} and focus the broader issues in the Information Management space. Just remember to recalibrate your head...

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Someone should force feed these people Treet or Spam, but from the wrong end.

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