Part of Managing your business is gathering vital information everyday. This goes beyond simple sales data and demographics and extends into everything from employee retention to productivity. As the company grows, it accumulates a ton of information, consisting of knowledge, experience and expertise. What separates the Fortune 500 from the rest of the pack is how it manages this information.
This makes information management a critical factor in the success of your business.
What is Information Management?
When it comes to managing business critical information, we need to start with the basics.
Information management is the process of overseeing all aspects of the data lifecycle for your business. This includes everything from initially gathering the data to ultimately destroying data that has served its purpose and is no longer useful.
Information management also covers everything in between. This includes storing data and distributing it to individuals who need that information.
Let’s jump into the five core steps of information management.
The Five Basic Steps of Information Management
There are five basic steps to information management. Following these steps is the key to using this information to boost your sales and improve performance.
Your first step is to identify the ways that you’re collecting data and start the process of intentionally gathering this information.
You might not know it, but your business is already gathering massive amounts of information. You gather new data when you make sales, review internal performance, and even when you chat with customers.
Start off by identifying the ways that your business gathers data and then we can move on to storing and collecting this information.
This information can be stored physically on paper organized in filing cabinets, but it’s much more common and convenient for this information to be stored digitally today.
You need to make sure that whatever storage method you pick, you have audits and data security built-in to protect that information.
Internal wikis are a great way to store information. These types of software are specifically designed to create, store, and share information internally, resulting in a database that’s actively used and maintained by your employees.
Ultimately, data is only useful when it’s in the hands of employees that can interpret and make use of that information. One of the biggest challenges you’re going to face when managing your business is getting the data distributed to the teams that need it the most.
Your data can be distributed through written reports, graphics, or even presentations to key team members. What matters most is that your teams and stakeholders have access to the information they need. Whatever tool you choose, make sure it has sharing and collaboration features to allow team members to conveniently send and work together on the data.
We’ve already talked about data storage, but there’s a deeper layer of storage that we should address.
This is where you archive your data. This is a long-term type of storage for data that is no longer immediately useful. Archival information can be incredibly useful in the long-term when it comes to trends that cover more than a single year or even decades.
The end of the data life cycle is the destruction of information that is no longer useful. Let’s look at a practical example of destroying information that every business should know.
While you are busy building a company where customers come first, you’ll likely temporarily store customer financial information. This can include credit cards or building addresses.
Eventually, you’ll want to purge this information. This could be from a customer request or after a period of inactivity. Having too much sensitive data lying around could represent the risk of a data breach.
Information needs to get destroyed in a way that renders it inaccessible to potentially malicious agents such as hackers and other cyber criminals.
Tips for Business Critical Information Management
Now that we’ve covered the five core steps of business critical information management, we’re going to look at a few tips and best practices. This guide will put you in a strong position when it comes to implementing and utilizing the information that your company is already Gathering.
Avoiding Data Breaches
One of the biggest threats to companies today is a data breach. This occurs when sensitive information is accidentally exposed to the public or stolen from your business by a hacker or cyber criminal.
You need to take steps to avoid data breaches. This includes educating team members on the best cybersecurity practices, making sure your company adheres to all regulatory standards when it comes to information storage such as HIPAA and financial regulations, and making sure you work with cyber security professionals that know your industry.
Data Management Requires Support
Data management requires professional support. The information that you correlate needs to be audited and overseen in order for it to remain useful.
Sometimes it helps to think about this and slightly old-school terms. We’ve all heard the horror stories of large companies that have stored information in unorganized cardboard boxes. It takes weeks if not months to sort through unorganized data, and that’s a massive amount of down time for your employees.
Auditing, organizing, and supporting your data management process from the get-go is one of the best tips for successful information management.
Data Should be Usable
The last tip might seem a little basic, but trust us when we say it’s incredibly important.
Data should be usable. It’s not enough to destroy this information, but it needs to be actively engaged in order for it to provide value for your business.
Your internal wikis, sales information, and other critical data needs to be constantly updated and refined as well as connected with the teams that can make use of this information. Stagnant data yields stagnant results.
Wrapping Up Managing Business-Critical Data
Managing business critical data is one of the most important steps that you can take for your company. Remember the core steps of gathering this information, organizing it, and making sure it gets into the hands of team members that can put it to use and your business will be a success.