When we think about using data to drive business decisions, it’s often with short-term objectives in mind. We might want to know if we’ll have the resources available to deliver a certain project next week, or if a certain process can be made more efficient, or if we’ll turn a profit next month. All valid applications of business intelligence (BI).

As we enter an era of big data, however, things are changing. Many organisations are beginning to use BI for more than just quick wins and marginal gains in efficiency and profitability. They’ve discovered that by capturing and analysing larger volumes of data from more diverse sources, they can use advanced analytics tools to support long-term strategic decisions, innovation, and business growth.

Wondering how? Here are some of the ways you can use big data to gain a big competitive advantage, putting a stop to short-termism in your BI and guiding your organisation into the future with capable hands.

Drive customer engagement

For marketers, big data represents a massive opportunity to better understand customers and prospects – even to the extent of knowing what they want before they do. Back in day, they’d have had a limited number of avenues to learn about their buying public. Now, they can gather insights from social media, web analytics and purchasing behaviours, and they can use this data to segment their audiences and deliver marketing messages that matter.

This, in turn, allows organisations to build stronger customer relationships – driving engagement and loyalty, and succeeding where more ad hoc marketing campaigns fail. To discover more about this use of BI, see our infographic: How data is transforming digital marketing.

Attract and retain a talented workforce

One of the major challenges faced by enterprises today is the difficulty of attracting and retaining a talented workforce. What makes employees perform and underperform? What circumstances cause engagement to drop to dangerous levels? And what triggers otherwise exceptional workers to move on to pastures new?

Surprise – all of these questions can be answered with effective BI. Armed with the right data, HR professionals can hire and manage employees in a way that demonstrably supports the organisation’s wider business strategy.

Become responsive, agile and innovative

Real-time, predictive and prescriptive analytics can also help enterprises become much lighter on their feet when it comes to bringing new products and services to market. By building up a complete picture of where the market is going, what customers and prospects are responding to, and how maximum cost effectiveness can be achieved, organisations have it in their power to become more responsive, agile and innovative than the competition.

This has to be supported by the right people, of course. It’s unlikely that your BI will come up with the next big idea all by itself. But if you develop a culture where big data insights are shared and acted upon at all levels of the business, and not just used for operational gains, it’ll put you in a good position to stay one step ahead.