The Rise of the Chief Information Architect

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Everyone is familiar with the role of the chief information officer, and the chief technology officer is gaining momentum as the lead technologist in the enterprise.

But the folks at EMC are starting to see a need for someone to specifically take on the role of chief information architect in the enterprise. Many companies face an exponentially-growing amount of information to be managed, said Whitney Tidmarsh, chief marketing officer for content management in the Archiving Division of EMC. In fact, IDC estimates that the amount of information to be managed is doubling every 18 months, which by 2011 should collectively reach 1.8 million zetabytes. That's roughly 129 million times more than all the books stored in the U.S. Library of Congress, EMC says. At the same time, however, EMC estimated that 85 percent of all unstructured information stored today is not managed.

Yet there are more applications than ever trying to access the same data. Rather than replicate that data everywhere and drive up storage costs in the process, EMC recommends companies start taking a strategic approach to data management beyond throwing more storage hardware at the problem. Instead, IT organizations need a specialist who designs and maintains the overall architecture make sure that the right information is flowing across the enterprise to the right people at the right time.

That may sound a little counterintuitive, coming from a storage vendor such as EMC. But as EMC evolves into a provider of information management and security services, Tidmarsh points out that EMC wants to provide customers with tools to manage information effectively, not just storage systems. In many cases, that means coming up with a data architecture that allows applications to effectively share data stored in the same array.

Tidmarsh also points out that in this age of compliance, IT organizations need to better document the flow of information across business processes and someone has to be responsible for that. Without managing that data, it's also highly probable that the business is making strategic decisions on missing or incorrect information.

Tidmarsh concedes that the concept of a chief information architect is nascent. For example, Boeing and Bank of America are only a handful of companies that have one. But as time goes on, it's becoming clear that the creation of this role in more large-scale enterprises is almost inevitable.