What is business intelligence? And does my small business need it?

Business Intelligence, also known as BI, is becoming essential for enterprise-level operations. But what about small businesses? Does the cost provide real value, or is it simply unnecessary unless you plan to scale up?The answer is surprisingly pleasant: as essential enterprise services such as BI move to an SaaS model (Software as a Service), the cost of entry is significantly lower than ever. There are even free versions of highly functional BI platforms that allow any small business to access BI benefits without the need to hire specialists to decipher its deliverables.

Small businesses are producing more data than ever

As business technology becomes more accessible, every point of contact, every single keystroke produces actionable data. From omnichannel customer service to eCommerce to logistics and fulfillment, every single business that operates online in any capacity produces thousands of trackable digital insights every day, insights that can easily translate to process improvement and optimization through each layer of business activity. In the past, tracking this data was almost impossible, unless a company had the resources to retain an entire team to chase each node, then analyze, and then recommend improvements. Often, by the time these insights landed on a decision-maker’s desk, the data was outdated and the action that may have been effective yesterday was moot today, as that ship had sailed on. Today, businesses of any size have the ability to access this data in real-time so real change can actually happen in a timely manner. Missed opportunities become a thing of the past once we have gotten our heads around what is going on “in the now”.

What will BI do for my company?

What BI does, essentially, is it collects your company’s digital data and translates it into easy-to-understand reports that you can set up to run on your schedule: hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, whatever you deem necessary for your needs. Company decision makers can then access and leverage that information into smart, timely business decisions that can make all the difference in this competitive global marketplace.

Your digital data is an asset

Your BI software ties into all your company’s essential functions – at least, all those that depend on software or an application to manage it. Examples include accounting and payroll, customer support and help desk operations, your CRM, sales, marketing, logistics, and fulfillment. Once you have identified all the software your company uses to operate, you will need to map out how your data is generated and where that data is stored. With this information in hand, you are ready to connect to a BI solution and translate that data into valuable, actionable insights.

SaaS BI tools are affordable for small businesses

BI tools on the market today are largely self-service, which makes it easy to manage without an on-staff business analyst to decipher its output. In fact, many of the leading BI providers offer a free or low-cost entry-level version that provides enough functions and value to satisfy many businesses, and it’s a good place to start. If you find you need more than the free version provides, upgrading is a simple task.

Top BI tools for small business

If you are dipping your toe into the BI space, you’ll quickly find that there are a dizzying number of choices out there for you to try. For free entry, you might want to check out some of the open-source BI platforms that are available. Like other open-source platforms, they each have a massive developer community from which to pool answers. Some may require a little coding knowledge to set up, customize and update, and some are a little more user-friendly. BIRT is an open-source BI tool that is widely used throughout Australia, and with 2.5M developers and 12M users worldwide (including Cisco and IBM), you won’t find any lack of endorsements. Microsoft Power BI is the free version of Microsoft’s BI platform, and can be upgraded to Power BI Premium for heavier data volumes or to add company-wide and peer distribution functionality. If you are already a Microsoft Office 365 or Sharepoint user, Power BI offers seamless integration and report output to systems you already know and love like Excel and Word.

Greenlight-ITC powers your small business BI needs

If you would like to speak to one of our technicians about which BI solution is right for your small business, call today. We’d love to be a part of your success story.

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