Businesses big and small can benefit from analyzing their business data to help them make informed decisions to drive growth and profitability. However, many small and medium enterprises are often hesitant to use business intelligence (BI) solutions, thinking that they’re “just a small company” with no real need and no budget for BI tools.
SME entrepreneurs need not worry because there are many inexpensive and even free BI software alternatives that they can use. Let’s discuss just what BI can do for businesses and show just how business intelligence tools can help SMEs grow, no matter how small they start out to be.
Trends in Business Intelligence
Current industry trends show that adoption of BI in organizations is on the rise with the wider availability of BI software as well as the development of advanced solutions to handle big data.
Many business processes are already becoming automated, such as sending newsletters to customers, creating weekly sales reports, and gathering social media feedback. As a result, productivity and efficiency are increased, allowing SMEs to gain a firmer foothold in the market.
Some of the main BI trends that give us an idea of what the future will be like for businesses of all sizes are the following:
- Customization for easier analysis – with greater BI tool availability and ease of use, everyone can and will become a data analyst. BI tools are allowing for greater customization, enabling even the average user to crunch numbers and gain insights from analyses of business data.
- Visualization becomes key – when time is of the essence, the ability to understand figures and other BI content at a glance becomes crucial. Data will then become more visual with the use of BI tools, allowing users to create great-looking graphs, charts, and infographics.
- More in the cloud – cloud computing, including big data and BI analysis, will be more widely adopted throughout various fields
- Use in different fields – BI will see greater use in the fields where it can be most useful in, such as financial analytics; SEO and web analytics; ICT management; human resources; and sales, marketing, and customer relations.
Top Benefits of Business Intelligence to SMEs
Business intelligence tools bring plenty of advantages to small and medium enterprises–here are the best benefits to convince you that using BI solutions is the way to go.
1. BI software provides answers to critical business questions quickly. BI tools enable SME entrepreneurs to pull out relevant data from unstructured data pools, run these through analytical tools, then use the results to make business decisions. Entrepreneurs can also quickly and easily access customer and contact lists, sales data, and other BI content any time they need it.
2. BI empowers team members. With BI tools, every member of the team can become a decision-maker, something small businesses with minimum human resources can surely benefit from.
3. BI solutions save time. BI software allows for automation, saving time SMEs used to spend on data entry and other manual tasks that are also prone to human error. With BI tools, employees can spend less time on repetitive, boring tasks and more time on other tasks that require creativity and critical thinking.
4. BI software provides SMEs with more accurate client profiles. SMEs will find audience targeting easier thanks to BI tools. Through various online channels, BI software can gather customer data, allowing entrepreneurs to identify perfect buyers and bring their products and services to their target market in the most efficient way to boost sales and therefore increase profit.
5. BI tools help SMEs identify where they can cut costs. If you have very limited funds, then you’ll surely appreciate knowing where you can bring operational costs down without having to resort to elaborate austerity measures (such as laying off people). With BI tools, entrepreneurs will be able to make better budget plans and allocate funds more wisely.
6. BI solutions provide insights into trends. With BI software, SMEs will be able to identify industry trends early on, which may help them get ahead of competitors.
7. Business intelligence provides entrepreneurs with insights on real-time business performance. With BI tools, SME entrepreneurs will be able to track customer satisfaction, profitability, sales, and grow revenue in real-time. Users won’t have to wait until the end of a campaign or reporting period to determine whether a product or a campaign performs as expected, which means they can make informed decisions to remedy a potentially profit-decreasing situation.
8. BI software presents data in a format that’s easier to understand. Not all entrepreneurs have business degrees or have a knack for understanding columns of numbers at a glance, and this is where BI tools come in. BI software comes with advanced visual features that show analysis results and other BI content in the form of easy-to-understand charts, graphs, infographics, and other visuals. By presenting data in the graphic format rather than paragraphs of plain text, BI software also allows entrepreneurs to understand business data more quickly.
9. BI software facilitates easier cooperation and collaboration. With BI solutions, SME team members will have an easier time exporting and sharing data. In an SME where constant communication, cooperation, and collaboration are key in moving the business forward, it’s important that all team members are able to easily access relevant, up-to-date data and use it in real time.
Tips for Choosing BI Tools for SMEs
So how do you choose a business intelligence solution that’s right for your small company? Here are some pointers.
- Choose BI software that’s easy to learn and use–the best business intelligence tools for SMEs are those that do not require programming knowledge. Features such as customized dashboards and ad hoc reporting should be present.
- Look for BI software that comes with a built-in analytics function for studying profitability and trends. This will enable you to make informed decisions on whether going through with that project is a good idea or not, or come up with solutions to make an existing marketing campaign more profitable.
- Choose a BI tool that allows you to create appealing visual representations of data–you’ll get more investors interested in your business this way, plus it lets you understand analysis results quickly and more easily.
- Take advantage of the cloud. If your BI software is connected to cloud-based data storage, you’ll be able to access your data from wherever there is a reliable internet connection.
- Compare business intelligence tools. There are many BI options out there for SMEs with limited budgets. To know which one could be a good fit your business, you can read business intelligence tool reviews from similar SMEs and compare BI tools in terms of price, features, and ease of use.
As you can see, business intelligence software isn’t just for the big players. SMEs can also gain a lot from using BI tools to make critical business decisions to make their enterprise more profitable and spur business growth.