People have been looking at data to improve business since the beginning of...well... business.
I can see it now. 2,000 years ago, a Roman sandal-wearing street merchant notices over time that he gets about ten more customers on the days he puts a canopy up over his wagon, sheltering customers from the brutal sun. So, he decides he'll go through the hassle of doing this everyday and as a result his business benefits.
Now one might simply call this "smart", but it's not intelligence as much as it's quantifiable data. Our friend the Roman was using Business Intelligence (BI) to make better business decisions.
Although it's commonplace to equate BI with enterprise "big data", today Business Intelligence solutions aren’t just for large enterprise organizations with petabytes of complex, disparate data. Small and Mid sized businesses have a legitimate need for BI and the business impact it provides.
The simplest definition of Business Intelligence comes from inc.com:
BI is the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes. The raw data can derive from a variety of sources--sales history, transaction data, customer profiles, third-party sources--and be put to many uses, such as improving customer service, boosting sales, tightening expense control, and doing a better job of retaining key employees.
When inc.com interviewed a panel of BI experts on how (and if) SMBs can take advantage of BI solutions, they provided the following insights:
BI helps small businesses compete with larger shops or increase market share
Vendors are getting better at making software that’s easy to use and affordable
BI vendors are starting to cater to a younger crowd
The cloud now puts non-IT users in the driver’s seat
Before investing in BI tools, it’s important to think about what answers you’re looking for
Forget about using BI software if you don’t have access to quality operational data
Excel isn’t your only option
Cloud / SaaS to the BI Rescue!
The cloud has made everything more accessible and BI is no exception. Although easy to use and affordable solutions like Domo and Cyfe (which we use at UTG to to create marketing BI dashboards) made it to market before Microsoft's solution, we think Microsoft really got it right with Power BI. You'd be hard pressed to find something more suitable for small business. In conclusion, if you've ever wished you could connect the dots between different systems or modules, like sales and marketing—or even if you'd like to produce great looking visuals rather than drab Excel spreadsheets, then give Microsoft Power BI or one of the many other cloud BI solutions a try and reap the benefits like our good friend the Roman!