It has long been said that Corporate Boards exist to ask the questions executives may have overlooked. For Board members, the opportunity to pose tough questions to the leaders of the business – and expect precise answers in return – will grow exponentially as organizations increasingly become data-driven.

Organizations that take a wait-and-see approach to analytics are falling behind their more determined peers. As highlighted in the 2011 IBM/MIT Sloan Management Review (IBM/MIT SMR) New Intelligent Enterprise study, the number of organizations using analytics to create a competitive advantage has surged 57 percent in just one year, to the point where nearly 6 out of 10 organizations are now differentiating themselves through analytics.

Leading organizations are executing carefully targeted analytics efforts designed for maximum strategic advantage. In each case, analytics can be approached with a common framework: First, lay an information foundation to facilitate speed of decision-making. Second, mine integrated data for sources of new value, and third, detect and exploit opportunity with predictive analytics.

Where leaders' proven experience and instincts were once their best guides, analytics can now confer laser-sharp acuity about the environment companies operate in today – and where they will find themselves tomorrow. Analytics allows organizations to identify the components of complex activities and ecosystems, understand dynamics and interdependencies, predict what is likely to occur next, and even recommend the best action to take. What once seemed impossibly uncertain is now knowable.

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