Smarter Midsize Companies are Uncovering Insights Buried in Their Information

Competitive advantage will shift to companies that capture, analyze, share and use information to make smarter decisions, says Andy Monshaw, IBM's Global Midmarket GM.

September 24, 2010

Andy Monshaw

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What separates smarter companies from their competitors?

In today's increasingly interconnected world, it's those organizations with the ability to turn the vast amounts of data being generated by our smarter planet into actionable decisions and even predictive models.

Technology offers us that ability. The combination of the Internet, globalization and affordable technologies that can gather and analyze data is providing these businesses with unprecedented insight about their markets, their suppliers and their customers.

In short, while the world is getting flatter and smaller, it's also becoming a lot smarter. And it's all happening very quickly.

Intelligence is increasingly infused into the way the world works. Sensors, mobile devices, video and Radio Frequency ID tags are being embedded across entire ecosystems--from supply chains and healthcare networks to cities and transportation systems. Virtually every device containing electronics can generate data.

All of this is adding up to an increasingly uncertain and complex new world for midsize businesses. Through discussions with more than 1,500 CEOs, including 254 from midsize companies, IBM's 2010 Global CEO Study reveals that while 78% of CEOs from midsize firms expect the level of complexity facing their organizations to grow significantly over the next five years, only 54% believe they know how to deal with it successfully.

The respondents go on to cite the "information explosion" as one of the top three factors expected to impact their organizations over the next five years.

And it doesn't stop with the CEO. CIOs at midsize firms underscored that point in IBM's 2009 Global CIO Study, which collected the views of 158 CIOs from midsize organizations across 31 countries. When asked about their most critical technology priorities, greater than four out of five say they are focused on more effective use of business intelligence and analytics to enhance competitiveness.

Finance organizations see the imperative, too. In IBM's 2010 Global CFO Study, a survey of more than 1,900 CFOs including 25% from midsize organizations, participants cited driving integration of information as one of their largest efficiency gaps. These CFOs know they the need to balance finance efficiency with business insight to help them not only increase their organization's responsiveness and accuracy, but also identify trends and opportunities that would be nearly impossible to uncover manually.

For many midsize businesses, the time act is now. The good news is that making sense of data through analytics tools and information management solutions is rapidly becoming easier, more available and less costly. This means deploying analytics and business intelligence solutions - once the domain of large enterprises - to help them innovate, gain better visibility across their organization, improve productivity and level the playing field against rivals.

Mid-sized companies benefit from predictive analytics

We see this growing need for better insight reflected among our midsize clients in numerous instances.

For example, California-based agricultural company Sun World isn't among the larger fruit growers and exporters, but working with IBM Business Partner Applied Analytix, they're able to level the playing field against bigger firms thanks to how they harness analytics technology and predictive capabilities.

Besides lowering fuel consumption and water usage, Sun World can quickly analyze customer buying behavior and concentrate on developing the most profitable segments of their business. Greater insights and smarter farming practices are helping determine how to develop, plant, harvest and sell the right products at the right time to the right markets.

Theory, an international fashion brand, is using a sales dashboard developed by IBM Business Partner Sky IT Group to view product sales performance down to the individual store level. This web-based analytics solution allows suppliers and retailers to make production, ordering, warehousing and product mix decisions based on real-time facts and sales trends.

Sales, merchandising, production and design teams have instant visibility to performance information at the chain, store and geographic levels to improve forecasting and in-season planning. In addition, the solution is incorporated into its retail customer relationship system to drive smarter markdown decisions and store-level product assortments.

Nieves de Chapelco, a popular ski resort in Argentina, was able to reduce the use of fraudulent tickets while improving its ability to anticipate and respond to the needs of its customers. Working with IBM Business Partners STG and DCM, the resort deployed a centralized monitoring solution that helps track the location of visitors in real time and streamline its operations.

This solution uses RFID-enabled lift tickets and identification badges to monitor access and movement across the mountain. Not only does this system provide resort management with accurate data that they can use to improve resource utilization and emergency response times, it also provides new insights that are helping to increase sales through targeted customer promotions.

Diverse companies such as Sun World, Theory and Nieves de Chapelco are embracing the power of analytics to create new insights, manage risk and improve decision making.

Given the nature of today's business environment and the velocity of information growth, no smart company can afford to pass up benefits like these.

Fortunately there are many strategies to incorporate smarter information management into your business. Ask yourself: Do we treat information as a strategic asset? Are our people, processes and IT aligned to exploit information? How can we take advantage of the wealth of information available in real time from a multitude of sources to make more intelligent choices?

The answers will help you chart an appropriate course to more effective and efficient use of your information.

One thing is certain: in today's global market, competitive advantage will shift to those companies who can quickly capture, analyze, share and use information to make smarter decisions and deliver increased value to clients.

Mr. Monshaw is General Manager, IBM Global Midmarket.

TAGS: IBM,analytics,midmarket,Monshaw

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