lion in the grass
Does our buy of RecordLion mean we're giving up on repository-based governance? Not a chance PHOTO: Andy Brunner

Jim Amsler of GlassIG recently asked the question, “What Does the Gimmal Acquisition of RecordLion Mean for IG?” 

GlassIG is a thought leader in the information governance (IG) space and respected competitor of both Gimmal and RecordLion. But we believe Amsler’s article misunderstands the strategic nature of our combination.  

This is our response. We liberally quote Amsler’s article, which we encourage you to read. 

Two Approaches to Governance

We waited to respond until Microsoft’s Advanced Data Governance announcement on April 4, because it allows us to better characterize the hybrid content governance challenges that most organizations need to address, including organizations that use Office 365, SharePoint, Share Drives and email.  

Amsler wrote, “Does Gimmal's acquisition of RecordLion signal a major shift in information governance? … Consolidation has long been part of our industry.”  But, 

“This is different.  To understand how rewind to 2013 ... We at RSD GLASS were advocating a federated governance approach, and it was not easy. The dominant paradigm, as it had been for years, was the repository-based approach:

  1. Centralize your entire content management processes and storage into a single repository.
  2. Implement the RM module for that system.
  3. Decommission all other repositories, and/or implement a stub-and-migrate approach on any documents or records generated or stored outside the repository.”

Amsler goes on to say, “So it should not have surprised anyone that Mike Alsup, founder of Gimmal, then made this statement:

'It seems unlikely to me that governance can be federated into all of the required platforms, because we've tried this in years past with solutions like Venetica and Documentum. The legacy records management systems we were trying to connect with have not changed that much, nor has our ability to connect with them. Federated RM transfers the control over retention away from the repositories, which may be problematic for many repositories. Newer federation vendors like RSD are everywhere convincing buyers that they can do it all. I am looking for some case studies of successful federated Cloud RM implementations.'

Amsler's translation of my statement reads, “'Federated records management is hard and unlikely to work. Customers should doubt vendors who say otherwise.' Please correct me if I misunderstand the point here.”

Gimmal is still looking for case studies of successful federated cloud records management implementations in large companies, but we have learned some important things on our path to hybrid content governance.

All ECM Platforms Are Not Created Equal

While it is possible to tightly govern content within SharePoint or Documentum or OpenText, it is not possible to tightly govern content saved on Share Drives. An alternative governance strategy is required.  

In between, from a governance perspective, are Exchange, physical records, cloud file sync and share alternatives like Box, OneDrive and many others.  

What we have not seen is effective records management federated into the high-end ECM solutions, such as SharePoint, Documentum or Office 365 for in-place content governance. 

Most federated governance solutions take content out of these repositories to govern it. We believe creating and maintaining a separate governance repository to archive content for governance is a bad idea given the amount of content, its diversity and fragility of connectors over time. We would rather leverage the capabilities of existing ECM repositories to the extent possible.  

Hybrid Governance Is a Big Challenge

All content in all content repositories needs to be governed according to an organization’s policies. Every organization we talk to has a variety of content repositories and very few, if any, are consolidating to a single ECM repository. 

But enterprise content governance is only as strong as its weakest link. Hybrid content governance adapts enterprise content governance implementations to the capabilities and limitations of each content repository awaiting governance.  

In 2013 I stated

“organizations will need processes and tools to manage the lifecycle of content across multiple platforms in the Cloud and on-premises. This requires simplifying assumptions because the task is too big and too hard to address otherwise. How to achieve hybrid content governance is a high priority architectural question in many of our clients, especially in the largest organizations.”  

This statement is as true in 2017 as it was in 2013.  

A Repudiation or a Recognition of the Changing Paradigm?

Back to Amsler's article: “Gimmal was (and remains) an industry thought leader in the SharePoint space. It arguably has more SharePoint technical expertise than Microsoft does. Gimmal’s position in 2013 was to emphasize that companies should employ SharePoint-specific governance controls on SharePoint content. That is, a riff on the repository-based theme — only, in this case, the repository in question was SharePoint.”

“In short, the Gimmal acquisition of RecordLion repudiates the repository-specific governance paradigm. It recognizes that controls need to be as agile and decentralized as the content services they govern. It confirms that the growing footprint of cloud-based and hybrid content systems will only accelerate these trends.”

Gimmal built our content governance products to govern content inside SharePoint and meet the requirements of the DoD 5015.2 records management standard. We govern content within SharePoint both on-premises and in Office 365 because this enables us to fully leverage the incredible capabilities in the platforms that Microsoft provides.  

None of our competitors have taken this approach.  

In 2010 when we designed our products, we believed that most organizations would migrate their Share Drives into SharePoint and that the integrations between Exchange and SharePoint would enable us to use our inside-SharePoint governance capabilities to apply information policy to emails.  

Over time, we grew to understand that many organizations would keep their Exchange servers and Share Drives. Therefore, an effective enterprise content governance strategy needs to address all of an organization’s content repositories. 

A Third Governance Approach 

Chris Caplinger and his team at RecordLion won several competitions over Gimmal specifically because they did an excellent job of federating information policy into Share Drives. They also have excellent tools for the rules-based classification of content. We have known Chris for over a decade based on his work at RecordLion and previously in his role as the KnowledgeLake CTO.  

As Gimmal works to satisfy the diverse governance requirements of our customers, we recognize that some repositories will be governed in-place using repository-based tools, some will be governed in-place via federated tools, and some will have a content lifecycle where content flows between repositories.  

With the new Microsoft Security and Compliance Center (a key part of Advanced Data Governance), Microsoft is strongly encouraging an in-place strategy for Office 365 content. It has not yet provided a mechanism for federated governance vendors to impose policy or archive content out of Office 365.  

This is a new and third governance approach. Gimmal intends to fully support all three of these approaches to meet the diverse needs of our customers. Gimmal’s hybrid content governance strategy is stronger with the RecordLion tools in our arsenal and with Chris Caplinger and his team at Gimmal.  

We would gladly address any questions you might have for us.