Information – Are you in denial?
Why are organisations in such denial about the importance of information? I can’t begin to count the number of conversations that I have had in the last year, where “information” is discussed in isolation, as if it is a separate entity, something that we can choose to manage or not.
Reality check: Information IS your business. I don’t care what industry you are in, you deal in information. You develop/produce/deliver products with information. You trade with information. You communicate and market with information. You measure, hire and fire with information. You report and finance with information. You teach with information. You service with information. You manage your risks with information and you invest and grow with information. There is no part of your organisation that does not generate and consume information. None!
And yet, when we’re having conversations about information management, be it numerical data, documents, product leaflets, emails, reports, complaints, or whatever… we seem to be in denial of the significance of that information. Information somehow gets generated or acquired and it exists somewhere and, if we are lucky, there is a process associated with it to monitor the actions that it relates to. If you are running a retail shop, a supermarket or a library, once a year you close your doors and take an inventory of your stock. Why aren’t you doing the same with your information? I guess it is because product stock has a price-tag on it with a number. But information doesn’t. And yet, it is your organisation’s single (and most significant) point of failure.
I have written in previous blogs, that having too much information, can be as dangerous as not having enough information, or not knowing how much information you have. But what happens to information when you are not paying attention to it? At the very least, it turns into clutter since you are not getting value from it and it obscures other information that you now can’t find. More likely it becomes stale, out-of-date and mouldy risking you a serious bout of mis-information food-poisoning. Or it leaks out of the fridge and into your competitors kitchen. Or it just vanishes in thin air because nobody managed to put a lid on the pot.
Ok, enough with the food analogy… where am I going with this? You do not have the luxury to decide if you are going to manage information. All information. You only have the option to decide when and how you are going to manage it. The when is simple: now. If you are in business you need to manage it now, otherwise you are running multiple risks that you are not even able to quantify: Compliance, Legal, Operational, Financial. The how is a function of the type of information and the value it carries. There are models for calculating that, which I’m not going to go into here.
Vendors in the information management market have been using the phrase “Information is an asset” for a long time. Pay attention to it. If it was a marketing fad, it would have died a great death many years ago, as did many other catchphrases. But this one has been around for dozens of years and it’s not going away. Because it’s true. And like any asset, the better you manage it the better your return. If you are the kind of person who is happy to leave their savings in a bank account that gives you 0.03% APR, then I wish you well. If however you are diligent enough to notice that while you have been complacent with your 0.03%, your competitors have shifted their savings to an account that gives them 3.50%, then it’s time to do something about it. Don’t let you information waste away…
Look for a better savings account for your information. Look for a better return. Look for the right tools that will reduce your information risk, and increase the return from your asset. Just as you do with your cashflow. Because, unless you prefer to stay in denial, your information is just as critical to your business as your cashflow.