Information Life Cycle Management Is About Cooking And Processing Data

Updated: Apr 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
If products in businesses and the businesses themselves take their own journey through a life cycle, then there is no reason why the information that forms the key of the businesses, their flow and the presentation, should not take a similar journey. This journey of information from cradle to grave is a flow and life that evolves.

Like every evolving thing in the world, information too needs nurturing and caring. Every such substance is manipulated to suit a goal. Every goal driven flow needs processes to optimise the output/effort ration. The last two centuries saw production follow repetitive processes to bring out the resultant.

Thus we automated not the processes but brought out finished products, whatever processes need to be automated for that purpose were automated. So the objective was not to automate work-flow or processes but to optimise and control a repetitive process in mass scale production. Process automation is integral to our century.

Some would scoff at the idea of cutting down the human interventions and would sneer at the possibility of machines replacing humans but they have to answer for the error prone human intervention, wastage and unnecessary human chain management that is involved in an otherwise known and pre-ordained process. Humans are here to think creative and not to follow the same process time and time again. Process automation of this century is the result of this exigency.

Some would scoff at the idea of cutting down the human interventions and would sneer at the possibility of machines replacing humans but they have to answer for error-prone human intervention
Meaningful data is information. Data when culled together, provides some meaning and is known as information. Information is therefore meta-data. Every meta simply inherits the properties of its primitive which it qualifies. With this definition, information too has its meta and is known as knowledge, and knowledge gives rise to wisdom. Data is cooked to provide information; information would therefore need processing to give knowledge. This is the main purpose of information life cycle management (ILCM).

ILCM is all about generating information, maintaining the part, that is policy-based and storing with an eye for effective and optimised retrieval and gaining knowledge and wisdom from the evolving irrelevance of data and information. Information was stored with data storage disciplines with an eye to speedy and easy retrieval.

With newer techniques in hand, one can venture to judge content and thereafter decide the recipient and the priority based on pre-decided rules of doing so. This is the crux of the ILCM solution. Priorities are temporal and spatially dependant, they depend on precedence of other related information.

Here comes the need for decision tree technique and some times even dynamic programming is called for to optimise the importance of the information. ILM is a managerial solution that takes the help of technological solutions to take care of some or its parts. As such the ILM methodology is in its primary stage of its own life cycle. Business intelligence is slowly moving towards its maturity and the need for ILCM therefore is coming up fast.

Regulatory authorities play a very important role in ILCM solutions. Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPA act is now asking for many regulatory information to be provided, as these standards recommend what information should go to whom and should be retained for how long. These rules give rise to the policies that corporate houses need to invent and deploy them over their database. Every industry with or without regulatory clauses needs ILCM.

Information needs to be classified on the following basis:
* Data element category [regulated content, internal or external, security and protectiveness]
* Data element ownership [which business unit, which position would be responsible for creation, maintenance and dissemination]
* Trigger events that stimulate the generation of a piece of information
* Description of action(s) required to manage content
*Retention requirement
* Access requirement
*Security requirement [in transmission, in dissemination
*Disposal requirement

Yet this is at best suggestive. Being a managerial solution there cannot be a ready-made idealised software solution, but like the best Business Intelligence (BI) solution it can be a methodology solution.

The time and context dependency of content forces the information into a strict regime of continuous need to process refinement. Like every software-managerial solution, documentation of every step, of every need and proper configuration management becomes essential. Evolution and transitory-state of information is the most important element in ILCM methodologies. ILCM is the direction for the future of application software. Content-dependant dissemination of information and groupware would be the direction of BI and that is the crux of application software.

The writer is engineering director, Interra IT