In today’s tech-dependent economy, small businesses need to make data-driven decisions. Business leaders can no longer guesstimate and expect to survive the next market shift. That’s why small businesses need to leverage big data. Knowing how to harness the data is what gives companies an edge – this is the power of business intelligence (BI).

business intelligence
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What is Business Intelligence?

In its broadest definition, business intelligence is any technology that can help a company maximize performance and inform decision-making. BI is all about real metrics not mythical solutions. For small businesses, one of the primary reasons to utilize BI tools is for the data-powered competitive intelligence they provide.

Today’s small business owners function in a hypercompetitive global economy. To increase business performance, it’s critical that companies actively gather relevant metrics and analyze them correctly. BI software is designed to not only harness data from several sources – such as accounts, sales, inventory, and purchases – but also to analyze details and auto-generate reports that can be easily and visually interpreted in chart or graph formats.

How Business Intelligence Benefits Small Businesses

Business intelligence tools help small businesses make data-driven decisions that can increase their market share. Visual BI tools make it easier to demonstrate the connection between unstructured data and business strategy, revealing advanced analytics through various reports and dashboards. This is how business owners uncover the insights that lead to more efficient ways to track funds, streamline processes, and improve performance. By utilizing predictive analysis to gauge the impact of business decisions, small businesses can now formulate big growth strategies with confidence.

Real-Time Results

The reality of working in today’s rapidly changing economy is that companies need to become more responsive. Businesses need to react strategically to events in both preventive and proactive ways to ensure favorable outcomes. The various BI tools on the market are designed to consolidate vital statistics in real time to create a summary that accurately depicts the current state of business and forecasts future opportunities. This intelligence, usually gathered from the day-to-day activities and transactions of a company, provides meaningful insights that can help drive efficiencies in operations.

Is Business Intelligence too big for Small Business?

The business intelligence marketplace is more diverse, accessible, and applicable than ever before. In the past, comprehensive BI solutions were far too expensive to implement for small businesses. Now that the market has become more saturated with BI solutions, prices have become more reasonable. However, just because the price is right doesn’t mean the solution is a smart fit. Small businesses need to pre-determine the operational areas they are hoping to improve and identify if there is enough data to justify the software investment.

Before any level of investment is made, small business owners should carefully research the various BI solutions available today. There are a host of viable BI tools ranging from the simple Microsoft Excel to Lyza, Tableau, QlikView, Pivot Link, and Microsoft PowerPivot. Keep in mind that Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and AdWords address the needs of specific businesses, while BI suites such as Microsoft Dynamics, JDEdwards, and SAPs Crystal Reports help analyze larger data sets.

Three Tips for Small Businesses Seeking Business Intelligence Tools

1. Question the opportunity

Prior to investing in BI tools, small business owners should know the type of answers they’re hoping to find about their business and determine if they have the data to make it possible to find those answers.

2. Remember that BI tools are not stand-alone entities

To benefit from their use, BI solutions will have to be configured with the existing infrastructure. The technical expertise of the users and any particular business needs should be taken into consideration when selecting BI software.

3. Prepare to track and measure a broad selection of metrics

Small businesses that do not have access to a high volume of operational data will not benefit from BI software. To maximize the ROI of any BI integration, it’s appropriate to track approximately twenty indicators that best represent the health of the business. The number of indicators may vary depending on the nature and the size of the business.

In the world of small business, the key decision makers are often on the move. Web-based BI solutions allow an increasingly mobile small business workforce to access the latest business data anywhere, anytime. Cloud-based BI solutions rid small companies of the cost, time, and effort required to maintain the necessary IT infrastructure to run their businesses.

As business intelligence tools and the next wave of big data continue to saturate the marketplace, the IT industry will see an increase in demand for highly skilled professionals who not only know the technology but can manage it also.

References:
http://www.thebusinessintelligenceguide.com/BI_SME/Challenges_And_Benefits.php
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-business-intelligence-24548.html
http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com/news/article.php/3892886/Is-Business-Intelligence-for-Small-Business-Too.htm
http://www.inc.com/articles/201109/business-intelligence-software-for-small-business.html