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Businesses are failing badly when it comes to making good use of their data

When it comes to the data that businesses store, the majority don't make the most of that information, and a worryingly large percentage gain no benefit whatsoever.

That's the conclusion of a new piece of research from information management experts Iron Mountain and PwC, which questioned some 1,800 senior business leaders in mid-size and enterprise firms across Europe and North America, all drawn from across a range of industries.

Only 4 per cent of businesses were able to extract the full value of the data they hold according to the study, and some 36 per cent lacked both the tools and skills they needed to do so.

Now onto the really worrying statistics: 43 per cent of the organisations surveyed gain "little tangible benefit" from the information they hold, and a staggering 23 per cent get no benefit at all. In essence, in total two-thirds of all companies are unable to make anything like the most of their data.

The results of the study were crunched to make an 'Information Value Index' to compare how businesses across different countries make use of their information.

The average score achieved was 50.1 out of an ideal score of 100, and the UK hit a 46.9 – disappointingly a bit under the average.

Yet the survey found that 64 per cent of UK business leaders said they were already making the most of their data.

That is, of course, at odds with the rest of the findings, and other nuggets the study revealed including the fact that 26 per cent of UK organisations don't employ data analysts, and the revelation that one in five respondents didn’t believe their company actually knows what information it holds.

Elizabeth Bramwell, director at Iron Mountain, commented: “How businesses think and talk about their information has changed. The conversation is bigger now. Risk and reputation still feature prominently, but the discussion now includes the idea that making the most of information can improve operations, open up new opportunities and help secure competitive advantage.

“Our research with PwC shows how a lack of skills and technical capabilities as well as a number of cultural factors are holding many companies back from achieving this goal. The impact of this shortfall is felt right up to the board room. Businesses that don’t catch up with the front runners in their industry risk becoming irrelevant.”