Business Intelligence for SMB’s Part 3: 5 benefits of Business Intelligence for SMBs

Business Intelligence (BI) has become quite the ‘buzzword’ in the software industry in the last few years, yet many small business owners still view it as the realm of big business only. As we move towards 2020 and information overload becomes commonplace, however, SMBs are now starting to realize that BI can benefit them too. Here are 5 real advantages that BI can deliver to SMBs:

 1. Time savings (or increased productivity)
Small businesses, by nature, need to get more done with fewer people! One of the key benefits of BI is that it will automate reporting in your business, saving time and money in the process and ultimately increasing productivity.

Monthly financial reports, for example, traditionally take days every month to compile. BI can provide real-time automated reports, executable at the click of a button, which draw up-to-date trusted data directly from a company’s existing accounting package and deliver a single version of the truth. Even better is when the data is delivered in pre-formatted Excel reports and dashboards that can be drilled down into for transactional details. You will be able to close the books on time, without the usual drudgery of manual report preparation – cutting & pasting, and repetitive data extracts into Excel – thereby saving accounting / bookkeeping staff valuable hours each month.

You can also automate other management reports, such as Dashboards and Sales Reports, and get up-to-date, accurate and well-presented reports for informed decision-making in your business, without having to sort through static reports and extricate data into a format that can be used to analyze information. By providing real-time reports on demand, BI plays a significant role in creating time-savings and increased productivity and allows you to start using the information in your system to more effectively manage the business.

Check out this efficiency calculator to see just how much money Alchemex’s Smart Reporting software can save you by automating your reporting and improving efficiencies.

2. Flexibility in reporting
Many business software end users voice frustration with the reporting provided in their accounting packages being inadequate and inflexible. A good BI package addresses the need for more flexibility, making it a necessity in today’s aggressive market place. One of the most popular ways is to take the data stored in your accounting/ERP and CRM systems, pull it into Microsoft Excel, and then let business managers that already know how to use Excel analyze the data. Such Excel-based BI gives small businesses the ability to manipulate and distribute meaningful information in the familiar face of Excel, while maintaining its accuracy, obtaining insight into trends, year-on-year analyses and drill-down transactional details, all on demand and in a meaningful format.

Some BI solutions, such as Sage Business Intelligence, ship with ready-to-use Excel report templates to get users up and running immediately. Data residing in a company’s accounting, business management or payroll package is delivered automatically in the familiar face of Excel in a number of different layouts. You do not need to know how to write reports or how the data is structured to get value. You can however manipulate and distribute the reports in Excel, or engage the services of a business partner to customize reports according to your unique business requirements.

3. Improved access to information
Any small business owner or manager in the 21st century will attest to the fact that the volume of business information that needs to be processed grows continuously, yet time and resources are limited. The focus needs to shift from capturing lots of data, to providing accessible information that gives you a clear understanding of the transactional history in your database, so you can forecast and plan for the years ahead.

A good BI solution will allow you to reap the following benefits:
• Reports, generated automatically from up-to-date data directly from the company’s databases, will provide visibility of what has happened even in the last few minutes.
• Drill down capability within reports will allow you to quickly look at the underlying data to certain metrics and take corrective measures.
• Dashboard reports will give you a good idea of the health and well-being of the company by displaying current metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) in a graphical format so that trends are visible at a glance.
• You will be able to run standard reports available with the software or customize these for your unique requirements or create your own from scratch.
• You will be able to customize reports to combine information from multiple sources, possibly from your accounting package, CRM, and payroll databases.

The data has always been there, but BI puts it into an easily digestible format and gets the right information to the right people, when they need it.

With Excel-based BI solutions in particular, the familiar Excel environment can utilize existing skills, making it simple to obtain, share and distribute information. Information can be ‘sliced and diced’ using native Excel for more insight. And as users become more proficient in Excel, the universal language of business and accountants, it will become even quicker and simpler to obtain, analyze, share and distribute information. Check out this video to see how familiarity with Excel keyboard shortcuts can save you time with your business reporting.

4. Improved decision-making
All companies face constant pressure to increase profitability, improve cash flow, reduce costs, and reduce risk in order to improve financial performance. The ability to make good decisions and proactively solve issues is crucial to success at every level of an organization, every day. And as smaller companies grow or face stiffer competition, the need to make these decisions based on meaningful information quickly becomes an imperative. This is where traditional financial reports, summaries that are not drillable and manually-manipulated spreadsheets start to fall short, as the usefulness, trustworthiness and timeliness of information comes into question.

Excel-based BI allows small businesses to continue to use Excel as their preferred data sharing application but eliminates ‘spreadsheet chaos’. No more cutting and pasting repetitively, no more human error, no more doubt about data accuracy.

BI paves the way for true collaboration across a business so more people have access to information they need to make better decisions, faster. Teams can collaborate more effectively, people will be more productive, and decision-makers can be more proactive. The agility of a small business allows for BI to be used highly effectively if the conclusions drawn from real-time, trusted information can be implemented quickly and efficiently to either mitigate risk or take advantage of opportunities early on.

5. Immediate ROI
BI has traditionally been the preserve of big business. Small businesses face tighter budgets, less sophistication and fewer people and have, in the past, tended to steer away from BI because of the cost and complexity involved. In the last few years, however, newer generation BI has been built specifically for SMBs, as opposed to complex tier one products being scaled down to create SMB offerings.

Sage Business Intelligence software is one of these new generation BI products, designed from the ground up with small business’ needs in mind, for example:
a. It specifically addresses serious challenges around financial reporting – which is prevalent worldwide – like departmental reporting, GL segmentation, project reporting.
b. It caters well for consolidated reporting from multiple sources.
c. The product components are structured to cater for a basic user up to the more advanced.
d. It includes access to numerous free resources on the BI Community, free webinars and training on Sage University, which is important for a small business with limited resources.

Being a module of your Sage accounting package, no new relationships or extensive IT investments are required, which makes for rapid deployment without any hurdles. It can seamlessly draw trusted data directly from the database of your accounting system and deliver it automatically into the tool you are already compiling static reports in today, Microsoft Excel, making it very easy to adopt. You don’t have to be a programmer to get the data and you don’t need to be an accountant to interpret the data.

Integrated, Excel-based solutions make BI simple and affordable from the outset. And increased visibility into your business will improve operational efficiencies, streamline processes and ramp up productivity, giving you a rapid return on investment and helping you realize your strategic vision.