Last month, I touched on how to increase your company’s profits by becoming a Real-Time Organization by being pre-active, having up-to-date information on demand, and conducting event based marketing.

This month, I would like to share the strategies you can use to create a real-time enterprise today.

The basic concept of real-time is that when something happens, you want to react to it the moment it happens, not an hour, day, week, or month later. As the speed at which a company can intelligently and automatically respond to change increases, the cost of all their business processes decreases. Hearing this, you might think real-time is all about speed, but that’s only part of the equation. If you don’t know where you want to go, then faster won’t help!

In order to gain the largest ROI for real-time initiatives, they need to be tied to your company’s overall goals and objectives. Therefore, what do you hope to achieve? Are you trying to increase sales? Improve customer service? Enhance your brand? Enter new markets? Whatever it is you want for your business, state it clearly so you can make sure your real-time activities support your overall goals.

Just as there is a difference between strategy and tactics, there is a difference between real-time computing and real-time business. Real-time processing can be seen as event-driven computing. Real-time business, on the other hand, takes business agility—the ability to rapidly respond to changing conditions as they happen—to the next level. Operating in real time puts up-to-the-minute information directly into the hands of all the key participants in the business process who need it. Additionally, pre-programmed scenarios automatically trigger supply chain actions based on events as they happen.

A real-time enterprise is defined by its ability to access information across all boundaries of the organization. By integrating people, strategy, technology, and processes, real-time organizations are able to recognize shifts in customer demand as they happen and respond accordingly with customer-focused solutions. This enables them to use their higher level of business agility as a competitive weapon, grabbing market share from less agile competitors.

Realize that being a real-time organization is an evolutionary process. An ancient Chinese proverb states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Therefore, select a place to start and build out from there. For example, Amberwood Homes, a residential homebuilder, has cut three weeks from the five months it takes to build an average 3,000 square foot home by sharing information with plumbers, roofers, masons, and other subcontractors via hand-held devices in real-time. That does not mean that all of Amberwood’s business processes and partners are operating in real time; it means they picked a profitable place to start and will build off that success.

There is a clear competitive advantage to having high value, market-based information available almost instantly to the right people, both inside and outside of your company, and using that information to make quicker, more informed decisions. For example, telecommunication companies are facing increasing customer churn—customers switching from one company to another. A real-time initiative has helped Bell South Corp. reduce churn by 30%. The company accomplished this by delivering real-time recommendations to its call center reps who field calls from their small business customers. Thanks to a database covering 100 data variables on its 1.2 million customers, when a customer calls the reps have instant access to that customer’s data profile, allowing them to offer a service, discount, or incentive based on the customer’s propensity to switch to another phone company.

In short, real-time business is about leveraging all of your relationships through optimized business processes that can take advantage of nearly instantaneous communications across all the components of a true collaborative network. Delivering up-to-the-minute data with proper context makes all the difference between information and actionable knowledge.