28/07/2014 10:31 BST | Updated 27/09/2014 06:59 BST

The Data Balancing Act

Our ability to create and innovate at work often depends on having access to the right information, to ensure ideas are informed and not a repetition of previous work completed. Imagine being asked to create a brand new research proposal for a client. Without having visibility of what has been done before, how can you be sure the ideas you deliver haven't previously been pitched?

A recent Iron Mountain study corroborates the thinking that information helps us to improve decision making, gain a better understanding of our customers and drive revenue. However, many companies are not in a position to actually use information in this way. Our findings show many firms in fact struggle to use information for competitive advantage.

If information is such an asset, why are so many companies failing to make use of it? Our research actually revealed that this is mostly down to fear. Most businesses are so caught up in guarding against the risks of data breaches and subsequent legal action that they are not using it to improve the way they work.

It is likely the company you work for acknowledges information is vital to improving decision making, but managing it and mitigating risk needs to go hand in hand. Imagine you need to get access to a particular data set to complete a project - how frustrating would it be if you couldn't because it was locked down? On the other hand, imagine the consequences should you be responsible for losing that data?

With the high price placed on data, everyone in a business must understand the happy medium between extracting value and protecting information from loss or destruction. Your employer can follow the below steps to arrive at a place where you can make the most of information:

Maintain awareness - Everyone needs to be responsible for managing information - not just those in the IT department. This then needs to be acknowledged at a board level and maintained across time and departments.

Implement clear policies and processes - Create companywide programmes that manage information and reduce risk. These need to be monitored, measured and improved upon as the business evolves.

Change the culture - It just needs one person to start. Foster a positive culture of information responsibility so that everyone values company information, understands what is expected of them and are the first line of defence in mitigating information risk.

Regardless of size and sector, it's clear that companies everywhere are struggling to manage information risk and as a result, many are failing to harvest the potential locked inside their filing cabinets. Knowing the best way to both utilise and secure data will make you an incredible valuable asset, not just to your company but to your industry as a whole.