Not that long ago business intelligence (BI) was a luxury only the big-chip companies could enjoy because employing analytics software required building costly data centers and hiring high-priced IT specialists and consultants.
Times have changed, and today, small business BI is a booming industry. The same technological explosion that created the smartphone and tablets, also drastically reduced the size and cost of analytical solutions. For the first time, it is possible for small businesses to deploy BI to fulfill different needs, analyze their performance, predict their future, and make better decisions.
This means members of your team are empowered to view the same data from multiple locations and make data-driven decisions together and pull out the particular piece of information they need even if it exceeds their immediate area of expertise.
Here are a few of the areas where leveraging these technologies for maximum impact on your bottom line.
As workers and consumers become more familiar with visual and digital media, data visualization is becoming more important than ever. Organizations like Tableau, Domo and Microsoft are all innovating at a rapid pace, aiming to gain market share by helping their customers improve the usefulness of their data. Tableau released its own predictions about where data analytics are headed in the coming year, highlighting visualization as the second most important development in big data.
While data visualization is by no means new, it has recently become a critical part of presenting data in a user-friendly format. The popularity of Hans Rosling’s presentations and countless other YouTube infographic videos demonstrates how powerful data can be when visualized in a winsome, novel manner.
Business intelligence used to involve cumbersome spreadsheets and large amounts of human interaction. More recent developments have been opening up self-service options that are helping companies navigate copious amounts of data to deliver insights that can create competitive advantage.
Until recently, big data was inaccessible for smaller organizations. But the rise of platforms that provide self-service BI solutions is allowing access to anyone who wants to evaluate the data that drives their business.
Uday Hegde, CEO of USEReady, a company that works to help business leaders leverage data and analytics, explains how companies are consolidating these functions. “Businesses are shifting toward using application program interfaces (APO) to transfer their data to user-friendly applications. As a result, they can trade clunky dashboards for more useful apps. Converting to an app-centric approach empowers companies to make their data more interactive across multiple connected devices. Self-reliant solutions help businesses make data more actionable.”
Big Data is also useful for retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers in areas outside the organization. For instance, It is making a huge impact on the supply chain logistics and management. Big Data can check out what region a new product will be most popular as well as determine the best route to have more stock delivered there. In addition, big data can help find the best supplier relationships and even prove useful for the management of the relationship and negotiations.
Simon Ellis at Manufacturing Insights says BI and analytics cut across three levels: strategic decision making at the top of the organization, tactical in the middle and operational at the base.
"BI and analytics cut across all three levels but will usually tend to be more for the tactical and operational level," said Ellis. "So when manufacturers integrate BI with SCM they should think about what information and insights the business will need at that level to achieve its goals."
Business intelligence can boost small businesses by helping determine their best customers, their most profitable product or service and the best location for their business.
Business intelligence provides small businesses with tools to standardize data, reduce costs and identify new opportunities to improve efficiency.
Small businesses should define the specific business need that a robust BI strategy will solve, and then determine if they have sufficient operational data to draw from. However, data is simply no longer the future, it is the present, and it is here to stay.