Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch certainly understood the power of utilizing knowledge and data to stay ahead of the curve and grow a business. During his 20-year data-driven tenure, GE’s total value increased by an amazing 4,000 percent, making the company the most valuable corporation in the world at one point.

Welch’s analytical and technological approach set an example that some businesses and entire industries have been slow to follow. They fail to realize the great competitive advantage a strong, evolving business intelligence practice affords them.

BI is a set of technological systems, applications, and practices that transform raw data into meaningful, valuable, and actionable information. When companies evolve traditional BI to maximize their data collection efforts, they’re provided with clear paths toward improving multiple aspects of their businesses. These companies always come out ahead in the end.

Unfortunately, many industries still underutilize the wealth of data available to them — often because they stick to traditional BI.

The Challenges of Traditional BI

BI is a complex technological concept, and, like most things that fall into this category, its traditional uses have created a plethora of misconceptions that scare companies away from tapping into its power.

The infrastructure for traditional BI stacks is so rigid and hard to scale that changes to the data needed require massive resources and heavy IT involvement, which many companies don’t have.

Traditional BI is also difficult to muddle through in order to get what the company needs — it’s not evolved to deal with the large volume and complexity of data that now exists. However, there are new solutions that will consume a large volume of data in a meaningful way.

Options like Platfora, ClearStory Data, and my company, Metric Insights, allow businesses and their employees to easily access and analyze data. These BI tools break down mounds of data into digestible chunks and provide a truly competitive knowledge advantage to companies.

What’s preventing companies from succeeding is that they’re trying to make traditional BI work, and the old way is simply no longer valid.

Putting BI Into B2C

Not everyone is missing out on big opportunities to improve customer relations and increase their bottom line. Here are four industries capitalizing on — and evolving — the data available to them:

  1. Automotive: Through BI, automotive companies can better predict supply and demand for parts, easily know when to follow up with customers for scheduled maintenance, and provide helpful information to customers, like indicating which speeds optimize fuel economy on specific vehicles. All of these perks translate into better customer service and, ultimately, increased profit.
  1. Retail: BI’s primary perk to retailers is its ability to help hone inventory practices. Stores can study sales trends for individual items and know exactly when they need to spike or stop the purchasing of products. Too much or too little inventory can make or break a store; BI ensures that customers will always find the items they need and extra inventory won’t gather dust while rotting away in the stockroom.
  1. Restaurant: It seems like the restaurant industry is constantly plagued by employee fraud and billing irregularities. This could be due to its cash-based nature, but regardless of the reason, BI provides restaurants with the ability to accurately track employee billing and monitor potential cases of fraud. This helpful oversight system will not only improve the overall work environment, but it will also increase profit by identifying and eliminating dishonest (and illegal) financial activity.
  1. Insurance: BI could help insurance companies with virtually every aspect of their business. One way is through service-level agreement monitoring, which alerts companies about new leads and shortens response times. BI technology can also track pricing trends and help providers offer competitive rates. As a whole, it helps enhance companies’ loss prevention practices, improve customer relations, and boost profit.

Regardless of the industry, evolving BI for a company’s needs is clearly the best modern resource for improving business practices and overall revenue. Long gone are the days of squeaking by on gimmicky advertisements and slick salesmanship.

Today, it’s BI or bust.