7 ways small companies can leverage business intelligence

Published April 21, 2020   |   

“Business intelligence” is a big term. It brings to mind teams of bespectacled computer wizzes toiling away in corporate cubicles, diligently churning out reports for head office. Rarely has it been seen as the domain of small and independent companies.

Yet this view is slowly changing. A range of apps, integrations, and third-party data services have made it possible for small and medium-sized businesses to leverage business intelligence to drive profits and gain a powerful competitive advantage.

In this post, we’re going to look at eight ways you can implement a straightforward and effective business intelligence strategy that will boost your revenue, bolster efficiency, and streamline your workflows.

What Is Business Intelligence?

The term “business intelligence” refers to data insights which enable a company to make better decisions. Most businesses usually collect raw data – which doesn’t become “intelligence” until it is turned into useful information – relating to a range of areas, including market research, employee performance, user experience, logistics efficiency, and so on.

While enterprise companies often employ entire departments to crunch data, smaller businesses rely on self-service business intelligence platforms, which allow them to aggregate and process data from a variety of sources. In either case, the process is the same: key metrics are tracked to pinpoint areas for improvement.

1.  Focus on the Key Metrics and KPIs

Most small businesses have limited resources and can’t spend large amounts of money tracking every imaginable data-point. That’s why it’s essential to prioritize the most crucial metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Here are the main metrics that most businesses should track:

  • Conversion rates like sales, subscriptions, repeat purchases, etc.
  • Net promoter score (customer satisfaction)
  • Logistics efficiency and delivery times

Every company is unique. But in the early stages, it’s very important to focus on essential data to avoid overwhelm and scope creep.

2.  Ensure That Everyday Apps Have Analytics Tools

It’s not feasible for SMBs to build complex tech infrastructure to track everyday, menial activities and their associated metrics, like email response rates, employee productivity, travel expenses, and so on.

That’s why it’s crucial to opt for apps that have built-in analytics platforms. Build a tech stack that allows you to forget about gathering and interpreting data for smaller tasks. Comprehensive contact management software, for example, enables you to track appointment and client scheduling activity with no extra effort on your part. Tools like these are generally simple to use, inexpensive, and can lead to long-term productivity gains.

3.  Use a Dedicated Solution to Combine Data

Opting for apps that automate the process of collecting and analyzing data is the first step towards an easy-to-use business intelligence system that doesn’t break the bank.

But you’ll also need to aggregate this data before you can draw any meaningful insights from it. That’s when a dedicated self-service business intelligence platform becomes necessary.

By leveraging a network of integrations, a self-service app will automatically gather data from multiple sources and display it in a comprehensible and useful format. You simply need to log into the dashboard, or download a weekly or monthly report, and move forward from there.

4.  Visualize and Simplify Data for Better Understanding

Make liberal use of graphs, charts, and diagrams to instill an intelligence-focused culture across your entire company.

Some departments may be reluctant to change processes that have worked relatively well up until now. And that’s why it’s crucial to make data as easy to consume as possible.

Provide concise, regular reports that break down data insights in a practical way. Also, ensure that departments are kept abreast of positive results after changes have been made to foster motivation going forward.

5.  Digitize Activity Wherever Possible

Data collection is impossible if you’re not conducting business tasks online. Many small companies rely on outdated, “legacy” processes like manual appointment booking, hand-written contracts, physical payments, and more.

Shifting these processes online isn’t just preferable from a productivity standpoint. Doing so will also allow you to immediately start to collect performance data and pinpoint inefficiencies and opportunities that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

6.  Prioritize Security

This is a simple but absolutely essential point. If you’re going to be dealing with large amounts of data, you need to ensure that your storage and analysis processes are fully legally compliant. Most well-known apps will usually have robust security infrastructure, so you don’t need to worry on that front.

For any data that’s stored in-house, one of the easiest ways for small businesses to access military-grade security and remain legally compliant is by purchasing dedicated secure cloud storage. These services are like typical cloud storage providers but include an array of features, like two-step verification and end-to-end encryption, to safeguard sensitive information.

7.  Don’t Forget About Qualitative Data

When you’re crafting a strategy to deal with large amounts of numerical, quantitative data, it’s easy to sideline qualitative data. Don’t fall into this trap. Direct customer feedback, surveys, testimonials, reviews, etc. are all part of any effective business intelligence strategy.

Companies that leverage both quantitative and qualitative data are able to make more informed decisions compared to competitors that focus on one at the expense of the other.


Investing the time and money needed to build robust business intelligence processes now will yield significant dividends further down the line. What’s more, the array of apps at your disposal allows you to leverage in-house data quickly and inexpensively.

Once those insights start rolling in, you’ll only wonder why you didn’t do it sooner