Without a doubt, it’s your information. Information management drives your organization forward and distinguishes you from competitors. It encompasses your goals, your products, and your ideas. Information keeps everyone on the same page—at least, in theory.

Today, thanks to the cloud, employees and customers can access information like never before. The volume of data has exploded, and so has its velocity, zipping from server to smartphone to tablet to printer, across the organization and around the world.

A colossal benefit ignored

It sounds like an ideal, frictionless system, but the reality is far different. According to IDC, the average worker is able to find the information they need only 56 percent of the time. They spend nearly 36 percent of their time just looking for it.

It gets worse. A PwC study found that 96 percent of businesses fail to unlock the full potential of their information. Over 40 percent of the businesses in the study said they obtained little tangible benefit from their information, and 23 percent said they got nothing out of it at all.

96 percent of businesses fail to unlock the full potential of their information.

Clearly, the Information Age hasn’t lived up to its promise for many organizations. Which is a shame, because if you manage your information well, it can transform your organization into an agile, quick-thinking machine that develops the products tomorrow’s customers want and gets them to market faster than competitors.

But to do that, you must first unlock the information—get it out of siloes and create a robust system to manage it. Once you’ve done that, it can serve as a beacon to identify everything from supply bottlenecks to gaps in customer service.

Unlocking your information assets

Unfortunately, many organizations don’t have a clue how to unlock their information. So here’s a road map:

  1. Set up an enterprise-wide information management system with a high-level executive in charge (think Chief Data Officer). Gartner recommends that you also appoint a lead information steward for every business unit to help create risk controls for the information they use.
  2. Conduct an audit of your company’s information to find out where the costs and bottlenecks are coming from. Legacy systems and paper documents are often culprits. Make like Elsa and let it go. Converting documents to digital form allows them to be accessible and searchable. That will not only save money and help your employees be more productive—it can lead to new business insights.
  3. Eliminate unnecessary storage space. Physical and digital storage both cost you money. Are you using the optimal combination of on-site and off-premises solutions, or is it time to make changes? This shouldn’t be a one-time exercise—technology advances quickly, and you should regularly review your systems to see if a new arrangement might work better.
  4. Use an enterprise content management or data management system to shed light on the 80 to 90 percent of your data that is unstructured. That includes Word and Google documents, emails PDFs, PowerPoints, videos, audio files, images, and even social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. Conventional spreadsheets won’t aggregate and analyze this kind of information—instead, you would need to employ a business intelligence data mining solution.
  5. Apply big data analytics to your company’s information to spot trends and make predictions. With the enormous volumes of information available to be analyzed, it’s important to ask the right questions and focus on areas where you can save on costs or develop new revenue streams. Are you having delivery problems? Analyze the supply chain. Want to know what your customers really think of you? Don’t just rely on surveys—analyze data from your social media channels. Are customers longing for something you don’t provide? Maybe it’s time to launch a new product line.

Once you unleash the power of your information, there’s no going back. With all improved efficiency and insights you’ll gain from optimizing your information and unlocking its full value, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.