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Is data a risk or opportunity? How you manage information makes all the difference.

Is data your business’s best friend or worst enemy?

Big data analytics. Automation. With the hype train pulling up at a station near you, businesses are told they need to get on board or miss out. But hold on a minute, is this the right train for me? Is it going in the direction I want? Do I even have a ticket? Surely these questions need answering first.

When it comes to integrating new technologies – whether it's data analytics, automation, cloud computing or any other innovation that relies on information – business leaders need to be ready before they jump off the platform.

Prepare your business, understand how information is being used and how this can be improved, and you'll have a great opportunity to climb aboard and head straight to first class. If you don't know these things and still try to board the hype train, you might end up falling under it instead of stepping onto it.

That's why we say information management can be your best friend or worst enemy. Data on its own can't change your business unless you get to know it better. In this way, your biggest challenge can be changed into your best driver of opportunities.

Information management, data security, governanceData could be the key to your future success.

A huge 45 per cent of executives say they are at risk because of a lack of information governance.

Better the devil you know

A poll by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) found that a huge 45 per cent of executives say they are at risk because of a lack of information governance. We'd guess that number is actually higher when we consider how many leaders are blind to what information governance actually entails.

The study found that those executives who did understand how badly they've put their business in jeopardy identified two risks that could lie a little further down the tracks:

1) Litigation

The great issue of compliance hits all business. When it comes time to prove that your business has been working within the law, the right documents need to be pulled from your system. But do you know where they are?

A big part of information management is having a retention schedule – putting an accurate shelf life on every piece of data. If you need to hold records for at least three years for compliance reasons, business governance that focuses on information management will have that plan in place.

"Sixty per cent of respondents agree that automation is the only way to keep up with the volumes of electronic content, while 21 per cent are already using automated declaration or classification of records," AIIM reported.

Automation can help with compliance, though for it to work, that all-important first step of cleaning up a business's information management structure needs to be undertaken sooner rather than later.

The average cost of a data breach is bordering on an astonishing $5 million.

2) Data security

With the value of information becoming more tangible, executives are understandably growing more concerned about their data security. Unfortunately, the risks are becoming more pronounced.

IBM found that the average cost of a data breach is bordering on an astonishing $5 million – an increase of 23 per cent from 2013. What's more, 16 per cent of executives polled by AIIM have suffered a data breach in the past year, while more than half (51 per cent) have had a "data-related incident".

We know that hackers and fraudsters use a range of business scams in a bid to steal valuable information, while poor information management can lead to precious data being misplaced or lost.

A big part of business governance is making someone accountable for a company's information management strategy. Just like a chief financial officer is accountable for money, data needs the same structure of responsibility.

Information security, governance, data managementKeeping information secure is a job for people as well as computers.

Keep your friends close

Data comes with a risk, there's no doubt about it. It can be a ruthless enemy that wants to sink your organisation at every turn. However, tame information and it can quickly become an opportunity – a friend who can help you reach new levels of productivity.

There are plenty of ways it can do this:

1) Through strategy

In 2016, businesses operate at the speed of light, and so does the wider market. Should something happen that requires a strategy change, information gives executives the insight to spot trends and make quicker, better decisions.

2) Through improved productivity

From the top level, through the middle and right down to an organisation's core workforce, productivity is something that can add value to the entire business. Today more than ever, employees are able to work anywhere in the world on almost any device, though doing so productively relies on the organisation's information management structure.

3) By unlocking new technologies

Any technology implementation needs a strong foundation. What's the point in spending money on a fortress if it's built on sand? In the same vein, all the information security in the world won't matter if your staff don't have the delegated responsibility to look after data.  

From data storage to data analytics and automation, new technologies need to be complemented with a tangible governance framework.

Information management, data, business governance, productivity, security, new technologies, strategy, decision makingThe information management train is coming.

The information management train is pulling into the station; are you ready to get on board?

A decision needs to be made

AIIM found that most senior managers (57 per cent) are only interested in information governance when things go wrong. With almost half of executives admitting that things could easily take a turn for the worse, it leaves them with an urgent decision to make.

Is information your ally or foe? The best way to determine the answer is to ask yourself if you managed money in the same way as your information, what would your business look like?

We've created a free white paper on the matter, though one way or another, all executives, directors and shareholders should ask themselves this question sooner rather than later.

The information management train is pulling into the station; are you ready to get on board?

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