Smart companies are continually collecting and analyzing data. This harvesting and cataloging of data is often referred to as business intelligence, simply because this method of finding out how products and services are being used in various industries and how clients and customers engage with businesses is how companies get ahead and stay ahead. A prime example is a regional retail chain. Unless the chain looks into how it’s performing store by store, area by area, the expectation of expanding to become national will most likely never become a reality.

So, what’s the best way to harness the power of company intelligence? Well, many companies employ a specific person or outside company specifically for this purpose. But other companies may choose to do their own in-house intelligence tracking. This type of self-service may be desirable if you want to closely track progress via spreadsheets and reports that your own business software can generate. But if you don’t have the time to do this, or you’re a larger company that has a lot of business aspects to keep track of — invoices, inventory, payroll, marketing, etc. — then you may wish to outsource.

When it comes to determining what type of intelligence gathering tools, software, and methods to deploy, consider what your company’s goals are, and/or what weaknesses you’ve already identified within your company. If you’re having trouble making headway with a particular demographic, use intelligence tracking to find out why. If one of your end-of-year goals is to get a certain percentage out of the red and into the black, use intelligence gathering methods to find out who’s doing the most buying and when, and then go after them for additional buys.

Data gathering for the sake of finding out how to improve your company can sometimes require a bit of investment (in terms of both financial and time-based resources), but you’ll come out on the winning side because you’ll know all that there is to know about your company, and then some. Using intelligence resources for gathering, logging, and analyzing data about your business is a smart move that no company has ever regretted. You can find many resources both online and offline to help you get started.