Information As A Strategic Asset
Information is everywhere - in emails, databases, phones, websites, documents and reports. Managed properly, information is not only a strategic asset for a business, but it can also guide future innovation. Yet, with so much information available, how do you determine what is useful and what isn’t?
Who are your customers? Who might become your customers? This information is a competitive weapon – never forget! Yet, ironically, the rapid flow of data has actually resulted in many organisations losing control over the quality of their information – and it’s not a situation that is likely to reverse itself.
Short of a global catastrophe, we are never likely to live or work in an information vacuum again, as was the way of life for preceding generations.
Whilst all information is valuable, context is the important factor in any discussion regarding its value as a commodity. In other words, information must be relevant.
But relevance on its own is only part of the story. Information is only a valuable commodity if it can be used effectively.
One of the prime challenges facing modern businesses is obtaining quality data from the large amount of data available – data on which businesses can take decisions, because it is both relevant and can be extracted effectively.
However, there are two more requirements that are necessary to turn data into gold dust - accuracy and trustworthiness.
When using data to make a business decision, managers must be sure the information at their disposal is both accurate and trustworthy. Without reliable information, the decision-making process can be badly hampered and an informed decision impossible to make.
That is why in any organisation still using legacy systems or old databases, there can often be integration problems with new systems or technology, resulting in problems with data consistency and transparency.
Where a business is geographically dispersed, with servers hosted in different locations, or a business has a network of applications, there can also be the obstacle of replicating data across the network.
In short, without effective management of information the result can be information chaos.
To overcome these challenges and achieve operational performance, it is vital to ensure that the information at your disposal is converted into a strategic asset. And to do this, it is important to ensure that your I.T. infrastructure is tailored to your organisation, and able to meet your organisation’s needs for customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), business intelligence (BI), data warehousing, data migration and replication.
Information On Demand
For information to be used effectively - and therefore to maximise its strategic value - it must be available as a shared, easily accessible service within an organisation. This means updating your old database system. When done properly the cost of installing a new system can be very minor compared to the business gains that can be had, and which include:
- Transforming core processes across your business because of a free flow of information.
- Serving your customers better because of your organisation’s increased understanding of their needs, thanks to the accessibility of relevant data.
- Better productivity because of better-informed decision making.
- Streamlined decision-making because of the improved management of information over the course of its lifetime.
- Quicker adaptation to changing market conditions based on accurate information.
- Making new or innovative connections from the insights gained from the accurate information.
- Timely response to fluctuations in financial risk, profitability and other critical business processes requiring prompt action.
Where information is acquired from many sources, efficient handling is of paramount importance. This means finding software solutions that ensure data integration and quality.
Quality information means access to accurate data - to gain the critical insights necessary to drive business goals and performance optimisation. This in turn provides insight which can be turned into competitive advantage.
The first step to ensuring your information becomes a strategic asset is to have your business infrastructure and data requirements assessed. If you don’t possess the technical skills in-house, outsource your requirements to an I.T. consultancy with a proven track record of developing bespoke systems for similar-sized organisations, and who is therefore familiar with the issues involved.
Do you want to break into a new market, or improve your profitability by installing new information systems? Again, have the technical feasibility of your plans gauged by outside experts who are able to provide that extra, independent analysis of the associated business risks.
As a minimum, look for a technical consultancy service which includes:
- Creation of specifications and design documents for new software development projects.
- Development reviews - to establish whether a development project is on the right track.
- Design and Technology reviews - to confirm that a project has the correct architecture and design, perhaps prior to investment.
Once you have a clearer idea of what’s needed to achieve your business objectives, you’ll find that a development plan is much easier to draft – again, a good consultancy will be glad to help.
Given that information management for your business is directly linked to flexibility, speed of response, customer satisfaction – and ultimately survival, the importance of investing in a tailored solution cannot be over-stated. And if cost seems to be an issue, just remember that your investment in a custom software solution will eventually pay for itself and reap rich dividends into the bargain.
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