Perhaps lost amid all the buzz surrounding services-oriented architecture (SOA) is the most far-reaching potential result of all: a Star Trek-like era in which any and all enterprise information, regardless of format, will be made almost instantly available to all employees. Industry research firm Gartner has taken to referring to the emerging concept as enterprise information management (EIM), and considers SOA as the necessary steppingstone on the path to information nirvana.
At the Gartner MDM Summit in September, David Newman, a research vice president at the firm, made the connection -- and the importance -- very clear: "SOA requires EIM, and EIM requires SOA. Both get to the heart of being able to break down those information silos and making information the number-one asset of the enterprise."
According to Newman, EIM is defined by Gartner as an integrated end-to-end discipline for handling information assets regardless of technology "to improve operational efficiency, promote transparency, and enable business insight." "EIM is about enterprises putting their money where their mouth is," Newman said at the Summit. "If information is such an important asset to the enterprise, then why not [have] a single discipline surrounding it?"
EIM regards all information within a business as its greatest asset, whether as raw data from enterprise applications such as CRM or ERP systems, or information stored in content, knowledge, and document management systems. "It's taking all that data, whether it's structured or unstructured, and making it available to all segments of the enterprise via ubiquitous connectivity," Newman said.
Newman admits, however, that EIM can seem "overwhelming," and that, as a new and emerging concept, it's "a lot for anybody to swallow." But new technologies, such as SOA and XML, will make EIM a reality one day, Newman said. When that day comes, EIM will help businesses reduce operational complexity, improve enterprise performance and agility, meet compliance requirements, and discover more quickly new market opportunities and customer trends and behaviors. What's more, EIM will allow upper management to gain a complete and accurate overview of the organization.
For now, though, only a handful of leading organizations are beginning to study and implement EIM projects -- often resorting to custom-built applications, because only a few vendors have begun to address EIM from the technological side. "This is still very new, and no, we're not just coining another three-letter acronym," Newman said, addressing attendees' fears that Gartner was creating a new term for a concept or technology that doesn't yet exist. "As SOA becomes mainstream, the concept of EIM is slowly emerging, and will become the future of information management within the enterprise."