Like brontosauruses, data dinosaurs don’t realize they’re on the brink of extinction.

These slow and lumbering companies — which are typically household names — often don’t realize their tactics are from another era. This lack of awareness curbs any inclination they have to evolve and foster brand loyalty.

Data dinosaurs believe they’ve cornered the market, and they use old proprietary systems and hired employees to do everything while they try to reduce costs. But to grow, these companies feel they must constantly onboard more employees to generate more data, which, in turn, generates more costs.

Eventually, this cycle becomes a tar pit of these businesses’ own creation. They remain mired in debt that continues to accumulate while they use outdated tools to churn out stale, uninspired information to their customers. It’s time for data dinosaurs to realize they no longer set the pace. They need to say hello to an innovation revolution, one that business intelligence will be happy to lead.

Get a Glimpse of the Future

Some think business intelligence and analytics are interchangeable terms, but that’s not the case. To me, BI provides a competitive advantage, which is why it can change how a company operates if harnessed properly.

Historically, customers relied on large, established companies for these insights while largely ignoring emerging companies. But now, as the speed of business increases, customers demand relevant, timely insights and the systems and platforms to help aggregate them.

Combine this need for real-time BI with the advent of crowdsourcing — a trend apparent in everything from the Amazon Echo to Waze — and you can see this shift happening in the data industry.

Crowdsourcing models are self-organizing, self-updating systems that move on the basis of people, not the set-in-stone models used by traditional data dinosaurs. Its dynamic nature makes for the freshest, most up-to-date information available and allows people not only to better understand the data, but also to understand what goes into it.

Crowdsourcing is just one example of the change washing over the BI industry, and it’s a transition more companies should buy into.

Embrace the Evolution

Real-time, crowdsourced business intelligence insights will lead the way to a large-scale transformation in data. Companies that don’t want to be left in the Mesozoic Era can be a part of that shift by doing the following:

1. Go bargain shopping. Traditionally, information was sold on a transactional basis in which customers would pay to access a single record. Now, we’re seeing commodification around data and intelligence in every corner of every industry.

Free and open-source tools are becoming the new norms, so take advantage of it. Look for free business insights platforms that can give you the news and company information that’ll sharpen your competitive edge.

2. Liven up your links. The URL is a globally recognized free and open standard for the identification of companies, so use it as a unique identifier of business. It’s the most common one we have today, and it will allow your systems to talk to one another, whether the system centers on customer relationship management, marketing automation, enterprise resource planning, or anything else.

3. Get specific, and stay in the know. Account-based marketing starts with — what else? — the account. You must understand businesses if you want to work with them, and obsolete information can be the difference between a closed deal and a lost opportunity.

If you’re basing business decisions on 6-month-old data, you’re not making the most prudent choices. Be current and concise with the data you provide.

4. Stop purchasing data. Start purchasing data services. Data is always in flux, so it’s important that the information in your system is constantly refreshed. You can’t simply throw your data into your software and be done with it — that’s how you create an unusable rat’s nest.

Data should operate as a system instead of as pieces purchased in individual records. My previous company, Jigsaw, pioneered data as a service, but now many platforms let you subscribe to services or connect to APIs in order to access dynamic sets of data rather than purchase empirical information.

5. Take a peek inside. How you cobble your data together is important, but what you’re actually getting should still be your top concern. Companies like Salesforce offer beautiful management software that you can rent instead of buy, but you need to fill that shiny, new data box with equally new and relevant information.

Otherwise, it’s like putting sugar in the gas tank of your brand-new car — you have a mode of transportation, but it sure isn’t taking you anywhere.

To move beyond the model of the data dinosaur, companies need to utilize crowdsourcing with give-to-get models. More contributions mean more available information, which increases the number of users and, therefore, contributions. This sets into motion a positive feedback loop between users and information, one that’s much different from the destructive cycle in place now.

This is the way toward exponential growth. It’s time to leave the era of data dinosaurs behind and, with the help of everyone, move on to the next evolutionary stage. Don’t let your data fossilize: Bring it into the future.

If you want to harness the power of crowdsourced business insights, start by checking out this competitive graph.