Business Intelligence for SMB’s Part 6: What happens when my business grows?

Will the same BI solutions work in a large company?

Scalability. In my opinion most  SMB-sized businesses with strong growth potential should take this topic seriously within every area of their business to ensure minimal capital and time is spent on reworking business functions or processes which the company may have outgrown. The software a business uses to gain valuable business intelligence is no different – a company which doesn’t smartly evaluate a new potential BI solution from the perspective of scalability may find themselves needing to purchases a different, more capable BI product much sooner than you would think.

The reality here as Darryl pointed out in his post Part 4: What is Business Intelligence? is the term ‘business intelligence’ does not dictate the technology which must be used to obtain valuable insight. As a result when it comes to BI software, it becomes important to know whether the technology of each BI product you evaluate is up to the task of serving up fast and fresh data even as your business data grows in volume. ‘Oh no’ I hear you say, ‘Now I have to understand technical BI terms like OLAP cubes, ETL and Data Mining in order to know whether I’m choosing the right solution’ but fear not – the BI vendors of today have learnt the lesson of the last two decades which is simple; businesses are becoming increasingly less interested in the technical underpinnings of software solutions – it must just work for their needs. If I had to go out and make purchase decision today for a company, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the BI buzzwords which are thrown at me, I would make sure the BI solution provider has proof showing their product can handle the data volumes comparable to what the company has now and continues to show strong performance when data volumes are scaled up realistically.

The next part I would evaluate is whether the investment in the BI product in terms of training, capital and time would be completely lost in the event where we eventually do need to upgrade to a superior accounting or ERP system. Choosing a BI product which is available on many accounting or ERP systems gives me the possibility of migrating my existing reporting and intelligence investment to a different accounting/ERP system, thereby eliminating the need to start from scratch.

So how do you future-proof your BI solution decision if you don’t necessarily know how fast or big your company is going to grow within the future? Well, it comes down to figuring out which core business documents to measure and then determining metrics for them. Looking for a BI product which can help you analyse all things financial? Make sure you are aware of how many general ledger accounts your company currently has. Need to see sales and purchasing trends for the last 5 years with the ability to drill down into specific geographic regions? Take a look at how many invoices and purchase receipts your company records on a monthly basis, then look at how your company is expanding geographically and do the maths. How about needing to pivot inventory data with warehousing data? Better get an idea of how many different inventory items and warehouses you have stored in your accounting or ERP system.

Once you work out the data volumes your company currently deals with, try and work with each respective division of your business to predict how their core business documents will grow in numbers over time, with this knowledge in hand you will be far more prepared to choose a BI solution which will grow with your company.