By Karen S. Henrie Print this article Print

The value of information changes over time, and information lifecycle management is designed helps companies take advantage of those changes. But integration woes remain.


The business case for ILM: actively managing rapidly expanding data. Dr. John Halamka is CIO of CareGroup Health System, a three-hospital network with 12,000 employees and an IT budget of $40 million. He is also CIO of the Harvard Medical School, where he oversees roughly 23,000 users and a combined operating and capital budget of $11 million. When it comes to implementing ILM, he's further along than most.

Halamka is intimately familiar with healthcare-related regulatory requirements, both from HIPAA, which says healthcare providers must guarantee the integrity of their data, and from the state of Massachusetts, which says they must maintain clinical records for 30 years.

Beginning back in the late 1990s, Halamka sought a "scalable and predictable solution" to maintain the massive amounts of data under his charge at both the medical school and CareGroup. Halamka and his teams at the medical school and CareGroup eliminated all departmental servers and implemented multiple, tiered-storage area networks. This provided a centralized view of all applications and information. They then divided information into three storage classes: New information is stored for the first month on a high-end storage facility that costs $44 per gigabyte. Between one month and a year, it moves to less expensive, less reliable middle-tier storage, at a cost of $22 per gigabyte. Information older than one year is maintained at a cost of $11 per gigabyte.

Halamka then developed a more granular grading scale—A for the least critical, up to AAAA for the most—for CareGroup's applications and information. Criteria included clinical importance, financial impact, workflow impact multiplied by the number of people affected, and strategic importance. For example, life-or-death clinical applications received a AAAA. So did the company's main Web page, due to its strategic importance. An application that managed hospital beds was deemed less so.

Halamka recalls inviting all of his direct reports to attend a retreat, where he handed out the evaluation forms, explained the criteria, and asked those present to grade all of the applications under their purview. These results were then used to develop business rules that dictate the movement of data. "We're constantly shuttling data based on business rules," he says.

Halamka hasn't quantified the benefits from ILM, but he views it as an essential component of his overall IT plan. "Demand for data storage is growing at 25 percent per year. If I'm paying $44 a gigabyte, I can't afford that level of growth. This is the only way I can work with the capital budget I've got."

Ask your business unit heads:

What criteria should we use to determine the changing value of business information over time?

Ask your chief compliance officer:

Which regulatory requirements should we tackle first as part of our ILM strategy?

Story Guide:

  • Strategy
  • Implementation
  • Results
  • Future

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    This article was originally published on 2012-05-08
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