For centuries, humans traveled the Earth’s seas, guided only by their experience in reading the stars, the temperature, and the currents. Rarely could they anticipate the unfolding often life-and-death situations they were steering into.

Today, our ships travel the world guided by technology that scans present conditions and reads evolving water, weather, and seismic patterns. With such insight, captains can safely guide their vessels to any global destination.

Seeing Beyond Yesterday

Rarely can today’s business decision makers get the same type of insight. Rarely can they lead with the same confidence. Every day, unanticipated interruptions shake the most seemingly stable organizations. Markets rise and fall unexpectedly; supply chains break and prove unreliable; and political and economic systems are collapsing and changing our business and social landscapes.

It’s time for decision makers to stop wasting time analyzing last year’s results. This outdated data only shows yesterday’s shortfalls, gaps, and strengths. Such information fails to suggest future patterns. Leaders are left in the dark, unable to make accurate decisions and predict achievable outcomes.

Every day, more people are using mobile devices. And a larger number are relying on digital communications to carry out their daily lives. To help organizations leverage this Big Data to perform better and improve services to customers, technology innovators have developed a new generation of software analytics.

These advanced analytics solutions provide leaders with the insight to gauge the patterns driving business success. InformationWeek Executive Editor Doug Henshen explains this shift: “the old practice of following the money – using lagging financial indicators to guide a company’s decisions – [is] giving way to the forward-looking approach of following the data” (p.4).

Propelling Forward

In running advanced analytics software, organizations can see more than a simple trend analysis. They are looking beyond the structured data stored in relational and SQL databases. And they are tapping into open source-and-NoSQL data (aka Big Data) to mine exabytes of real-time tweets, status updates, and blog posts. It’s from this unstructured data that decision makers can distill the current and evolving patterns of thought and behavior affecting their customers, stakeholders, suppliers, partners, employees, and competitors. What’s these mean for organizations?

Retailers can track style trends to determine which sweaters to stock during the upcoming holidays. Car dealers can predict – using data on energy, economic, and employment news – which types of vehicles consumers will more likely want. Travel agents can see – from traditional and online media placements, magazine features, travel bloggers, and commercial development news – where customers are more likely to vacation. In fact, any organization in any industry can better understand the dynamics driving their supply, demand, and value chains. How? By supercharging their listening with the most advanced analytics software.

Charting the Depths

Why are online sales suddenly dropping? What are Facebookers and Twitterers saying about your company? How can your company become the business world’s next one-to-watch phenom? Is your organization effectively differentiating itself from its competitors? Which approaches are most effective for nurturing sustainable relationships with new customers, stakeholders, partners, and suppliers?

Advanced analytics cuts through the Web’s clutter. It reveals patterns that even the most astute researcher can easily miss. How? Advanced analytics tap into “real-time information from sensors” write Thomas H. Davenport, Paul Barth, and Randy Bean, “…at a more granular level…” And from this, the authors say, organizations better know how to “respond to changes in usage patterns as they occur.”

It is these responses which can mean the difference between a lost sale or a PR fiasco and a satisfied customer or a marketing homerun. What’s the key? Tracking customer sentiment on Twitter and market shifts worldwide. In these nuggets of data are the treasures sought. The art is looking at the patters and identifying the collapsing markets, new gaps, and emerging opportunities.

Leaders need to “embrace the viewpoint of all sectors,” says Public Squared’s Rich Tafel, “and see the bigger vision for all.” Only from this can they think differently and use this information to respond proactively. This is the crucial factor in turning a data pattern into actionable information – into strategies, tactics, and processes that enable their organization to create the disruptions which transform industries, marketplaces, and economies.

Is your company running advanced analytics? If so, what advantages has it been getting from its solutions? Has it helped leaders identify new business opportunities and make more accurate predictions? How could your analytics solutions better meet your needs?