Why Should You Care About BI?

Results from a recently released survey, 2010 SMB Routes to Market Study, reveal a few interesting trends about how SMBs discover, learn about, evaluate and buy technology solutions and services - including their thoughts about BI solutions. The results suggested that small AND medium businesses consider "getting better insights out of the data they already have" as their highest technology priority. Business Intelligence solutions can help solve this problem by enabling the tools that measure and manage organizational goals and objectives. BI can also assist with conducting "what-if analyses to evaluate different courses of action.

Here are the top 4 technology challenges for each:

Top technology challenges for small businesses: 1. Get better business insights from existing data: 35% 2. Figuring out how different solutions can help the business: 32% 3. Implementing new solutions/upgrades: 32% 4. Integrating social media with Web site, marketing tools, etc.: 24%

Top technology challenges for medium businesses: 1. Get better insights from existing data: 33% 2. Figuring out how different solutions can help the business: 32% 3. Integrating social media with Web site, marketing tools, etc.: 32% 4. Implementing new solutions/upgrades: 30%

In very small companies, spreadsheets and other ad hoc tools are often considered enough to complete the task. But as companies expand, the amount of data being handled grows: there are new products and services, new markets and opportunities, investments, sales, marketing, among many other systems.

As a consequence, more people are increasingly roped into being part of the data collection and analysis process, and different people in the organization (marketing, human resources, finance, etc.) are required to analyze data in different ways. Typical problems with using only spreadsheets are:

* Time consuming and labor intensive to establish and maintain. Setting up a company-wide model, creating organizational plans, distributing and collecting information from different managers, consolidating multiple spreadsheets, and debugging broken macros and formulas becomes unsustainable and unproductive.

* Insufficient collaboration and feedback capabilities. Desktop spreadsheets are siloed, and don’t enable real-time data sharing and updating. Getting a unified, accurate view becomes difficult.

* Errors can be common. Research shows that 20 to 40 percent of all spreadsheets contain errors, and as they become more complex, error rates increase. Without an audit trail, changes and mistakes can go undetected and businesses end up making decisions based on bad information.

* Inadequate analysis and reporting. Collecting information and integrating it together into one spreadsheet is a lot of hassle. The detailed information that decision-makers require can be difficult to obtain or not even available to them.

Business Intelligence solutions give businesses a way to streamline and unify the data collection, analysis and reporting process. BI solutions are built on a unified database, so everyone involved in the process gets a single, real-time view of the data. Many BI solutions feature self-service dashboards and reporting tools that make it easier and less time consuming to contribute to and manage the process.

What else should you consider?

Make sure you are aware of vendor differences in pricing, solution capabilities and complexity. You would benefit from starting off by conducting a thorough assessment of your internal requirements, and then carefully investigating and evaluating how different offerings are aligned to your organizational requirements and limitations. You should take advantage of free trials and demos which will help you get a better idea of whether a specific solution will fit your needs. By taking more time in the first place to assess, evaluate and compare your alternatives, you’ll greatly increase the odds of selecting a solution that will meet, but not exceed your needs and budget.