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Information is an asset: is yours sweating?

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Our era is called the Information Age because every day, every organization, big or small, generates mountains of information on paper and on disk, writes Jean Moncrieff, CEO of the Emerge Group.

Our employees are knowledge workers who carry large portions of our information assets locked in their heads. But when it comes to looking after our business assets, information is still the poor relation. Most companies devote far more time, energy and attention to managing their physical and financial assets than to their information assets: which means there’s a lot of value lying around going to waste.
That’s not just a figure of speech. Many times I have walked through a company’s headquarters only to find boxes of paper piled up in rooms and basements, completely unorganized and slowly mouldering away. Electronic content, which should be easier to keep track of, walks out of the door every day on employee’s laptops. Would you store your hard-earned profits in boxes in the basement or dumped in unused corners of your office building? Didn’t think so. How about giving the staff some cash to take home every night and look after? Not going to happen. So why do we treat our information assets like that?
To protect and grow your information assets – which in many cases are actually a company’s most important and productive assets – you need skilled Information Asset Managers, the same way you probably turn to accredited financial advisors to look after your financial assets. An Information Asset Manager should partner with you to create an information management strategy that will earn you a return on your information assets, just as you would expect from any other asset class.
The lifecycle of an information asset begins with its creation and ends with its long-term storage – in which case it may need to be retrieved someday – or destruction. Along the way it may be acquired, traded, transmitted, catalogued, indexed, stored, preserved and accessed several times. Managing information assets properly through each of these stages takes appropriate information technology – which can, unfortunately, lead to the misperception that the value lies in the IT infrastructure rather than the information itself.
Companies also have to deal with multiple vendor solutions available in each of the stages of the lifecycle and the fact that few offer a holistic approach to information asset management.
Yet it’s critically important to develop that holistic vision rather than getting bogged down in the various stages of the information lifecycle. When you’re investing money, you’re interested less in the mechanics of the process than in the ultimate output of the investment, its cost and your access to that capital: managing information assets should be the same.
To develop a sound information management strategy for your company, start by consulting a specialist Information Asset Manager. Look at what value you want to unlock in your information assets, different cost models for managing them and, most importantly, what you require from an access strategy to those assets.
The greatest unrealised opportunity in most organisations lies in unlocking the value of their information by collecting, managing, analysing and delivering it in a meaningful and accessible form. Your goal should be to ensure that you and your employees have the right information, consistently available, when they need it, at a minimum cost.