Put yourself in this situation: you're just two weeks from the end of the business quarter, and you're facing the task of making up a large deficit on sales forecasts. What do you do? The answer is use your intelligence. Business intelligence.
Many organisations don't realise the value of business intelligence (BI), the information they hold about their market, customers and trading conditions. Making the best use of it defines the difference between those companies that simply survive, and those that prosper.
How a company survives the current turbulent economic conditions depends on making the right decisions. It's these decisions that will dictate the make-up, morale and retention of both a company's workforce and its customer base. And the better informed a company is, the better those decisions will be.
Business intelligence is about making use of the information you gather every time your company is involved in a transaction. Business intelligence tells you who your customers are, what they buy and when. By effectively harvesting and analysing this data, you can identify new business opportunities and help to target scarce resources.
Take the scenario above. It's a real situation that happened to a leading animal health company. By using business intelligence, the company turned a difficult situation into a big opportunity.
Mining the existing information it held, the company could identify specific customers with a seasonal tendency to purchase specific products in large quantities. A short-term, targeted sales push enabled the company to offset its entire predicted shortfall.
But collecting, retaining and analysing business intelligence requires investment not only in technology but in processes and skills.
And for advocates of business intelligence investment, competing over limited funds within an organisation can be difficult. In the words of analyst and business blogger David Kasabian of Pervasive Performance Group, "a strong, well thought-out business case is imperative".
Business intelligence, Kasabian says, can drive growth rather than simply help to control costs - making it a crucial element of any organisation's business survival plan in difficult times.
"Now is not the time to back away from investments in BI and Performance Management," says Kasabian.
For more on the case Kasabian makes for business intelligence investment, download his insightful white paper from our sister site, ITWhitePapers.co.uk.