by David J. Moorman
Technologies that can help drive business operations and efficiency, as opposed to just keeping business operations afloat, are considered competitive technologies. If everyone else is using the same tools and technologies in the same way, it doesn't really provide a competitive advantage. The following technologies aren't currently being utilized by everyone, but they will be probably be in the future:
Sales Automation systems are at the top of many technology executives to-do lists and if they aren't, they should be for 2011. The goal of a Sales Automation system is to give a company the ability to generate more qualified sales opportunities, more effectively and to increase the close rate on those opportunities.
One popular example of a Sales Automation system that provides a competitive advantage is Salesforce.com. The implementation and integration of Salesforce with other systems can help to increase automation, Business Intelligence and communication. Services such as Google Adwords, Facebook, twitter, chat and other social media platforms can integrate with Salesforce.com to generate more opportunities and in the end more sales.
Easily readable, real-time business data helps executives make decisions faster, better, and more accurately. Business Intelligence is the collection of data usally from multiple sources and parsed and displayed in a pre defined format. B.I. Systems help to analize the data for questions like:
How many sales occurred today?...by which representative?...to what customers?
What were today’s margins?
What are current inventory levels?
To answer these questions, systems record, create, and organize historical data. This data can be packaged together and displayed into a dashboard or used for reporting purposes.
Diving deeper into your data to answer very specific questions requires a system that can tap into the troves of data collected by a data warehousing systems. For example, Data Analytics would be able to determine how many resources a customer is requiring from your business. Should you raise rates for some customers and lower them for others? Data Analytics would make complex questions much easier to answer.
Are the customers that are requiring the most of your services generating profit? If so, do you need to allocate more resources for those clients? Should you hire more people to provide adequate service?
Being able to drill down deep into the data helps to reduce the risk of uncertainty. These systems increase confidence in your decisions which translates into a competitive advantage in every scenario.
Social media can be used in IT to help market and sell more products. With social media integrated into sales automation systems, you will be able to track where leads are generated, who’s buying your services, and who’s reading your company’s communications. Social media with increased automation can tailor marketing messages to a very specific audience.
While each of these systems by themselves can benefit a business, it’s when they all work together that their true power is realized. Ultimately, they empower people by reducing workload and increasing knowledge. When used together you can know exactly who your clients are and what they want. This knowledge can be used to find the most efficient path to balancing the needs of your business and your clients. An integrated IT system can be the competitive advantage your company needs to set it apart from the pack.