Research released today reveals that businesses across Europe are failing to make the most of their information. Two out of three (69 per cent) companies surveyed across Europe recognise that making the most of information is critical to success (85 per cent of companies in the UK alone). However, one in three place the responsibility for information management with departments that lack the necessary expertise or authority.

The research, undertaken Coleman Parkes, shows that responsibility for document storage and retrieval resided with office or facilities managers for 22 per cent of respondents, while in 14 per cent of cases the management of both paper and digital information was passed to the IT department.

In the UK, for over half of all respondents responsibility for information management was spread across a number of departments or business areas, with a departmental manager in charge in just 18 per cent of cases.

Companies are drowning in information in all formats. As a result, information management needs to become a C-suite issue. All too often, we see responsibility too far down the command chain. This hampers the introduction of consistent information policies and processes, all of which are essential in enabling access to information and its efficient use for business gain.

Whether it is inbound, outbound or created internally, the value locked within the tide of financial, customer and business information is vital to the success of the firm. Companies need to make information the hero of their business. Our survey suggests that most companies recognise this but are struggling to unlock the potential of their information assets.

I urge companies to address five key areas to realise the value from the information they hold:

  1.  Understand the value you want from your information

It’s no use simply knowing that you want to get more out of your information. You need to know what value you want to add to your business. Could it be used to track marketing trends and influence sales strategy or could it examine HR trends for performance management purposes? Once the value is clear, only then can a business implement processes to realise this value.

  1.  Make sure everybody is at the table

It’s imperative that everyone works together to create and implement a strategy – it’s no use for IT to go down one path while compliance, records management and legal are heading in different directions. Collaboration should be managed through a cross-functional steering committee, so that everyone’s information needs are understood and addressed appropriately.

  1.  Store with access in mind

Giving staff fast access to information provides a competitive advantage as well as a happy workforce. It is crucially important to make document retrieval easy for your staff – so implement a clear system which allows your records to be requested and retrieved quickly.

  1.  Watch out for hidden costs

With the volume of business information skyrocketing, the last thing you need is your costs to follow suit. Pressure to keep costs down, and do more with less, remains completely unrelenting. The cost of managing information can be considerable but is often hidden, so consider expert help before implementing a programme to help provide the most cost-effective solution.

  1.  Implement policies and culture from the top

Implementing policies is important of course, but equally so is getting your people to buy into them. Change is rarely easy, particularly cultural change. To maximise value, it needs to come from the top – it’s about establishing a company-wide culture of respect and protection for information.