I recently saw a chart tracing the history of IBM’s acquisition of smaller companies over the years, adding niche expertise to IBM’s already comprehensive set of tools. On its own, the subset of IBM called Information Lifecycle Governance, which is concerned with information governance is so enormous that these acquisitions do not necessarily appear to add bulk. That is not the point, nor does IBM need to buy out competitors to remove them from competition. What they are in a position to do is to jump over long development cycles by acquiring specialist expertise developed elsewhere.
The proposed acquisition of StoredIQ, announced just before Christmas, is the latest in this pattern. Barry Murphy of eDiscovery Journal writes about it here, identifying two primary reasons why the acquisition makes sense for IBM. One is StoredIQ’s technology for applying policies to data, and undertaking pre-collection analysis of the discovery in place. The other is the need to compete with nimble players like Nuix and Index Engines whose impact on the information governance and defensible deletion markets has been disproportionate to their size.
Barry Murphy draws attention to IBM’s ability to centralise the management of information governance across the enterprise. In larger companies, the acquisition costs of tools like this can only be judged by reference to the very significant savings which can be made once the tools and the policies are in place. The pure management savings, significant as they may be, are the least of it – eDiscovery costs, internal and external, can be enormous, and potentially involve risk to reputation as well; even more importantly (but often overlooked) is the value of actually being able to find the information needed for more positive business purposes.
Barry Murphy observes that “IG maturity is just beginning to grow”. That is true, but it is also right to say that the problems which information governance addresses are growing at a rate which needs urgent attention. Even without looking beyond the companies named in Barry Murphy’s article – IBM, EMC, Symantec, Nuix, and Index Engines – the scene is set for a competitive market in which corporations have real choices. IBM’s acquisition of StoredIQ makes sure that it stays ahead as the information governance market matures.