Return of the Guru

Security and Accountability Concerns Create a Market for Information Governance Products

Ara Trembly
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 14, 2010

It’s no surprise that technology vendors continue to work hard on developing products that enable insurers, brokers and agents to do their business more profitably and efficiently, but in a trend that often flies under the radar, many of the same vendors are aiming to help us stay secure and accountable in an increasingly litigious and regulation-conscious business environment.

In a way, this all comes under the rather ubiquitous heading of “governance.” According to CIO magazine, IT governance in particular means “putting structure around how organizations align IT strategy with business strategy, ensuring that companies stay on track to achieve their strategies and goals, and implementing good ways to measure IT’s performance.”

Of course, few things are more important to a business strategy than having systems and policies that are in compliance with regulatory requirements and enable enterprises to respond quickly and accurately to information needs related to those requirements.

If we can, indeed, put a structure around such processes, we will be ahead of the game in an area that is critical to our present and future operations. As a result, savvy vendors are making moves designed to help the industry achieve the levels of governance necessary to do business in an era where any and every piece of information may be important.

I thought of this when I heard that IBM had acquired PSS Systems, a privately held company based in Mountain View, Calif. “PSS Systems' software helps organizations analyze, automate and implement information governance policies across massive amounts of electronic business information and dispose of that information in an automated way,” says the IBM announcement. “These capabilities are critical elements to remaining responsive to legal obligations while reducing data storage costs.”

Here we see recognition that it’s not only important what information you keep, but so too is how you keep it. It seems that information disposal is a bit of a sticking point as well. IBM points out that as the volume of information continues to grow, companies are looking for ways to reduce the costs of collecting, processing, reviewing and storing information by setting information disposal policies that can meet legal requirements.

It seems rather obvious that improper disposal of what could still be sensitive information could be a major problem, especially if the trashed information is used for identity theft or other criminal purposes. We already struggle as a society with how to safely dispose of physical garbage, but managing electronic garbage seems to be emerging as a whole new industry that will be of special interest to data-intensive industries like insurance.

“To improve the management of data and these increasing legal obligations, Chief Legal Officers and CIOs are investing in software to automate and implement routine enforcement of information governance and retention policies,” says IBM. “Needlessly retaining information increases business risk, impedes the ability to respond to legal requests, and puts costs restraints on organizations in every industry.”

This is a need that will only continue to grow as the massive amounts of electronic information we store continues to expand. Insurers would be wise to begin building compliance, management and disposal strategies that minimize the risks of mishandled data to their business. No one is comfortable with elevated risk—least of all the insurance community.

Ara C. Trembly ( is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Ara using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at

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