Business Intelligence for SMB’s Part 5: When should a SMB start using Business Intelligence?

When is Business Intelligence relevant for a small business? Or to reframe the question when should a small business owner who hasn’t deployed any BI in their business start to consider a solution? Whether you are the owner of a small start-up or the veteran CEO for a multinational company, information is the lifeblood of your business.  BI is therefore crucial to any business at any stage, but sometimes misunderstood or deemed inaccessible for small and medium businesses.

Anyone watching the BI industry will be flabbergasted at the amount of different types of technologies available and even more by the use of acronyms! It’s not an easy game for anyone to understand, and that’s from an industry insider! Scary isn’t it? – Imagine walking into a burger joint and the menu includes options such as OLAP, CPM, BPM, DataMarts, Data Warehousing, ODBC,OLTP,OLEDB – all of which can be included in the latest “In Memory’ promotional family pack.  Would you have any idea what those menu items are? I would be so confused that I would actually walk out. I think BI is scaring people away.

At the risk of firing up a subjective debate about what the universal definition of Business Intelligence should be, let me share my definition: BI is a tool that gets the right information to the right people at the right time. How the information gets to the them is totally irrelevant.. sorry techno geeks. What matters is that they can get the information when they need it, and on their preferred platform.

Whether you are the owner of a small fish and chip retail outlet into which you have ploughed your life’s savings or you are the CEO of a multinational fishing company that owns a fleet of trawlers and distributes your catch based on the very best just-in-time methodologies, at the end of the day, you NEED to know how many fish you sold.

This is, of course, an over-simplified analogy of a much broader subject, but the point is that small businesses need information just as much as their bigger counterparts, especially if they have dreams of growing their businesses. BI provides them with access to up-to-date information, on demand, in a format that suits them, so that business owners can make informed decisions. What small business would not need that? And why would they not need it from day one? BI can create significant competitive advantage, especially in the dog-eat-dog world of start-ups. Not only can  financial information be generated automatically from the accounting system, saving time every month-end and ensuring information is provided in a timely fashion, but easy access to information from across the business (sales, KPIs, etc.) can significantly improve collaboration amongst teams and allow for informed decisions to be made based on trusted and real-time data.

Business Intelligence is for every business, whether small, medium or huge. And no matter what stage a business is at, the right BI solution will have a positive impact on an SMB from the moment of implementation and should provide an immediate return on investment.