Gartner predicts that by 2020, information will be used to reinvent, digitalise or eliminate 80 per cent of all business processes and products from a decade earlier. The likes of Uber and Airbnb demonstrate how companies that simply broker information can revolutionise an industry without owning any physical assets.

The huge success of such companies is not just luck or good timing. Underneath outwardly simple business models lies serious expertise in managing data and harnessing its power. Data on its own has potential, but is inherently dumb. Only when the right data is provided to the right person (or thing) in the right time or place does it become valuable. It's not how big your data is, it's what you do with it.

The continued rise of digital and information-based business models will cause casualties in traditional industries, particularly among the incumbents that are not prepared for the digital world.

Gartner offers three key recommendations for business executives and information leaders:

  • Start identifying potential data-fuelled disruptions. Engage with business leaders to discuss the impact on your industry and how to be the disrupter, not the casualty.
  • Create an information management strategy. Review it frequently to reflect the fast-changing nature of your business's short- and long-term information needs.
  • Embed your information strategy in the heart of your business strategy and governance processes. Harnessing information to create new digital business models is an essential part of the digital transformation that will equip companies for the future.

Only once you determine what information can impact your business strategy and how you plan to collect and organise it, are you in a position to harness it effectively. This could take the form of self-service analytics, where employees in different business units can perform queries and generate analytical insights on the company data most relevant to their areas of expertise, without necessarily needing IT support or a degree in data science.

An organisation with employees who are empowered to experiment with and learn from information and analytics is one positioned to innovate and capture revenue from new trends and markets. A coherent information framework and strategy is the means by which companies can turn data's potential into competitive advantage and profit — the means to take control of and harness innovation rather than be swept away by it.

Saul Judah is a research director in Gartner's information management research team and conference chair at the Gartner Enterprise Information & Master Data Management Summit, 2-3 March, London, UK.