It’s a new year, a new decade, and in a previously shaky but hopefully on-the-mend economic climate, businesses and organizations in every industry are finding themselves more pressed to find a competitive edge within their markets in order to not only succeed, but simply survive. New times bring new realities, and thus, new business models and concepts. Business Intelligence, or BI, is one such concept. In 1989 Howard Dresner (later a GartnerGroup analyst) proposed this umbrella term to describe “concepts and methods to improve business decision making by using fact-based support systems.” The term was not popularized until almost ten years later. Its usage is now widespread, but still in its infancy as far as implementation.

Business intelligence, defined in other words, is the set of processes, skills, technologies, practices and applications used to support decision-making within a corporate or industrial framework. Prudent executives familiar with this relatively new concept are, more and more, implementing projects to leverage the kind of usable information that supports better decision-making in their own corporations and industries.

Also referred to as competitive intelligence, BI is one model executives and managers can use to help them strategize after they have gathered information – in ways that are ethical and legal – from the external business environment (i.e., analyzing the competition) and converted that information into usable intelligence to help them raise their own competitive standards. It’s important to recognize, however, that competitive intelligence is about more than just analyzing competitors, it’s about channeling data-gathering efforts toward the end goal of making the organization more competitive relative to its environment.

Business or competitive intelligence projects can take many forms. Some of these projects might include the implementation of industry-specific analytic applications delivered via software with business intelligence capabilities. According to a paper entitled “Gartner Reveals Five Business Intelligence Predictions for 2009 and Beyond,” by 2012, business units will control at least 40% of their total budget for business intelligence. Other BI projects might include implementing events like summits and conferences to encourage the spread of information and the enforcement of data access for the entire organization.

The following are just a few critical factors needed for the successful implementation of a business intelligence system: a clear vision & planning, committed management support & sponsorship, business driven methodology & project management, data management & quality issues, performance considerations, mapping the solutions to user requirements, robust & extensible framework, brain-storming and information gathering. A business event such as those coordinated by corporate hospitality and production specialists is one such medium which can be highly conducive to the dispersion of such knowledge throughout the ranks of an organization.

According to the same Gartner paper previously referenced, through 2012, more than 35% of the top 5,000 global companies will regularly fail to make insightful decisions about significant changes in their business and markets, simply because of lack of information, processes, and tools. First, companies must appoint “enterprise architects” to head up intelligence gathering and analytic efforts. Then, it’s up to decision-makers to form strategies based on this information, ultimately dispersing them through appropriate channels via business events and gatherings.

By Jenny Heart. Marcus Evans professional training provided at Marcus Evans business conferences worldwide. Learn more about Marcus Evans global summits.

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