Information lifecycle management is the name given to the strategies and policies a business uses to maintain and organize digital information. It is the modern evolution of strategies used to manage physical data such as that stored on paper, film, and other physical media. A piece of data undergoes five phases of information lifecycle management. These are creation, distribution, maintenance, use, and disposition.
With information lifecycle management, the movement and storage of a given piece of data is controlled from the time it is created to the time it ceases to be useful. Usually this occurs in a business context, though information lifecycle management can also be used to maintain data for government or other purposes. The information lifecycle management policy of a business is dictated by the overall goals of the organization and is closely tied to its general information technology policies.
The process begins with the creation or receipt of a new piece of information. The data can either be created internally, as when an accountant prepares a budget for the organization, or it can be received from someone outside the company. This can include forms, correspondence, or reports.
The information is then distributed. On the internal level, the data is passed to workers and managers in the company who may need it to make policy decisions. The data may also be distributed externally to vendors, clients, or stockholders.
Next, the information can be used to help make business decisions or guide company policy. Throughout the use and distribution process, the information must be maintained. Maintenance includes filing, retrieval, and transfers of the information. In order for the information to be useful, the business must arrange it in a predetermined sequence and have a system in place for managing it. Processes for tracking data while it is in use are also part of the maintenance step.
Finally, information undergoes disposition. This is the policy laid out for handling information that has become less valuable over time. Such data is less frequently accessed and may have already met the retention requirements laid out by government or organizational rules.
In a well-organized system of information lifecycle management, data moves smoothly through these five steps. An exception is when the business becomes involved in a legal action. In this case, some data may be frozen or removed from the general data stream until the legal question can be resolved.