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The ability of a company to collect, understand and use information is sometimes referred to as business intelligence. Strategic business intelligence can describe what businesses do this with information that specifically applies to strategy. More often, however, the term is used to describe the ability of companies to gather, interpret and assimilate data into their strategic plans.
The concept of strategic business intelligence revolves around the idea that data is only valuable if it is used to move the company forward. It generally purports that any and all data collected can provide insight and can further be used to help refine a strategic plan. Focus moves beyond what the data is into what the data means.
For example, a company's research project might survey people who consider corporate ecological responsibility when making a purchase. It might reveal that three out of every ten of those people believe that company to be ecologically responsible. That is a hard fact, referred to as data.
From that study, company researchers can glean that they are probably losing 70 percent of customers who consider ecological responsibility to be important. Armed with this information, the company can decide whether or not those lost customers are important to their business. If they determine that they are important, they might develop a publicity campaign to highlight their ecologically friendly practices or conduct further research on why people perceive the company the way they do. This is strategic business intelligence. The company collected data, turned it into information by determining what it meant and decided how to use it to benefit the business.
While the concept behind strategic business intelligence is quite advanced and somewhat complex, the execution does not need to be. It does not require an expensive formal survey or significant research. A small business owner, for instance, can demonstrate strategic business intelligence simply by using sales data and customer feedback to make strategic decisions. For example, a frozen yogurt business might post a social media survey asking customers what new flavor they'd like to see, analyze the results to find trends and implement new flavors as appropriate.
Companies capable of strategic business intelligence are generally thought to work smarter. They often do a better job of incorporating all aspects of the business into important decisions and may be able to attain more unity of purpose amongst divisions or departments. Ultimately, they may be more profitable or more successful, though execution and product quality can affect this component dramatically.