Analytics Power Smaller Businesses

How can your company make better decisions, forge stronger customer relationships, and differentiate from competitors? In today’s increasingly interconnected world, the answer lies in the ability to turn the vast amounts of data being generated by our smarter planet into actionable decisions ? and even predictive models. 

The combination of the Internet, globalization, and affordable technologies that gather and analyze data is providing 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 RFID tags are 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 thisadds up to an uncertain and complex new world for midsize businesses. At the same time, it is presenting these firms with a much more promising business environment — one ripe with opportunities for growth.
Commissioned by IBM and conducted independently by KS&R, Inc, Inside the Midmarket:  A 2011 Perspective, a survey of 2,112 SMEs across more than 20 countries, finds that business analytics and predictive technologies are being widely adopted among midsize companies. Once reserved for big companies with big budgets, these capabilities now are easy to use, appropriately priced, and an increasing priority for midsize businesses.  In fact, 70 percent of the study participants say they are actively pursuing analytics solutions to improve decision making, operational efficiency, and collaboration solutions.
For midsize companies, the time to act is now.
The good news is that making sense of data through analytics tools and information management solutions is rapidly becoming easier and less costly.  This means deploying analytics and business intelligence solutions to help them innovate, gain better visibility across their organization, improve productivity, and level the playing field against rivals.
We see this growing need for better insight reflected among our clients.
— NYC-based apparel manufacturer Bernard Chaus is using business analytics to improve sales, analyze in-season buying trends, and track the hottest selling products by store — down to style, size and color. Working with technology partner SKY I.T. Group, the company developed an analytics-based solution called SkyPAD that provides a weekly report of key business metrics via a web-based dashboard. SkyPAD is helping the company swiftly respond to consumer demand. It?s also helped to improve margin performance by significantly reducing its quarterly sales revenue losses from marked down inventory by nearly 50% over the past year.
— The Cincinnati Zoo is using business analytics software to drive new revenue, improve member visits and integrate all ticketing, retail, and food sales operations. Working with BrightStar Partners, the zoo replaced siloed systems with a single, integrated analytics solution, giving employees and management a single view of data that provides insight and an ?at a glance? view of the business across ticketing, retail and food segments. As a result, the Zoo has transformed its business processes and now projects a $350,000 increase in revenue in the first year and an additional 50,000 in new visits per year using the new analytics solution.
— California-based Sun World isn?t among the larger fruit growers and exporters, but working with Applied Analytixs, it’s able to level the playing field against bigger firms thanks to 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.
Diverse companies such as Bernard Chaus, the Cincinnati Zoo and SunWorld are embracing the power of analytics to create new customer insights, manage risk and improve decision making. 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.
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.

Andy Monshaw is General Manager, IBM Global Midmarket.