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The real differentiators in IG solutions.

According to Gartner, Information Governance (IG) is:

"The specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving and deletion of information."

I have been in the enterprise software industry for thirty years, but I am still not sure I understand that definition. The definition is so wide that it seems to encompass most other software categories.

In fact, Wikipedia lists 28 different functional areas for IG, from records management and information security to knowledge management, big data and "data science" (whatever that means). It begs the question: what categories of software are NOT included within IG?

I am setting out in this paper to break down--deconstruct--Information Governance in a way that should be much more useful if you are trying to address an IG need in your organization.

As you will see, it comes down to understanding Information Governance as a set of five core capabilities and realizing that IG solutions share a great deal of DNA with Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software.

The Five Core Capabilities of IG

One way to approach your Information Governance plan is to think of it as a series of 5 steps, or stages that every information item stored in your organization must go through.

Connect: Your organization stores information in systems and repositories across the organization, including both structured, transactional data in business systems and unstructured content such as documents, emails, web content and images. The first step in IG is to have a method to connect to information in any system in your organization. Each "connector" can then be used to view, inspect, extract and manage information regardless of where it is located.

Discover: Once you have connected to each source system, you need to assess what is in each repository. Using the insights derived from file analytics, you can map out the necessary actions to cleanse the content, delete duplicates, migrate to secure repositories, and mitigate exposure related to private information (PHI and PCI).

Archive: Archiving includes offloading inactive content from production applications to reduce costs, increase application performance, and to address compliance requirements. It includes moving inactive content to lower cost storage tiers as it ages, and archiving content according to compliance policies and application decommissioning needs.

Manage: At the center of IG is records management functionality to address key compliance and governance requirements, including retention/destruction management based on defined policies. It includes processes for the collection, indexing and analysis of records (digital or paper based, structured or unstructured) produced anywhere--and by any system--in your organization.

Analyze: Once in place, a centralized IG system provides the ability to search and analyze all content across the enterprise. That means federated search across multiple content repositories and the use of advanced content analytics to investigate issues and identify insights.

Virtually every Information Governance project involves one or more of these capabilities, combined and integrated to track and control information created by the organization. Best practices in IG starts with defining requirements in terms of these five capabilities, which simplifies the process of choosing IG solutions.


The Shared DNA Between IG and ECM

For us at Everteam, one simple way to think of IG is that it involves a set of use cases that involve the management of content from creation to destruction. As noted above, the use cases tend to center on regulatory, cost reduction and IT infrastructure requirements, and essentially comprise a subset of the functionality provided by ECM solutions.

Wait, what? IG is just a set of ECM use cases? I am not exactly saying that, but I am saying that many classes of IG problems have a lot in common with the things that traditional ECM platforms addressed.

The reality, however, is that the well-known ECM platforms are more than 20 years old, and over their lifetime they added core IG capabilities like records management through poorly integrated, acquired technologies. The result is that for traditional ECM platforms, IG is an afterthought, not a core competency. And that is a recurring pattern in the enterprise software space.

Old Software Never Dies, But It Does Become Unmanageable

Here is a simple rule--let's call it The First Law of Enterprise Software:

Every class of enterprise software eventually collapses under the weight of its own complexity.

A software system that starts as a well-architected solution to a specific problem inevitably adds capabilities and features to address a wider set of problems as the vendor seeks to add new customers with new use cases. Eventually, through cycles of evolution and acquisition, the once-elegant system becomes unwieldy as disparate components built on different architectural models are cobbled together.

After enough cycles, the result is an inelegant system with high costs of ownership created by the complexity of configuring, managing and upgrading the system. And when the complexity and costs become so high that customers balk, the cycle begins anew with new software products that deconstruct the problem space and deliver simpler, better-architected solutions.

This is the recurring pattern of enterprise software. Eventually, enterprise software solutions become overly complex and overly expensive, as vendors seek to meet revenue growth targets by adding new capabilities (and new customers). And this certainly appears to be the case with the ECM platforms that underlie many Information Governance solutions.

What started in the 1990's as document management software, a straightforward solution to managing access and versions of documents, evolved in the next decade to an all-encompassing category including the capability to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver all types of content. Companies like Documentum and OpenText went on buying sprees in a race to fill every niche in the ECM category, from capture solutions to records management to digital asset management.1

One specific area of functionality that those vendors added through acquisition relates to records management. Unfortunately, those records management capabilities are poorly (or in some cases, barely) integrated with the original platform. The knock-on effect of that type of architecture is that the records management and Information Governance capabilities can be difficult to configure, inflexible and expensive to manage over time.

Architecture as a Differentiator

The fact that IG solutions are late additions to ECM platforms makes it critical to evaluate not just "what" an IG solution does, but "how" it does it. In other words, architecture matters.

One of the biggest differentiators between IG solutions today is in the architecture of those solutions. Rather than a set of functions evolved and assembled in a complex code base that can be difficult to configure and corral into an effective application, the best of the new generation of IG solutions feature a componentized architecture that simplifies building and integrating applications.

This approach to building IG solutions provides a number of benefits:

* Each service can be deployed, tweaked, and then redeployed independently without compromising the integrity of an application.

* Initial configuration and deployment are faster and easier because the system is configured through a specific, centralized point of control.

* You can deploy only the components required by an application, rather than all components, reducing the size and complexity of the application.

* You can simplify upgrades by allowing specific services to be updated one at a time without compromising the integrity of the entire platform

* Microservices allow applications to be much more scalable because you can independently scale the service requiring more power. Specifically, more instances of a service can be added, rather than adding more "cores" to run the entire application at a larger scale.

Microservices Architecture

An architecture based on microservices is the best instantiation of the idea of a componentized architecture. Microservices architecture breaks a large application into a set of small, modular services. Each service supports a specific business goal.

The services use a simple, well-defined interface to communicate with other services, enabling the mixing and matching of components as required to meet the needs of a specific use case or application. In the case of an IG solution, one service (Audit Events Service) may be invoked when an auditable activity has to be recorded, and another (Retention Policy Service) called when a complex retention rule has to be calculated.

The services model enables enterprises to create applications to address specific business needs and integrate them together in a predictable, repeatable manner. The result is software that is easier to configure, easier to integrate, easier to manage, and highly scalable.

Connectivity is Crucial

IG software sits at the nexus of business processes, collecting and tagging content as it is created, and managing and tracking it afterward. Given that central position, it is essential that an IG software product easily connects to all the other systems that create and consume content. In fact, flexibility, and ease of connection and integration are among the most essential attributes in an IG system.

Connectivity and integration should be more than possible; it should be designed into the architecture of the product. A connector-based design with pre-configured connectors for major enterprise software systems should be standard components, with simple installation and defined functionality.

A portfolio of connectors greatly enhances an IG solution. An application that starts as a repository, archive, and records management solution for one type of content, created by one system, can be easily expanded by connecting it to additional systems with additional types of content. The result is an application can be implemented and then modified, expanded and reconfigured by adding or disconnecting connectors, without additional reconfiguration or customization.

The ultimate impact of a better-architected IG system is in the flexibility to build and change applications and the long-term total cost of ownership. A more flexible, agile architecture ultimately means software that is easier to configure, easier to connect to other systems and easier to build applications with.

IG Solutions Differentiators

At Everteam, we have thought a lot about what comprises the core capabilities of an IG framework. Our thinking led us to the five core capabilities of Information Governance: Connect, Discover, Archive, Manage, and Analyze.

We then decided that the best way to ensure a complete portfolio of IG capabilities was to build our IG solutions on a microservices architecture, that would ensure high levels of usability, configurability, and scalability. And our approach takes full advantage of a connector-based model to simplify connecting to--and integrating with--other enterprise software systems.

These decisions reflect our belief that any organization approaching an IG initiative should be looking at what differentiates IG solutions today. Those differentiators include a focus on the core Information Governance functions and a modern, agile architecture that makes implementation easier--and pays back faster.

Everteam is a global software vendor with over 25 years of experience delivering highly sophisticated implementations of Content Management, Information Governance and Business Transformation solutions for mid-to-large corporate enterprises and government entities.

Ken Lownie, Vice President US Operations, Everteam Software


Ken Lownie

Ken Lownie is the vice president US operations at Ever-team Software. He started his career at Lotus Development, and since then has played a founding and executive role at several software companies. Lownie is responsible for guiding Everteam's marketing and sales strategy in the US, and in his role as vice president of customer success he oversees the delivery of services and support to US customers.

(1) For example, in the six-year period between 2001 and 2007, Documentum purchased 11 companies.
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Author:Lownie, Ken
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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