Entrepreneur Of The Millennium: Bill Gates

Bill Gates On . . . The Force Of Facts

I have a simple but strong belief. The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose. There are more competitors. There is more information available about them and about the market, which is global. The winners will be the ones who develop a world-class digital nervous system so that information can easily flow through their companies for maximum and constant learning.

I can anticipate your reaction. No, it's efficient processes! It's quality! It's brand recognition and market share! It's getting close to customers! Success, of course, depends on all of these things. Nobody can help you if your processes limp along, if you aren't vigilant about quality, if you don't work hard to establish your brand, if your customer service is poor. A bad strategy will fail no matter how good your information is. And lame execution will stymie a good strategy. If you do enough things poorly, you'll go out of business.

But no matter what else you have going for you-smart employees, excellent products, customer goodwill, cash in the bank-you need a fast flow of good information to streamline processes, raise quality and improve business execution. Information flow is the lifeblood of your company because it enables you to get the most out of your people and learn from your customers. See if you have the information to answer these questions:

  • What do customers think about your products? What problems do they want you to fix? What new features do they want you to add?
  • What problems are your distributors and resellers running into as they sell your products or work with you?
  • Where do your competitors win business from you, and why?
  • Will changing demands force you to develop new capabilities?
  • What new markets are emerging that you should enter?

A digital nervous system won't guarantee you the right answers. But it will free you from tons of old paper processes so you'll have the time to think about the questions. It will give you the data to jump-start your thinking [and allow you to] see trends coming at you. A digital nervous system will make it possible for facts and ideas to quickly surface from down in your organization, from the people who have information about these questions-and, likely, many of the answers. Most important, it will allow you to do all these things fast.

Excerpted from Business @ The Speed Of Thought: Using a Digital Nervous System (Warner Books).

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This article was originally published in the December 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Entrepreneur Of The Millennium: Bill Gates.

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