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Does Gimmal's acquisition of RecordLion signal a major shift in information governance? PHOTO: skeeze

In case you missed it (and if you did, where have you been?) Gimmal acquired RecordLion.

Consolidation has long been part of our industry. Enterprise content management (ECM) providers acquired records management solutions to be bolted onto their repositories.

E-discovery providers consume each other on a regular basis. OpenText and IBM always shop for something to add to their portfolios.

A Change in IG Approach

This is different.

To understand how rewind to 2013. RSD GLASS (the forerunner of my company, GlassIG) had been on the market for about three years, but there were no other major players in the in-place governance space.

We at RSD 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.

This made perfect sense for ECM vendors… they owned not only the content, but also metadata, lifecycle, and search and access controls. That made these systems very sticky; it was risky and expensive to decommission them. Many remain in place to this day.

'Federated Records Management Is Hard'

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."

My translation: “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: A Thought Leader

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.

Now return mentally (and, as necessary, in other ways) to the present.

The proliferation of content systems that brought RSD GLASS into existence in 2010 has not only continued, it has accelerated with the trend towards hybrid and cloud-based content management services.

Content practices are increasingly siloed and decentralized, with monolithic solutions no longer applicable.

A single label like “ECM” no longer applies (here I nod in agreement to Chris Walker).

Ask yourself: How many content management services/platforms/shared drives/repositories/systems does your organization maintain?

I can think of five on that I use, and my company is probably smaller than yours.

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.