Thanks to modern technology, today’s computers and networks are ready for real-time data communications, and the advantages are nothing short of revolutionary. Some industries, including telecommunications, finance, and manufacturing, are already using real-time data in parts of their operations.

But having real-time data is not enough. To successfully compete and increase your company’s bottom line, you need to become a real-time organization. In other words, you need to use your real-time data to change how you work, how you manage, and how you sell.

Imagine for a moment how much more productive and profitable your company could be if you could track products from warehouse to store shelves in real-time, provide targeted offers the moment a customer calls, and give executives up-to-the-minute reports on critical operations data? When you integrate existing technologies to become a real-time organization, you can do precisely that and so much more.

The fact is that organizations operating in real-time can deliver better customer service, turn around inventory faster, respond quicker to changes in the marketplace, and better anticipate challenges before they impact the business. Consider the following benefits of becoming a real-time organization.

You’ve likely used the word “proactive,” which means taking positive action now. But how do you know the actions you’re taking will be positive when you have to wait and see? Those aren’t good odds. A better idea is to be pre-active to future known events.

For example, if your real-time data indicates that there was a run on blue jeans, size 32 waist and 34 inseam, in store number 53 and that there is only one pair left, you can safely predict that tomorrow there will be one or more customers who will not find what they want. You can solve this problem before it occurs. When you use your real-time data to be a real-time organization, everyone involved with keeping the shelves stocked will automatically be informed of the stock levels and the supply chain wheels will turn to make sure no customer is unable to find what he or she wants.

While many companies offer information on demand, most of the information is not up-to-the-minute. Becoming a real-time organization changes all that. Here is a simple yet powerful example of how real-time data can change even the most routine of chores.

Remember when you were in college and needed to use the school Laundromat to wash your clothes? All too often, everyone else had the same idea you did and all the washers and dryers were taken. Today, many universities use real-time data to change the Laundromat problem. Now students can use their computers from their dorm rooms to see which washers and dryers are in use and which are out of service. They don’t have to worry about how much exact change they have or if the coin machine is broken because they don’t need coins anymore. They use smart cards that deduct money from their accounts whenever they use the machines. The smart Laundromat system can even e-mail or send a text message to a cell phone to let the users know that the machines are finished. Ask yourself, “Is my business as advanced as a college Laundromat?”

The best time to market to people is when they demonstrate a need. As such, good salespeople do event-based marketing all the time. If you show an interest in something, they grab the opportunity to show you something else they feel you might also be interested in.

With real-time data you can do event-based marketing without human intervention. For example, consider how makes additional sales. If you click on a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition, you will get a list of other top selling Lewis and Clark books on the same page. Does such an approach work? It’s one of the reasons that Amazon’s stock has been one of best performing Nasdaq stocks for many years.

The real-time trend is very real and its impact will be felt by every industry, whether they choose to buy into the concept or not. In today’s hypercompetitive marketplace, there is a great advantage to extending your business processes via the Internet to your customers, partners, suppliers, and employees in real time. Next month, I will share additional strategies to take advantage of this trend so businesses can emerge as the market leaders and watch their profits and productivity dramatically increase.