Information Management: Forrester Links Structured and Unstructured data in Forrester BarbellPointing to the increasingly blurry lines that separate structured data and unstructured content, Forrester released a new report titled “The Enterprise Information Management Barbell Strengthens Your Information Value.” In this report, Forrester provides a new model for EIM that connects the worlds of Enterprise Content Management and Data Management, bridging the gap with foundational elements that support both categories.

Information Overload

Calling information the “lifeblood for all organizations,” Forrester points out that it isn’t just the volume of information that’s growing exponentially. The expanding variety of formats, number of information sources and the level of connectedness of those inside and outside the enterprise require a new perspective on how we view the information the enterprise needs to make business decisions.

To help clarify their view, Forrester gives us a broad definition that expands the traditional, data-oriented understanding of EIM:

Enterprise information management encompasses the processes, policies, technologies, and architectures that capture, consume, and govern the usage of an organization’s structured data and unstructured content.”

Minding the Gap

Managing information holistically is a hot topic, and analysts are seeing a significant uptick in client interest in the strategies, technologies and new roles focused on tackling this challenge. However, grappling with the issue and deploying meaningful solutions are two different things. Forrester reports that only 13% of respondents to the firm’s information management strategy and architecture survey felt they had a comprehensive plan to address both data and content.

To help navigate the connections required to bridge the gap between the two worlds of information, Forrester suggests viewing a slew of supporting technologies in a single light instead of adopting multiple systems geared for different types of information. These foundational technologies include workflow, analytics, search, security, classification and many others. Forrester insists that consolidating these technologies will be necessary to succeed in creating a unified EIM architecture.

Forrester sees a world where a set of common foundational capabilities is available for consumption by both the data and content systems. These foundational capabilities provide a bridge between the data and content systems that consolidate information for decisions and insights.”

Diagnosed Disconnect

Forrester also warns that maintaining information silos will become increasingly painful when it comes to managing key organizational processes. As an example, they point to the healthcare industry, where adequate patient care means having unified access to patient data, radiology imaging, physician charts and so forth.

A complete picture of the patient is a combination of the data stored in the clinical systems and the unstructured information gathered from the x-rays and doctor’s notes.”

Of course, this disconnection dilemma holds true for most industries. The loan processor needs data in the underwriting system, along with a host of forms and supporting documents, to have a complete loan file. The student admissions professional needs data in the student information system and a variety of unstructured information to build the complete applicant file.

Eating the Elephant in the Room

It remains to be seen how fast CIOs will embrace Forrester’s call to invest in a comprehensive EIM strategy that unifies structured and unstructured information -- it’s a daunting task no matter how you slice it.

Information silos typically exist because of organizational ones, and corralling the vested interests and disparate components into a cohesive, well-oiled information and content machine will take a strong hand. However, whether approached one bite at a time or through seismic shifts, the case for information unification is clear and Forrester’s “information barbell” framework provides a good model to begin formulating strategy to address the challenge.