Intelligent Businesses Use Echolocation!

In an environment driven by speed and dominated by growing uncertainties, businesses are expressing more and more difficulties to sustain and improve their competitive position. Mighty companies such as IBM, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft or Nokia do know that business success is never an “acquis” and that any long-time leadership position can now get eroded within weeks and even days in some sectors.

Just some weeks ago, rumours were circulating about the collapse of the giant Eastman Kodak Company. The 131-year-old icon that brought photography to the mass and launched the first digital camera is forced to face tough realities of the new business world.

The K-brand company is another clear example that there are no definite winning rules in business; any competitive environment can be disrupted anytime. Rules of business games can now be reinvented and imposed by new entrants. It is no longer the privilege of the big or the mighty.

In this ever-changing playground, it is essential for companies willing to survive and thrive to understand their environment, track their competitors, critically review their position and never ever fall in the trap of complacency: this is the very concept of business intelligence.

A quick Google search pulls out millions of internet pages on business intelligence. Many of them associate this concept to information technology (IT). Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, defines business intelligence as “computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting and analysing business data”. On the website searchdatamanagement.com, one can read “business intelligence is a broad category of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analysing and providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions.”

These definitions are wrong. Yes, IT is at the heart of business intelligence. No, business intelligence is not IT as some might claim. IT is just an enabler!

To define business intelligence and illustrate its importance for companies, a simple and natural technique used by bats (Yes Bats!) can be referred to. Bats emit, in the dark, high-frequency vocalisations through their mouths and noses as they fly. These vocalisations then bounce back to them as echoes, which enables them to form images of their surroundings in their brains. If their ears get injured or clogged, they are unable to receive any echoes and therefore lose their ability to locate themselves and move accordingly. This continuous process known as echo-location is a sine qua non for the survival of bats as it allows them to scan their environment, track their prey, devise their future movements and eventually feed themselves.

Business intelligence is echolocation for businesses. With the new dynamics of business games, it is vital for companies to echolocate themselves on a constant basis, to critically assess their position and adapt their strategic movements accordingly.

Entrepreneurs and business managers claiming that business intelligence is useless and that their flair and experience are enough to ensure their path to success are living out of this world. Sure, flair and experience help but without a proper understanding of their business environment and analysis of their competitive position, businesses are condemned to failure.

For those who want to succeed, keep this in mind: Intelligent Businesses use Echolocation!