Enterprise information management is truly one of the most challenging areas that corporations face today. Considering that EIM is now a top priority for CIOs (and their business) in reducing risk, gaining competitive advantage and reducing cost, the real key in this information age is in treating information as an asset (otherwise, it will become a liability).

In recent visits with clients, many of whom are in healthcare, the changes in regulations (such as HIPAA, Meaningful Use, ICD9/10 conversions and PPACA) are causing IT and business to rethink strategies when it comes to information and how to best manage the chaos.

With the advent of these required changes to the business and the need to update the applications that support the business, there is more need for data virtualization and abstraction utilizing services/metadata. If ever there was a time for the implementation of Services-based architectures (ex. SOA, EDA), now is the time!

Likewise, business intelligence has also come into the limelight as a “hot priority” of CIOs. EIM provides the foundation for making intelligent decisions from trusted data. With energy clients, for example, “Smart Grid” initiatives on the Salt River Project have produced comments to project leader Kevin Nielsen like:

"Our business intelligence needs to improve," Nielsen stated. "We need the right information in the right place at the right time. This is about decision-makers who need to look at alternative energy resources and their performance, who need to look at what's the right future for the business.

"In an aggregate sense, what is the performance of existing resources?" Nielsen asked, rhetorically. "What benefits are they providing, in terms of cost and availability? Are we reducing our energy footprint? How does that mix work for how we project our future to look like? Modeling the answers to those questions is absolutely critical, because the utility has a limited amount of money to invest. [Our executives] absolutely must make the right decisions based on the information we provide them.

In a recent meeting at a financial institution, I learned that even with large IT budgets, IT organizations are laboring to handle the requests for integrated information and varying forms of presentation heretofore not available to their business counterparts.

If businesses are going to thrive in this environment, they need to have a handle on their information assets both from the perspective of a common vocabulary/definition, and in the agile use of this information. This cannot be more apparent than at the Enterprise Information Management Conference in Toronto, Canada where I am speaking this week. Multi-national corporations are in attendance and trying to capture the right way to implement EIM and its corresponding spokes. (such as data governance, information presentation utilizing gaming or other “engaging” technologies, etc.)

Transforming and innovating the information environment is the key message that participants are grouping around and many are eager to find new ways to handle these difficult challenges.

In discussions early at this event, it has become apparent that EIM is now the next “SOA” and without it, you might as well close your business down.

Semantic technologies aside, the advances made in data governance alone require that organizations use more formalized pro-active (rather than reactive) approaches to move upward in maturity of implementation; this is frankly not happening in most cases.

Few organizations are really able to provide information using an agile, virtualized approach and this will be the next big requirement for IT – so get ready.