Blog post

TechTarget and the problem with “Information Lifecycle Management”

By Andrew White | June 10, 2013 | 3 Comments

Information PolicyInformation Lifecycle Management (ILM)Information GovernanceData Stewardship

Like red rag to a bull, I received an email today from SearchDataManagement with the title, “data stewardship”.  How could I but click on that email, and pronto? 

The link took me to the SearchDataManagement definition page for data stewardship.  I tend to like their definition, and how it differs and relates to data governance.  However, I prefer a shorter, more catch (sales ready?) description of the two roles:

  • Information stewardship equates to policy enforcement
  • Information governance equates to policy setting

But, I was interested to see, in the data stewardship definition, a reference to “data lifecycle management”.  I hot-footed over there – and presto – I spotted the following:

Data life cycle management (DLM) is a policy-based approach to managing the flow of an information system’s data throughout its life cycle: from creation and initial storage to the time when it becomes obsolete and is deleted.

If you look at Wikipedia, the Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) page lists the following at the top:

Information Lifecycle Management (sometimes abbreviated ILM) refers to a wide-ranging set of strategies for administering storage systems on computing devices.

I don’t like that at all.  I don’t like it since the focus is “administering storage systems”.  I don’t mean to say I don’t agree with the need to manage that; I just think it’s a great shame that the lovely, catchy name ILM has, in the wider community, resulted in a focus on mostly or even only on storage systems.  What about the business use of information?  What about information value?  Or authority model between applications?  System and user decision rights?  Why doesn’t ILM relate more broadly to information governance and information stewardship? 

Storage is the last thing on the mind of the business users when they consider creating new product data, or innovating a new business practice.  Yet the information needed to sustain both is critical; and its governance equally.  Hence the result is that ILM tends to be downstream of the exciting, more important aspects of information governance.

What I like about DLM is that it mentions storage, but it seems the emphasis is more on the flow of information across the organization, and less on the physical storage aspects. Now, as you read through the definition of DLM there is a tendency to refer back to storage and access, but at least there is a chance that the focus might be more business oriented.  I might be wrong; but I did like the DLM definition a little better.  Seems to be more usable and broader that ILM – even if it isn’t perfect.  Maybe we need a new name?

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  • Paul P says:

    > Wikipedia, the Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) page lists the
    > following at the top…I don’t like that at all.

    The great thing about Wikipedia is that if you don’t like something, you can change it. As an expert in the field, you should.

  • Fred K says:

    In the practice of Data Governance for years we have referred to the Data Steward as the business side authority or subject matter expert on the business data needs. The role for IT in that case is the Data Custodian, who is more the caregiver to the data and cleans up the mess made by applications developed with too loose a structure. Where I am now we changes the role name to Data Curator as that best fits the role being played.

    It’s been my experience that only very mature companies come close to implementing both and more often than not try to have IT stand up a Steward for the business who does both the Steward and Custodial roles. This tends to fail miserably, because the person playing those roles has no one to disagree with their interpretation of the data usage.

  • Andrew White says:

    Hello Fred, Thanks for the post. Yes, I agree with what you said. I see this a lot too. Keep “at it”!