The Automated Information Lifecycle Management Model: Part 1 – Implications of the AILM Model

AILM ModelHere’s a brief conversation I recently had with a fellow records management professional:

Me: “I don’t implement manual records management processes anymore because of where I live.”

Other Guy: “Where do you live?”

Me: “The 21st Century.”


Let’s start the New Year out by being honest with ourselves. Things are a mess out there. Content growth is exploding at unprecedented, unsustainable rates. Storage devices are filling up faster than we can add them to our networks. E-discovery costs are forcing even innocent parties to settle lawsuits rather than engage in protracted and expensive discovery responses. And nobody – and let me be clear about this: nobody – is defensibly deleting information.

This is happening everywhere, across every industry and in every company regardless of the content management solution the organization is (or isn’t) using. Clearly those of us in the Records and Information Management profession have not been providing our customers with information management solutions that meet their needs. And I believe the only way we can change that is to fundamentally change the methods we use to manage the information lifecycle to focus on a singular goal: the complete automation of the entire records management process across the organization.

I call this the Automated Information Lifecycle Management model (and I fully expect to be accepting my Noble Prize for its creation this time next year in Oslo, Norway – if you want to book your travel plans early.)

Given the technology at the time, the Automated Information Lifecycle Management (AILM) model would not have been possible only a few years ago, but I now believe it is not only a possibility, but an absolute imperative if we have any hope of reversing the last two decades of over-retention and over-preservation.

Over the next few months I will be posting a multi-part series of articles describing the AILM strategy and how it applies to various aspects of records management, including email, social networking, the cloud, e-discovery and more. This installment – Part 1 of the Series – will explain the fundamental implications of applying the AILM across the enterprise.

[Note: With a few exceptions, my professional practice over the last several years has focused almost exclusively on records management in a Microsoft ecosystem. And, of course, this blog has focused on records management in SharePoint (hence, the rather obvious name But it is important to note that I also have many years of experience with almost every other major ECM/RM product on the market and unless otherwise stated, the methods I describe in this series are not limited to a Microsoft environment, but can be applied anywhere.]


For many records management professionals, the thought of automating every information lifecycle management process across an organization is nothing short of heresy. This is a 20th Century, paper-based-world mind set and we are going to have to move beyond it. Right now, technology exists that allows you to automate every phase of the information lifecycle. And it can be done easily, cheaply and in complete compliance with every organization’s internal and external requirements.

There are, of course, a number of significant implications that arise from applying the AILM model, though I believe all of them will result in a net positive for the organization:

  • Easily the biggest effect will be felt by the organization’s end users. Information workers – who have long been expected to participate in the records management process by applying burdensome metadata, analyzing complex retention policies, classifying content against complicated file plans, and manually ‘declaring’ records – will suddenly be free of these onerous responsibilities and able to spend more time on tasks directly related to their lines of business.
  • The AILM model will have a profound effect on the organization’s records management practice, making it far easier to manage, less costly to maintain and, most importantly, a great deal more efficient – providing the level of defensible disposition necessary to finally turn the tide on the explosive growth of over-retained information.
  • IT departments will rejoice. In many organizations IT staff have been forced into making impossible decisions: keep adding and maintaining storage for more and more data at higher and higher cost or begin to destroy information irrespective of its proper retention and disposition requirements. (I personally know people who have chosen the latter and they lie awake at night fearing the inevitable lawsuit that requires them to produce information they know is no longer there.) With an AILM solution implemented, the responsibility of making these no-win decisions will finally be lifted from IT’s over-burdened shoulders.
  • Corporate Legal departments will be equally as delighted. AILM will significantly reduce the cost and burden of e-discovery, while simultaneously ensuring the completeness of discovery responses.
  • And lastly, companies will finally have the technology in place that will enable them to implement retention and disposition policies on all of their information across the entire organization, ultimately allowing them to put an end to the pointless and counter-productive practice of distinguishing ‘records’ from ‘non-records’.


The time for the Automated Information Lifecycle Management model is now. (OK, technically, it was yesterday, but there isn’t much we can do about that.) In the next installment in this series I will be talking to two industry visionaries, Martin Garland, CEO of Concept Searching and Geoff Bourgeois, CTO of Acaveo about how their products support the AILM model and how some of their customers are already implementing it.

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