IBM Spells Out Information Governance Strategy

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — In a flurry of announcements Wednesday, IBM spelled out a holistic strategy for data management that it refers to as “information governance,” tying together information flow and analysis across corporate networks.

Among the announcements at its Information Governance Council meeting here were two new technologies, one new business services consultancy and a company acquisition – IBM’s thirtieth purchase of an information management or analytics company in the last five years.

Michael Curry, director of Strategy for Information Management at IBM (NYSE: IBM), said the company has been working toward this “tipping point” since creating the governance council in 2005.

“There’s a recognition that data volumes are growing dramatically and that much of that, 80 percent of that, is unstructured data, PDF files and other forms of text,” he said. “All those things require a different level of focus to prevent risk and problems and to turn it into something of value for the corporate structure overall.”

IBM’s InfoSphere Business Information Monitor software will see a limited release as part of what IBM calls a technology preview program. Developed through IBM Research and new technologies acquired as part of the company’s purchase of software company Guardium late last year, Business Monitor is intended to track the quality and flow of a company’s information and provide real-time alerts about potential flaws or gaps in the data.

Ron Ben Natan, CTO of Guardium Software within the IBM Software Group, described the program as “end-to-end information supply chain tracking” intended to ensure the integrity of data as it moves from collection to analysis and ultimately to the kinds of reports upon which major business decisions are made.

“We’re no longer looking at data in a single dimension,” he said. “This is about convergence of data quality, data management, business process automation, security and compliance. That all starts with getting clear visibility into what you have.”

Blocking Sensitive Information

The second technology announced at the event, Optim Data Redaction, automatically identifies sensitive information such as Social Security numbers or credit scores within larger documents, and blocks access to that information if a user does not have clearance to see it. The software is scheduled for release in March.

To help companies deploy the new technologies, IBM Global Business Services outlined an expansion of its consulting work through what it’s calling the Information Governance Center of Excellence. Through the center, more than 250 IBM consultants are available to help companies globally deploy a comprehensive information governance plan.

According to a 2009 IBM survey, four of five business leaders see information as a source of competitive advantage, but half don’t have access to the information they say they need to do their jobs properly. And more than one-third of these executives reported having made critical business decisions without all the information they would have liked to have had.

Mike Schroeck, who currently heads up IBM’s business analytics and optimization efforts, said the new consulting business is intended to improve those numbers.

“Information management problems are pervasive, complex, and seem insurmountable,” he said. “The lack of consistency in standards, policies and procedures have resulted in limited success of information management efforts. And the lack of common definitions or understanding of data elements is behind many of these issues.”

The information governance center will address six new areas, including information governance assessment, policy development, organizational design and development, quality analysis and remediation, metadata strategies, and information governance implementation and change management.

IBM also announced its plans to acquire privately-held Initiate Systems, which provides software to improve information sharing between health care providers, insurance companies and government agencies.

“Nothing on the planet needs information governance more than the health care industry,” Curry said. “You really need to be careful to protect the information and track who’s touched what and when. All of these things are core components of information governance.”