by John Ladley
Recently, we had the chance to talk to a rare bird. By rare bird we mean an industry analyst who also has a track record of working with services, consulting, hardware, and as an IT executive. As a practitioner, he’s worked on the vendor side and has led large scale IM efforts. We interviewed David Newman of Gartner. Mr. Newman is a Research Vice President on Gartner’s Enterprise Architecture team. He received Gartner’s Thought Leadership Award for his pioneering work on enterprise information management (EIM).
We felt it important to ask from the start what the definition of EIM was. The rest of the questions follow on from there.
J.L.: David, let’s start with the definition of EIM. How do you view it?
D.N.: We’ve often heard executives say that “information should be managed as a strategic asset.” While it’s hard to argue with such a principle, there’s never been a framework or strategy for implementing it. EIM is a structured program for putting that principle into practice. It is an integrative discipline which consists of a series of essential building blocks. Technology alone won’t deliver EIM. Think of EIM as a program for bringing all your separate information management initiatives together: be they BI, MDM, DQ ECM, etc. Since information is regarded as fundamental to the success of organizations, EIM provides formula to flexibly share and exchange information assets. This spurs collaboration and innovation. EIM breaks-down many of today’s operational silos.
There are many components to EIM. First, you start with the business case to educate leaders on how and why information needs to be managed more cross-functionally. This involves several moving parts. That’s where the framework comes in. The framework consists of a series of essential building blocks (governance, organization, process, technology, metrics, etc.), which are logically connected. We’ve published case studies and roadmaps on EIM so our clients can see how and where others start and how long the journey typically takes.
J.L.: EDJ envisions EIM as an extension of the enterprise architecture (EA) process. Does that fit your view?
D.N.: Yes. EIM implements key components of an organization’s enterprise architecture especially as it relates information. EIM “operationalizes” the principles, requirements, and models that are defined within the enterprise information architecture viewpoint of EA. EIM helps the organization flexibly share and exchange information assets to achieve its business strategies.
J.L.: What are the drivers for doing EIM?
D.N.: When developing the business case for EIM, planners should articulate how an EIM program supports the organization’s overall strategies. While every situation is unique, information plays a vital role in nearly organization’s common drives toward efficiency, transparency and differentiation. For example, planners can show how EIM (through formalized data stewardship and data quality activities), supports compliance mandates for greater transparency (and control) of information as it moves from upstream to downstream systems. Plus, as organizations start to embrace service-orientation, an EIM information infrastructure assists this composition style by simplifying the delivery of information, independent of application.
J.L.: Is EIM different from IRM?
D.N.: Well, EIM extends the previous model of information architecture and information management. To be sure, we’ve been managing information ever since there have been databases, file systems, and other structures. However, the urgent need now is to do things in a more cross-functional, collaborative, cross-enterprise fashion. In addition, there is a general movement away from tightly-coupled and proprietary systems: the notion of “black-box” development is gradually being replaced with more open, networked systems as part of a service-oriented mindset. This has significant implications on how, when, and where we move or exchange information. That’s why a new approach is needed. And, that’s why we’ve been focusing on EIM for several years now. What’s also different from past efforts is the need to focus on all digitized information assets – not just structured (database information), and not just static data, but data in motion. EIM addresses semi-structured (XML) and unstructured (web content, documents, images, etc.) as well.
J.L.: We often hear a large obstacle to EIM is application development areas – sounds like you hear that as well.
D.N.: Yes – often – but there is a lot behind that, and it is not just a blanket issue. There is a shift from traditional data management when you embrace an EIM program. EIM places data in the context of usage and business processes. Plus, development areas tend to focus on their specific application needs for data. That leads to redundancy and inconsistency of information and a tangled web of point-to-point interfaces. EIM helps to break-down such application silos.
J.L.: Now for the hard questions – are you seeing any successes? Is EIM a buzzword or is there some substance? Any particular industry or widely advertised company or organization?
D.N.: When we last surveyed our clients regarding their EIM adoption, the results suggest we are still in the early adopter stage. Yet, we are seeing several successful examples – both on the corporate and public sector side – naturally in response to different pressures. A big chunk of these are related to SOA. Without EIM, your SOA is at risk. In SOA, there is a greater emphasis on the ability to flexibly share and exchange information, independent of application. SOA is more an architecture of metadata and information than most people realize. Unfortunately, many overlook the information management issues that are suddenly exposed as you move from tightly-coupled (or proprietary, application platforms) to loosely-coupled development. It’s almost like a Pandora’s box situation. For instance, significant data quality issues, typically solved with source code, may become suddenly exposed during de-coupling. A better SOA requires a balanced perspective between process and information.
In one case, a large global mining company wanted to go from IM at the departmental level to a more comprehensive enterprise-wide IM approach (EIM). They had strong support at the senior executive level, but somehow it got lost in translation at the field level. The project teams didn’t know how to principle into practice. They EIM team developed an education, training and consensus-building campaign to help everyone understand their piece of the puzzle. They used Gartner’s EIM Adoption Model to do some quick diagnostics and to identify further opportunities to gain momentum and support. They selected two pilot projects (around labor management and business intelligence) to piggy-back their EIM activities onto. In another example, a large federal agency in the US is using an EIM approach, coupled with such standards as the Data Reference Model (DRM) and the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) to enable first responders to flexibly share and exchange information in areas such emergency preparedness. We’ve also worked with consumer product companies who used and EIM program to support data quality improvements as they migrate from legacy to ERP packages.
J.L.: You mentioned EA earlier - How does EIM fit into EA?
D.N.: Enterprise architecture provides the context for an organization to achieve its strategic objectives and transformation plans. The EA process is composed of three viewpoints: the business architecture, technical architecture and the information architecture. Each viewpoint must produce a series of artifacts and deliverables that provide details from the conceptual, logical to implementation levels. You can think of EIM as a way of implementing the information architecture. For example, the EIM program would design and deliver the master data management solutions to support the enterprise’s objectives for consistent and authoritative sources of customer or product master data. Likewise, the EIM program would implement the data quality and stewardship principles for ensuring information meets overall corporate governance requirements. So, you can think of EIM as the delivery vehicle for a large piece of EA – the role that information plays in the enterprise.
There is a formal handshake between the EA and EIM teams as you go from architecture to implementation. Most EA tends have tended to focus on technical architecture in the past. We are starting to see more and more EA teams focusing on both business and information architecture.
The internet has also changed we look at information. We now have so many sources of information both inside and outside the firewall. We also see the influence of digital natives coming into the workforce who expect instantaneous access information from multiple sources. Companies need to develop strategies that deal with widespread production and consumption of information – or risk information overload. This is why EIM programs – a strategy and framework for managing information -- is gaining traction with our clients.
EDJ Note: EIM is the implementation programs for EIA
J.L: Any comments on large vendors (such as IBM, SAP or HP) and their EIM direction?
D.N.: Unlike the early days of SOA, many of the vendors are now offering more balanced SOA offerings, addressing key aspects of EIM, such as master data management and metadata management. New development styles such as SOA, SaaS, cloud computing, context-aware devices are forcing traditional application vendors to move toward delivering “information as a service,” based on what Gartner call the “information-centric infrastructure.” In addition, many service providers are also offering EIM services. Those consultancies which can connect the dots between MDM, BI and SOA will win in the marketplace.
J.L.: So what is the main CSF for EIM?
D.N.: Obviously senior level support – at the highest levels. Most EIM efforts are approved at board level now. Information is an asset and CEOs have accepted that. A business case is actually not that difficult. Focus on areas of need around the three primary drivers: efficiency, differentiation and transparency. By showing how an EIM program would support the business strategy is the best way of securing funding and delivering value to the organization.
About David Newman
David Newman is the Research Vice President of Gartner’s Enterprise Architecture team. WIth over 23 years in the IT industry, his latest research includes: Key Issues for Enterprise Architecture, Hype Cycle for Business Intelligence and Performance Management, Hype Cycle for Data Management, and Hype Cycle for Application Development. In 2006 he received the Gartner Award for Thought Leadership.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Ladley is an internationally known information management practitioner and a popular speaker on information and knowledge management. John is widely published and has several regular columns. Until recently, John was a Director with Navigant Consulting. Prior to Navigant, John founded KI Solutions, and John was Senior Program Director of Data Warehouse strategies and a Research Fellow at Meta Group. Mr. Ladley is an authority on information architectures, business performance measurement architectures, knowledge management, collaborative applications, and information resource management. John is currently President of IMCue Solutions, a new firm focused on data governance and information management.