Thoughts about IBM’s Acquisition of PSS Systems

I have been in the information management industry for 14 years and proud to say that I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I have seen this market evolve from output management to imaging/workflow, document management, web content management, records management, email archiving, ECM vendor consolidation, open source ECM, Microsoft dominating (again) with SharePoint, and now information governance. For the last 12 months, I have been focusing on information governance – talking to countless customers and watching how the traditional ECM vendors are responding to information governance. Yesterday (and to no surprise), IBM announced their acquisition of California-based PSS Systems.

I admire IBM’s move to acquire PSS as it closes a very much needed gap for providing companies with a policy engine for information governance and eDiscovery. Companies are struggling to create, validate, and manage the policies that define how corporate information should be managed across the organization. Companies must be cognizant of their ongoing legal and regulatory obligations since non-compliance leads to substantial fines, serious revenue loss, significant reputational damage, and possibly jail sentences for C-level executives.

While this acquisition is commendable, there is an open question which hardly gets mentioned during a merger/acquisition announcement. How exactly is IBM planning to integrate PSS ATLAS with their multiple repositories – FileNet, IBM Content Manager, IBM OnDemand, ImagePlus, etc, etc? Naturally, these systems have different flavors with multiple versions. The integration is not going to be straightforward. I am certain IBM global services team can make the integration work – question is at what cost to the customer.

You may ask why is this important?

We all recognize large companies have multiple repositories. The repositories are typically spread across jurisdictions, business units, and platform technologies. It is difficult to deploy corporate retention policies in a stove-piped manner and it’s also not feasible to migrate all content into a single content repository. Each repository needs to have dedicated policy administration and controls to ensure content is archived to corporate defined rules. Not only is this is an administrative headache, but it also creates a huge risk for the entire organization. As a result, policies must be centralized and the content should remain federated.

However, this only gets you 25% there – organizations must be able to demonstrate their policies are enforceable and auditable. Companies must take these policies and (what I call) put them to work in the field. The policies have to be properly published and drive the various lifecycle actions so they are performed correctly by the business units, jurisdictions, records management divisions, and ECM administrators. These actions must be (properly) managed and enforced. This should be done in an automated fashion Moneywithout requiring extreme changes to the repository infrastructure or costly upgrades. By the way, these actions are not limited to just retention/disposition and eDiscovery. Actions also include metadata management, storage ILM, data privacy rules, and so much more.  The integration of the PSS policy engine must be integrated with the records management applications and the various IBM repositories for a true information governance platform. At the end of the day, companies need a single records management dashboard which works across all IBM and non-IBM repositories that’s tightly integrated with the policy engine.

In the next 6-12 months, it will be interesting to see how PSS and IBM customers react. In the meantime, please hand me some popcorn as I wait to see how EMC responds.

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Photo courtesy by Jake Wasdin on Flickr