The Next Competitive Advantage: How to Get Ahead
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How to Stay Ahead: The Next Competitive Advantage

shutterstock_255190057_350The realization of competitive advantage has changed significantly over time. In the early days of IT automation, custom-built systems that handled the transactions of accounting or sales were a tremendous competitive advantage. Over time, building custom systems that handled all the transactions of a business provided competitive advantages to the leading companies who were able to perform the functions of their business more consistently, more completely, more accurately, and eventually more quickly.

These transactional systems eventually became Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. The first businesses that implemented these enterprise-wide systems were able to better manage and control the transactions that flowed through their business. Over time, order systems pointed to the need to track inventory as a series of transactions into and out of a warehouse. HR systems pointed to the need to treat hiring as transactions that began a series of other processes such as benefits, payroll, department assignments and access to secure systems. Inventory systems pointed to the need to build procurement systems that extended the enterprise into the systems of suppliers and vendors.

All of these systems provided a competitive advantage to the business, but as this trend reached its climax with the advent of ERP systems that provide the 90% to 95% of the standard (out-of-the-box) best practices within each business department, the competitive advantage these systems brought to companies, simply became the systems every company needs to stay in business.

In the past 15 years, data warehouses became the competitive advantage of the day as organizations brought the data of the enterprise together for the first time and questions that spanned the siloes of the organization could be asked and answered.

Which brings us to today. Looking at history is great; we do want to learn from our mistakes and certainly want to anticipate the future by looking at the past. We want to know who are our best customers, suppliers, and employees. But, the future is unfolding in new and unique ways that will provide a significant competitive advantage to those who are able to capitalize on the multi-dimensional transformation going on today: the convergence of access, mobility, content, buyer expectations and speed.

Evaluate your Information Supply Chain. How does your organization take data and transform it into Information, Knowledge, Insight and eventually to Innovation to drive improved performance? One way to look at this is a Data Maturity Model. What techniques do you employ to transform your data? Are you using statistics to find the information buried in your data? Are you using Business Intelligence to turn information into knowledge to better understand your relationships with customers, suppliers, partners and employees? Are you using Metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to effectively manage your business and set goals? Are you using Operational Analytics and even Predictive Analytics to understand the innovation you need to lower costs and drive additional revenues?

In order to use these techniques to transform data into innovation, the Data Maturity Model can help establish a roadmap for your organization to build towards an Information Supply Chain that provides your executives and operational leaders with the knowledge and insights they need to find the innovation that drives improvements across your organization.

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