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5 ways to optimise BI solutions for SMEs

Posted by Uyen Vu on


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“When you’re a small organization, you have to garner as many competitive advantages as you can.”

(Howard Dresner, Founder of Wisdom of Crowds BI Study)


Although business intelligence (BI) has been discussed regularly nowadays, it is rare that BI is mentioned through the lens of small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) with limited IT resources and small budgets. Some believe BI is too big and too scary for small companies. But is BI that complicated for them? No. Many BI solutions today can be easily controlled and implemented without IT foot print and simply piloted in just one area of your business. In fact, SMEs actually benefits more than larger fortune 500 companies in terms of the bottom-line impact of BI. So SMEs, why resist to change? Here are five ways to bring BI into your organisation in an easy and cost-effective manner.


Spreadsheets can show you where BI will be most successful

There are reasons that spreadsheet is still the most used for self-service Business Intelligence among companies around the globe. It gives users total control over the designs and report construction with friendly point-and-click interface; it has rich statistical functions that can be easily used for  analysing business process such as pivot tables, filters, what-if analysis and especially macros to automate routing processing.

Despite some limitations in data security and debugging errors, spreadsheet is heavily used by many people in your company who need all of these data analysis and visualisation for their daily work. As these people know where to find raw data in the source systems, the schedule by when it gets updated and the format of reports, they are our ideal first users of BI solutions. Therefore, to start the first step of implementing Business Intelligence system successfully, the BI solution you choose should be intuitive, simple and easy to use like spreadsheet. This will help the adoption process easier and faster, especially for organizations that have limited supported staffs and in-house training.


Demystify BI with purpose-built applications

Adopting a new tool is not always welcomed by employees and departments in any organizations. There are many reasons for this, may be because they resist to change or scare of the complexity of the BI solution. Thus, the trick is to deploy purpose-built BI application to one particular area of business first because it provides immediate results and changes without disrupting the current system; presents simpler menu options and a more problem/solution-focused interface for users. When the application designs are made to be as user-friendly as possible, the productivity will be increased and decision-making process will be faster and clearer.


Say “No” to Data warehouse

Many believe that in order to successfully deploy a BI system, building a data warehouse is essential as it is the first step of the process. However, this believe no doubt is false since there are a large number of BI tools that have flexible Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) capabilities and require no data warehouse. Your company can eventually save time, cost and effort for the implementation process by bypassing this data warehouse option while getting BI-optimised results still.


Broaden your BI mind

Beyond BI is more than just a delivery of numbers, dashboards and reports, it lies information delivery.  Information delivery enhances BI’s utility by including both data and content needed to convert insights into actions as well as contextual analysis. Mobile BI is an excellent example for this paradigm. A BI-based sales enablement tool can provide a field rep with metrics on inventory, stock-out, promotions and incentives as well as sales scripts, sell sheets, product videos and other collaterals. That means, you can have every advantage at hand to win a deal. Especially for small business, in order to win, “you have to garner as many competitive advantages as you can” - said Howard Dresner, lead researcher, president and founder of the Nashua, N.H-based analyst firm.   


Cloud and SaaS keep BI easy to support and affordable

Internal IT resources require great money to keep the process alive; however, this can be partly replaced by Cloud and SaaS-based deployment options on your BI system. It enables easy, fast and 24x7x360 access to the functionality in a vendor’s servers with  security, backup, failover practices and high availability. The co-location facility hosting at the vendor’s servers can also help customers to optimise their performance and storage needs as well as ensuring the safety of their sensitive data through guarantee of the physical location of the data from the vendor.



BI solutions, in contrast to our common belief, can be quickly implemented in SMEs environment and it provides an easy entry point without as much time and financial commitments as it is normally required for larger BI implementation. The trend mentioned here suggests that BI solutions are available for all who want the benefits it offers regardless of the companies sizes.

Download the Infor ION BI brochure


This article is originally posted on Information Management by Frank Smietana

Frank Smietana is director of product marketing for supply chain and manufacturing at Dimensional Insight. He has spent the last 23 years applying predictive analytics and business intelligence tools to solve real world problems at Eli Lilly & Company, UBS and Parametric Technology Corp. Frank can be reached at and @DI_tweet.

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