By Doug Miles, Director of Market Intelligence for AIIM

We live in a time when there has never been more information than there is currently. We are constantly told of the value this information holds and its importance to business success, while industry analyst Gartner talks of us all ‘entering the era of the Digital Industrial Economy’.

There is undoubtedly a major opportunity to make effective use of this information, yet despite this opportunity, many organisations are simply drowning in a sea of content and suffering from information chaos and overload. Is there now too much information for businesses to manage? What can organisations do to help make sense of the content and information their business generates?

Where is this info coming from?
Content and information is arriving at an ever increasing speed in an ever changing and growing array of formats. This potentially spells trouble for businesses. It has arisen from three major disruptors that have emerged at the same time to transform the business world as we know it.

These are: consumerisation, where business people assume enterprise solutions can be delivered as seamlessly and as simply as consumer-based solutions are delivered in their private lives; mobile and cloud, which have given way to an expectation of anywhere, anytime access and increase the volume, variety, and velocity of information; and finally the changing nature of work, where organisations are forced to think flat and agile, not hierarchical and slow. This flattening of hierarchies is accelerated by consumerisation and cloud and mobile technologies.

Creating opportunity from the information chaos
While it may seem like many businesses are suffering from information chaos, it is possible to turn that chaos into opportunity. There are four key stages for any business to consider that wants to make the best use of its information:

Develop a strategy to manage the volume of content

Digital content is where the increase truly is taking place, so look to your existing policies and align your electronic records practices with those that you already have for physical records. If you do not have an up-to-date Information Governance Policy that is supported across the business, kick-off a project to create one and ensure that new staff and existing staff are fully trained on compliance with the policy.

Lose the paper

Too many organisations are simply wedded to using paper in their business, believing it to be essential. It isn’t, so highlight the role that paper-free processes can play in any business improvement initiatives.

Audit where poor access to information is hurting the business - trapped on paper, spread over file shares or simply mobile-unfriendly. Use this to energise your content management, as the more content you can converge into a single, searchable, mobile-accessible system, the fewer other places you need to go to solve the problem.

Work out how you want to use your content and information

This often means in marketing, but social content especially can be deployed to equally good effect internally. Identify who exactly has responsibility for the different types of social content and agree how to categorise it and how it should be stored, so it can easily accessed as and when required.

Make sure you can get business insight from all this information

This is the crux of the matter and to do so any business must first identify just exactly what insight it is they are looking for, what piece of information would transform their business. They must then turn to their data — is it accessible, is it clean, how much is there — and invest in the analytics tools to deliver that insight from it.

It is easy for a business to feel like they are drowning in information at times and that everyone but them is making effective use of content and information. Finding information opportunity amidst the chaos is a real challenge, but one that can transform a business if done correctly.

The forthcoming AIIM 2014 event takes place in April and will look at the issue of information chaos verses information opportunity.