Thanks to modern technology, today’s computers and networks are ready for real-time data communications, and the advantages are nothing short of revolutionary. Some industries, including telecommunications, finance and manufacturing, are already using real-time data in parts of their operations.
But having real-time data is not enough. To successfully compete and increase your company’s bottom line, you need to become a real-time organization. In other words, you need to use your real-time data to change how you work, how you manage and how you sell.
Imagine for a moment how much more productive and profitable your company could be if you could track products from warehouse to store shelves in real-time, provide targeted offers the moment a customer calls and give executives up-to-the-minute reports on critical operations data? When you integrate existing technologies to become a real-time organization, you can do precisely that and so much more.
The fact is that organizations operating in real-time can deliver better customer service, turn around inventory faster, respond quicker to changes in the marketplace and better anticipate challenges before they impact the business. Consider the following benefits of becoming a real-time organization.
You can be pre-active.
You’ve likely used the word “proactive,” which means taking positive action now. But how do you know the actions you’re taking will be positive when you have to wait and see? Those aren’t good odds. A better idea is to be pre-active to future known events.
For example, if your real-time data indicates that there was a run on blue jeans, size 32 waist and 34 inseam in store number 53 and that there is only one pair left, you can safely predict that tomorrow there will be one or more customers who will not find what they want. You can solve this problem before it occurs. When you use your real-time data to be a real-time organization, everyone involved with keeping the shelves stocked will automatically be informed of the stock levels, and the supply chain wheels will turn to make sure no customer is unable to find what he or she wants.
You can have up-to-date information on demand.
While many companies offer information on demand, most of the information is not up-to-the-minute. Becoming a real-time organization changes all that.
Here is a simple yet powerful example of how real-time data can change even the most routine of chores.
Remember when you were in college and needed to use the school laundromat to wash your clothes? All too often, everyone else had the same idea you did and all the washers and dryers were taken.
Today, many universities use real-time data to change the laundromat problem. Now students can use their computers from their dorm rooms to see which washers and dryers are in use and which are out of service. The smart laundromat system can even e-mail or send a text message to a cell phone to let the users know that the machines are finished. Ask yourself, “Is my business as advanced as a college laundromat?”
You can conduct event-based marketing.
The best time to market to people is when they demonstrate a need. As such, good salespeople do event-based marketing all the time. If you show an interest in something, they grab the opportunity to show you something else they feel you might also be interested in.
With real-time data, you can do event-based marketing without human intervention. For example, consider how Amazon.com makes additional sales.
If you click on a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition, you will get a list of other top-selling Lewis and Clark books on the same page. Does such an approach work? It’s one of the reasons that Amazon’s stock has been one of best-performing Nasdaq stocks for many years.
Create a Real-Time Enterprise Today
If you want your company to experience similar benefits, then you need to go from merely having real-time information and use it to become a real-time organization. The following tips will help.
Know your goals: The basic concept of real-time is that when something happens, you want to react to it the moment it happens, not an hour, day, week or month later. As the speed at which a company can intelligently and automatically respond to change increases, the cost of all their business processes decreases.
Hearing this, you might think real-time is all about speed, but that’s only part of the equation. If you don’t know where you want to go, then faster won’t help! In order to gain the largest ROI for real-time initiatives, they need to be tied to your company’s overall goals and objectives. Therefore, what do you hope to achieve? Are you trying to increase sales? Improve customer service? Enhance your brand? Enter new markets? Whatever it is you want for your business, state it clearly so you can make sure your real-time activities support your overall goals.
Be agile: Just as there is a difference between strategy and tactics, there is a difference between real-time computing and real-time business. Real-time processing can be seen as event-driven computing. Real-time business, on the other hand, takes business agility-the ability to rapidly respond to changing conditions as they happen-to the next level.
A real-time enterprise is defined by its ability to access information across all boundaries of the organization. By integrating people, strategy, technology, and processes, real-time organizations are able to recognize shifts in customer demand as they happen and respond accordingly with customer-focused solutions. This enables them to use their higher level of business agility as a competitive weapon, grabbing market share from less agile competitors.
Start small: Realize that being a real-time organization is an evolutionary process.
An ancient Chinese proverb states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Therefore, select a place to start and build out from there. For example, Amberwood Homes, a residential homebuilder, has cut three weeks from the five months it takes to build an average 3,000-square-foot home by sharing information with plumbers, roofers, masons and other subcontractors via hand-held devices in real-time. That does not mean that all of Amberwood’s business processes and partners are operating in real time; it means they picked a profitable place to start and will build off that success.
The Real-Time Advantage
There is a clear competitive advantage to having high-value, market-based information available almost instantly to the right people, both inside and outside of your company, and using that information to make quicker, more informed decisions.
Real-time business is about leveraging all of your relationships through optimized business processes that can take advantage of nearly instantaneous communications across all the components of a true collaborative network.
Delivering up-to-the-minute data with proper context makes all the difference between information and actionable knowledge.
The real-time trend is very real and its impact will be felt by every industry, whether they choose to buy into the concept or not. In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, there is a great advantage to extending your business processes via the Internet to your customers, partners, suppliers, and employees in real time. Those who take advantage of this trend will emerge as the market leaders and will watch their profits and productivity dramatically increase.
About the author:
Daniel Burrus is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research and author of six books, including the highly acclaimed “Technotrends.” Over the past two decades, he has established a worldwide reputation for his exceptional record of accurately predicting the future of technological change and its direct impact on the business world. Daniel monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. For more information, visit www.burrus.com.