Business Intelligence as a Source of Competitive Advantage

In a post a couple of weeks ago, we told you how right business intelligence can drive the company’s critical decision making. Even though many organizations realize the value of informed decision making and actionable insights, many of them balk at the idea of deploying an analytics application at their workplace. Business Intelligence (BI), when aligned with the company’s objectives and strategy, has the potential to bring in considerable benefits like insights into customers’ mindsets, new market opportunities, and data-driven thinking.

Apart from these, however, business intelligence can also be a source of sustainable competitive advantage for an organization. An organization is said to have the competitive advantage over its competitors when it possesses some attributes that allow it to perform better than its competitors. In this post, we’ll look at the qualities of BI which make it that attribute.

Real-time information: Real-time information is available when there is little to no delay between the time of collection of data and the time of dissemination of data as information. BI practitioners have real-time information at their fingertips at all times. This means that instead of relying on old data to plan, they can use the latest numbers, thereby being more accurate in their predictions and forecasts.

Democratization of information: Employees in an organization need information to be successful at their job. Without BI tools, they are dependent on a few number crunchers to process, organize, and structure the data. However, if they use BI tools, they need just worry about the presentation and interpretation of data as the number crunching is done by the application.

Theoretical vs. practical: In an organization, every function has to make its own plans and forecasts. Manufacturing has to forecast how much it’s going to produce, Sales has to forecast how many accounts it is going to close, and Finance has to figure out how to pay for it all and how much revenue it’s going to receive. In the absence of BI tools, these forecasts and plans are largely theoretical as they have no benchmarks to compare their numbers with. However, with business intelligence tools, every function can use historical numbers to make practical actionable plans.

Therefore, as we can see, if used properly, Business Intelligence can be a source of sustainable competitive advantage for an organization.