Business Intelligence Drives Small Business Growth

Entrepreneurs and start-ups need business intelligence to grow in turbulent times.
Business Intelligence (BI) plays a central role in enabling entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses to grow into thriving, profitable organizations.
For any organization to thrive, it requires the type of business intelligence that it can use to make strategic business decisions with confidence. That’s what Business Intelligence delivers. BI technology gives organizations the ability to track, understand, and manage its information. BI is taking on an increasingly strategic role as more organizations are looking for ways to tap into the valuable data stored in their operational systems.
Real-time information on market trends, information on vendors, consumer trends, customer purchase behavior, import/export considerations, shipping/delivery cycles, new product development sales by region…all fuel a small business’s ability to make the right kinds of decisions at the right time, especially with respect to allocating scarce resources.
But what exactly is business intelligence and how can you implement it within your organization?
According to Webopedia, the term Business Intelligence (BI) represents the tools and systems that play a key role in the strategic planning process of the corporation. These systems allow a company to gather, store, access and analyze corporate data to aid in decision-making. Generally these systems will illustrate business intelligence in the areas of customer profiling, customer support, market research, market segmentation, product profitability, statistical analysis, and inventory and distribution analysis to name a few.
According to Wikipedia, BI is a set of theories, methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies that transform raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes. BI can handle large amounts of information to help identify and develop new opportunities. Making use of new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy can provide a competitive market advantage and long-term stability. [source]
BI technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations. Common functions of business intelligence technologies are reporting, online analytical processing, analytics, data mining, process mining, complex event processing, business performance management, benchmarking, text mining, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics.
Though the term business intelligence is sometimes a synonym for competitive intelligence (because they both support decision making), BI uses technologies, processes, and applications to analyze mostly internal, structured data and business processes while competitive intelligence gathers, analyzes and disseminates information with a topical focus on company competitors.
To build a BI infrastructure, start with your customer as the central cornerstone. Design a CRM/contact management system that allows you to capture all sorts of relevant prospect information. As you move a prospect through the lead qualification process, you will gather all sorts of information on them. At the point that you convert a qualified lead to a first time customer, you can obtain even more information on that new client.
As you migrate your client up your lifetime value ladder, keep integrating other components across you business into the CRM, from email systems to your blog, your website contact lead generation forms, your social media accounts, your client past purchase information, and then the systems, processes, and software that are embedded into your operations, from your customer care/call center, your phone support, Video and web conferencing…all the times you “TOUCH” a client can and must be captured to build a thoroughly complete picture of your clients, ESPECIALLY your most profitable clients who contribute most of your business (the 80/20 rule “Pareto principle.”)
Every time you can gather a little more information on your potential customers, and for every sale you make, you are increasing the amount of data that your business can leverage to perform even better, by improving your operations. For many companies, the challenge isn’t obtaining the data but rather in weeding through it all to find information it can use. While all of this is happening in your back office, on the front end you and your staff will need a dashboard view your key customer information so you can make actionable decisions in response to events as they happen, with greater confidence.
Most of the data that companies collect is useless! Why? Because they don’t have the resources to make sense of it all. Worse yet, their information is captured/stored in many different tools and is never brought together, so the organization can’t capture a complete picture of a situation and thus cannot make informed decisions. That leads to failure. With the proliferation in IT technology and Internet advances, BI isn’t just for huge corporations 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. 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.
Great BI Tools for Entrepreneurs, Start-ups, and Small Businesses.
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: 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.
Yurbi: 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.
Square: many small business owners are familiar with Square, allowing staff to swipe and process credit card payments on a phone or tablet device. Square also has built in analytics capabilities so you can instantly measure hour-by-hour sales, and know which of your products are best-sellers.
The bottom line for all productive BI tools is, they must deliver business owners real-time data access at their fingertips.
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach