Those of you with affinity to old British pop culture or the unforgettable Madness of 80s fame (ahem: “my house in the middle of my street…”) will probably remember the infamous “my name is Michael Caine” circular. Long before Rick Astley Rickrolling, poor old Michael was flavor-du-jour of everyman comedians looking for a quick, omnipresent quip. Well, forget all of that. These days, my name is NIEM!

NIEM which stands for the, inevitably, not so sexy sounding National Information Exchange Model is a formal information exchange schema developed by the US government (specifically DOJ and DHS) to further information sharing across Federal, and in time, State and Local government agencies and their business constituents. NIEM builds on from the much more bulky Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM) model; an off-shoot of post 9/11 information sharing initiatives. The idea of NIEM (currently in version 2.1) is to provide a consistent, non-redundant, open standards based XML schema that has some well defined entities and activities for improved inter-agency communication and information sharing.

All good…but what’s new, eh? Well, I think what is new is the fact that NIEM seems to be much more than just another academic exercise. Since its infancy in 2005, there have been multiple live and pilot projects (particularly around criminal investigation related content) at many Federal and State agencies, a set of open source tools have been developed and continue to grow, and the government (including Fed CIO, Vivek Kundra) seem more than ever to be pushing the standard and making it a part of the overall US government strategy for information sharing–see

So, how does this apply to content management? Well, as with 21CFR11, 5015 2&4, SOX and most your other garden variety compliance oriented standards, there is an opportunity. An opportunity to become compliant (read: running afoul of the government is not a good thing if you want to work with them). And, an opportunity to be productive (read: information transparency and efficient content sharing can lead to some bottom line savings and possibly…and this is where you need to put your hat on…new revenue development channels).

As far as ECM goes, it seems to me that minimally NIEM would have an obvious play along the lines of Case Management (particularly for investigative records) and, in a larger context, Records Management. Empirically though it’s not there yet. Case Management is still quite immature as an offering. Though there are, of course, many solutions out there, most are heavily bespoke or still based on legacy structured data and structured data management systems. In a world of exploding DOC, PPT, PDF, MP3, FLV, et al content sources the days of pure structured content solutions are numbered. As for Records Management, despite hype to the contrary, it seems we are still very much focused on eDiscovery related records management–hail Email Archival!! I think there is change afoot though, with greater investment than ever–at least by the government–in Case Management, Records Management and information sharing initiatives.

NIEM, of course, is not nor will ever be a silver bullet. Ultimately, it’s a suggested structure for content storage and exchange. However, as with the neighbor’s grass, you could always bemoan the greener pastures…only to realize in time that with a little spade work your own grass aint half bad. NIEM can be that spade…


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  1. Jennifer Hunt

    Good blog. What do you think about usage of NIEM for commercial businesses working with the government? Any advantages to adopting it now or wait and see?

  2. Jimmy Nasr

    I think NIEM definitely makes sense from a long-term planning perspective for any business that expects long-term interaction with government agencies that have adopted NIEM (particularly DHS and DOJ). However, I think it may be worth to wait on major adoption until there is greater evidence of ROI and/or bigger incentives (or disincentives not to) to do so. It seems to me that for now the best approach maybe a limited (and mainly informational) POC–in line with many state and local government agencies–to understand the implications of implementing NIEM. As with anything else in the technology realm, you pretty much need to minimally double your initial estimate for level of effort and complexity…so better to start slow and make sure the business case is sound.

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