BI Works For 'Old Line' Industries Too - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management
Commentary
3/18/2004
01:19 PM
Ted Kemp
Ted Kemp
Commentary
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BI Works For 'Old Line' Industries Too

It's not just companies in 'dynamic' industries that are making the most of business intelligence.

I'll admit that in the past when I've thought about business intelligence in action, I've envisioned companies in dynamic industries: rapid-fire, transaction-intensive businesses in retail or the software industry that battle razor-thin margins in a constantly shifting competitive environment. These businesses -- the ones with the cutting edge technology and fickle customers and Web-based commerce channels -- they're the ones that use BI, right?

The answer is that yes, they do. But they're not alone.

As our Business Intelligence Pipeline case study on U.S. Borax reveals, companies in so-called "mature" industries know how to squeeze advantages out of business intelligence too. The mining company operates one of only two major borax mines on earth, tracing its roots back more than a century to when it used pack animals to haul borates up out of Death Valley. Its list of customers in the industrial products manufacturing industry essentially doesn’t change from year to year.

But U.S. Borax is using reporting and analysis technology, and using it ambitiously. The company not only tracks its own sales to gauge demand and thereby set prices, it does its best to track sales throughout the entire global market for refined borates. The company uses business intelligence to bring all that data together and serve up myriad market reports. With that knowledge in hand, U.S. Borax finds its own advantages in a market that doesn’t shift enough to create new, unexpected ones.

Business intelligence is about companies understanding their markets, their operations and their processes -- in short, understanding themselves. It only makes sense that even businesses in long-established industries have a lot they can learn, and their own unique advantages to gain. U.S. Borax proves as much.

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