Information is at the heart of a CIO’s job spec and with good reason. Along with managing IT systems, the CIO must take control of data, one of the most vital assets any business has.
If managed correctly, data can provide significant information into a range of things a company can greatly benefit from, including what customers think, how well certain products are selling and where services need to be improved.
This doesn’t come as a surprise – it’s how Fortune 500 companies such as Facebook and Google have built a successful business.
Companies that aren’t internet natives may wonder if this applies to them. The short answer is: yes, it does. Data can prove extremely valuable to any business and managing and protecting it should not be taken for granted.
Take sales data, for example: it can be a goldmine of information. The global airline industry was able to predict a 50% rise in profits for 2014 through its use of data analytics.
By being more fastidious about collecting data from diverse sources – everything from maintenance data to customer reactions on social media – correlations between factors become identifiable and those relationships leveraged to drive sales and optimise pricing.
However, while CIOs are well aware of the value data can bring to the business, most employees aren’t. More than a third (36%) of European workers asked in a Canon study didn’t understand the link between information and their company’s profitability, a rate that’s even higher among more junior employees.
This stat can cause CIOs a major headache, as these 36% are the very people who create, organise and input the data the most.
Such contrasts are common in the workplace, but prove particularly challenging for CIOs given the slightly abstract value of information (for front-line employees, at least). After all, making the link between a spreadsheet filled with customer information and company profits can be a bit of a stretch for anyone who is not directly involved in information processing.
In turn, lack of education and standard procedures provides major operational problems for the CIO. Not understanding the link between profitability and information can lead to carelessness or inattention from employees. At a worst-case scenario, this could turn into a full-blown security crisis.
A lack of understanding also means a loss of opportunity. When they understand the value of data, front-line employees will be far more likely to spot opportunities to capture information and pass those ideas back up the line.
In order to solve this problem, businesses need to be offering better training and efficient information management systems. Canon’s study showed the value of some simple education – with proper training, the percentage of employees who get the link between information and profitability goes up by nine points (from 64% to 73%).
Ensuring this training filters all the way down to junior staff members is crucial, as they are the most likely to process company data while being the least likely to learn about it.
What about the type of training? It depends on the nature of the business but education about the value of data management goes hand-in-hand with teaching employees proper procedure for storing information.
Employees average 25 minutes a day wasted searching for documents; a figure that can once again be drastically improved with standardised processes in place.
The figures speak for themselves; according to Canon, around half of European office workers don’t believe that their company’s information storage systems are organised or easy to use.
Disparities in file systems, naming and formats are among the biggest difficulties they face. In fact, inconsistencies between paper and digital formats are a common complaint. These inconsistencies not only makes it less likely that employees will follow the company system, but storage in bad file formats (or paper) creates obvious problems for trying to amalgamate and analyse data when it’s needed.
Data is valuable. For CIOs this is evident, but as data isn’t something most people would directly associate with profit, there’s an uphill battle in persuading employees – and occasionally even fellow C-suite execs – of this fact.
However, by designing and implementing a proper data management and training system, businesses can get employees onside and safeguard one of their most important assets.
Sourced from Quentyn Taylor, director of information security, Canon Europe