What is there, if anything, that delivers a sustainable competitive advantage? Many say it comes from investment in new products, production facilities, or human resources. But every company has those and they’re relatively easy to imitate. So, while big investments may deliver temporary advantages, they don’t always deliver sustainable ones. Without a sustainable advantage, it’s hard for a company to earn more than its cost of capital.
Sustainable competitive advantage comes not from just having assets – products, plants, and people, but from capitalizing on them better than competitors do. And that only happens with a constant flow of superior decisions made frequently by a relatively large number of people. In other words, new products have to be developed more creatively, plants have to run more efficiently, marketing has to reach more of the right people, and sales forces have to close more orders than their competitors.
Three things power better decision making: data, analytics, and business skills. We suggest that attention to the process of data-driven decision making is one of the best investments a company can make. This article describes how data-driven decision making applies to suppliers to the pulp and paper industry.
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