business intelligence

Business intelligence tools for small businesses: four realistic options

November 5, 2012
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business intelligence Business intelligence tools for small businesses: four realistic options

Why business intelligence is critical

As a communications coordinator at an IT company, I am constantly inundated with answers to why business intelligence is so important to the success of a business. With each bit of information you gather on potential customers, and each sale you make, it creates a data point that contains essential information your business can leverage to make it better.

But sadly, most of what data companies collect is ultimately thrown out, because they don’t have the resources to make sense of it all. Or worse yet, their information resides in a bunch of separate silos and never comes together to make a complete picture. For instance, if you’re in marketing and have customer email data in an Excel spreadsheet, and social media information in Salesforce.com, but the data is never integrated together, it results in a fragmented picture of your customer and prevents having a 360 degree view of the customer that could be a deciding factor on turning them into an opportunity or a sales win.

BI isn’t just for the big boys anymore

In years past, incorporating Business Intelligence (BI) software was an act done only by big companies because it cost so much money to buy and deploy; not to mention, you would also have to hire programmers and developers to take care of scripting, mapping, and other high-level tasks in order to get value from the software.



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But now, there are many BI options out there for small and medium-sized business owners to implement and begin analysis of the data resulting from day-to-day operations. Most of them are free or low-cost, and are as simply to operate as a drag-and-drop function.

Tableau Desktop allows users to visualize data through its interactive dashboards created from dragging, dropping, and connecting selected data points. By being able to look at this information graphically, you can easily spot trends. It can be run on a laptop, and has an engine powerful enough to analyze even large amounts of data, negating the need to sample.

PivotLink is a company that specializes in cloud computing, allowing users to analyze data that’s been transported from on-premises to the cloud for storage and processing. Many analysts firms project more companies will begin to utilize the cloud, so this is a definite vendor to take a look at.

One of Yurbi’s differentiators is that it offers real-time access to data. For instance, rather than manually scheduling the next step in the process after data comes in, the system automatically knows to kick off the next step, allowing for a seamless integration of all of your data. With no hold-ups, you get access to, and are able to analyze your data faster.

Many small business owners are familiar with Square, allowing staff to swipe and process credit card payments on a phone or tablet. This system also has built in analytics capabilities as staff can instantly measure hour-by-hour sales and which items are selling the most. Again, business owners benefit from real-time data access at their fingertips.

The takeaway

If you’re a small or medium-sized business professional, don’t use that as an excuse for why you can’t implement BI software. Every business can benefit from taking a look at the numbers and creating strategies to improve. If you don’t take heed, you risk falling behind your competitors who are analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and becoming better because of it. Don’t be the laggard in the field.

Destiny Bennett is a journalist who has earned double communications' degrees in Journalism and Public Relations, as well as a certification in Business from The University of Texas at Austin. She has written stories for AustinWoman Magazine as well as various University of Texas publications and enjoys the art of telling a story. Her interests include finance, technology, social media...and watching HGTV religiously.