I had a chance to attend the IBM Information Governance event, which brought together customers and influencers at roundtables to discuss the evolution of managing information assets and introduced new technologies to the market. This event is unique – a small, invitation-only event for industry practitioners under the auspices of the Information Governance Council, which works to advance the industry’s maturation of information governance from a data-centric point of view.

IBM has supported this forum to drive customer dialogue and input in a concerted effort around the world to advance information maturity across all types of organizations. The scope of information governance for IBM is a broad framework encompassing content and data through a process to document, instrument, optimize and orchestrate content and data across the information supply chain. This approach is good as it expands beyond traditional data governance to a larger scope of content and data, addressing the entire life cycle of information management. This leadership by IBM will be a influence to our industry in the coming decade as most organizations are unsuccessful in managing their information assets optimally.

I listened to presentations and collaborated with IBM on their reference to specific research on information governance that found organizations generate 15 petabytes of new information every day, 80 percent of that being unstructured content. The research found that four out of five organizations see information as a competitive advantage, but one out of two do not have access to the information they need. This situation is why I have been focusing on the category on Information Management and a new category of technology called Information Applications for simplifying the assembly and accessibility of information.

In addition, the IBM research found 14 percent of organizations to be sophisticated in information governance; our research found only 12 percent as innovative on the topic. This is clearly not a positive sign of organizations’ ability to manage information assets. Both IBM’s and our research and our work with clients reveal information consistency, lack of common definitions, regulatory pressure and resource constraints are common issues to address. Basically this means we all have a lot of work to do to improve the processes and use of supporting technology in this area.

This event got off to an early start with IBM’s announcement of intent to acquire Initiate Systems and bring its master data management (MDM technologies and experience to the health care and government industries (See: “IBM Initiates Deeper Healthcare Focus by Acquiring MDM from Initiate Systems“). This acquisition builds on IBM’s own MDM advancements that I analyzed last fall (See: “IBM Elevates MDM and PIM by Integrating Content and Analytics“).

But the larger theme of the event was managing the life cycle of business information – creation, storage, protection and use of it – in business across the information supply chain. IBM announced a new product to be released sometime in the future called InfoSphere Business Information Monitor, designed to provide database monitoring of unstructured data and content. The product will alert and notify users to what the presenter called information supply chain breakdowns before they impair downstream business processes. This technology leverages experience from IBM’s acquisition of Guardiam, which addresses understanding the health and viability of information and issues in monitoring and control of information access in the enterprise. It uses a common set of services built on top of analysis and policies through metadata, events and an audit data warehouse that can be accessed for range of discovery and GRC needs. This technology is in preview mode and IBM was not able to provide a timeline on its availability, but in theory it has potential to simplify IT’s management of information assets.

IBM also announced Optim Data Redaction as part of IBM Optim Integrated Data Management Solutions. It will become generally available in the first quarter of 2010 and protects sensitive information by removing both visible and hidden content from within documents and forms. Such protection can help reduce the cost of compliance and remove the risk of sensitive data leaking into the wrong hands. This is a need for all organizations that must take information security more seriously, find methods to protect information generally and comply more easily with industry regulations about data privacy.

I also got a full update on IBM’s enterprise content management (ECM) strategy. ECM has a key place in the information supply chain: ensuring trusted content for business as part of an Information Governance strategy. IBM takes a four-step approach to ECM; you manage designated trusted repositories by creating, controlling, maintaining and supplying trusted content steps. It also provides methods to govern the information life cycle and enable authorized users to consume, leverage and exploit trusted information.

IBM’s focus on unstructured information is not new, but its approach to producing trusted content with authority, authenticity, reliability, integrity and usability properties managed throughout a life cycle is more robust than other approaches from most vendors, including Microsoft. IBM also has introduced analytics to measure, maintain, audit and monitor content with events, triggers and processes. It also provides content decommissioning to ensure only a single copy and version of documents circulates in the enterprise. The company has advanced case management and workflow with policies and rules to support governance, risk and compliance (GRC), privacy and necessary controls. The content analytics can identify issues within the content and their impact on any level of operations, which mitigates risk and promotes being proactive in the organization. IBM also has released an integrated IBM Information Archive appliance that simplifies the need for administering content and managing it up to the point of offline storage. IBM ECM has continued to advance since the company acquired FileNet and is a key component of information management to address the challenging nature of managing content assets.

Finally, IBM introduced a new approach to the broader framework of Information Governance with a set of new offerings to help improve information management by supporting organizational processes. Services in this area offered by IBM Global Services include information assessments, policy development, stewardship strategies, quality analysis with tools for selection to implementation and change management. I have to note that it is not an objective position for IBM to help with tool selection since it has a vested interest in its own software. Examining the capabilities of technologies and suppliers is probably best left to folks like us who analyze and assess products from all vendors. IBM will have to also address the fierce competition by Informatica and Oracle who have been evolving their technologies to address the need to manage information assets in the enterprise. Nevertheless, IBM is advancing the industry with its approach and roadmap for what organizations should seek to accomplish over the coming years. Now the challenge is to get organizations to improve their competencies and maturity to be ready to exploit this new generation of technologies and services.

Mark also blogs at ventanaresearch.com/blog.