5 Easy Ways for Small Businesses to use Business Intelligence (BI)
While larger companies have substantial budgets to employ entire departments designated to collecting, maintaining, processing, and extracting intelligence from data. Smaller companies have to rely on self-service business intelligence platforms and in-house data storage that is normally unstructured and difficult to extract insightful information from. Managing and understanding the importance of businesses data as an asset is the first step of incorporating business intelligence for a business of any size. So what is business intelligence and how can anyone access it?
Business Intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process of using data to deliver actionable information that aids all levels of a business. The idea of using BI to improve operations and increase the standing of a business is generally thought to only be available to large companies. However, this is a major misconception as their are many easy steps a small business can take to begin on their BI journey.
A 2020 business statistics survey concluded that approximately 87% of businesses do not yet have business intelligence maturity, meaning they are lacking data strategy at an organizational level. Business intelligence maturity is increased by incorporating these three simple and easy trends in BI: data visualization, data quality management, and self-servicing BI. This post will look at 5 ways any size business can increase their BI maturity.
1. Determine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Collecting, storing, and managing all the data your business creates can be time consuming and wasteful if not done properly. Most small businesses do not have the time or resources available to manage full data reporting, that is why it is important to focus on your defined KPIs.
Some common and important metrics most businesses should track include:
Sales, repeat purchases, daily sales, etc.
Website traffic and social media engagement
Delivery logistics, inventory management, etc.
These are just some common KPIs but not the be all end all. As almost every Business is unique, they each have varying business objectives, varying stages in their business lifecycles and differing operational capacities. The important thing is to focus on what KPIs your business is producing and how to collect data to analyze these. Initiating a data strategy will lead to a better understanding of how data can improve your business and will lead your business on the path to developing better BI maturity.
2. Collecting and Consolidating data.
Depending on what platforms your business is using to collect data, it is important to start to automate this process. It is essential for your KPIs to be automatically imported into your data storage platform. Depending on your current business setup various information may be stored in differing locations.
The next step is to consolidate your data (not an easy task) before you can generate any meaningful insights. Fortunately, if you do not have the resources in-house there are self-service business intelligence services that enable easy data consolidation across many platforms to catapult you to a stage where data visualization and insights can be generated. This is the second most important thing for any business beside just determining which information you want to collect. You must be able to organize it in a way where it can be easily accessed, visualized and processed to obtain recurring BI.
3. Visualize, Visualize and Visualize.
Regardless of the level of experience you have working with data, visualizations are the most informative way to create meaning behind any data. Visualizations create an easily digestible representation of the complex relationships present within your business.
Most business intelligence platforms available now provide visualization sections that allow individuals of varying data analytics skills to build easy and impactful visualizations. These platforms also allow for the data that your business is constantly generating to appear real-time when step 2 is automated. Automated reports displaying how your KPIs are changing overtime allow for a business to extract which factors are causing changes in KPIs (better or worse) in addition to having a more wholesome understanding of a businesses operational health.
4. Make Digitization a Priority.
Business intelligence is created from data that is collected, stored and processed on machines. That means any process your business is conducting whether it be from sales, contracts, payroll, and/or outreach should be conducted through a digital platform as opposed to a physical one.
Not only does digitization aid in creating meaningful BI, when done correctly it improves operational efficiency and customer experience greatly. Having everything digitized opens up a variety of inexpensive online analytics services that make it feasible for businesses of any size to benefit from analytics. These same services can be employed in order to digitize areas of operations that currently are not. The grand purpose of digitizing aspects of operations is to collect and subsequently analyze the data that is being generated. Allowing for the location of areas of inefficiency throughout the business that without digitization are likely to go unnoticed.
5. Acknowledge the Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Data
It’s a very common misconception in the realm of businesses that the most important data is numeric in nature. This leads to organizations who are starting their data journey to forget an important part of the pie. Although quantitative data Is very important, qualitative data is just as much so. Things like customer feedbacks, customer outreaches, reviews, testimonials, etc. are all important to understand and improve a business. In fact quantitative data normally aids in the understanding of output you are seeing from qualitative analysis and sometimes even reveals trends not observed within qualitative data.
For a company to utilize strong BI they need to collect and interpret both qualitative and quantitative data. This will allow for a more informed and impactful decision-making process and create competitive advantages.
In a world now driven by data, collecting and using the data your business generates is crucial for creating a competitive advantage and improving operations. There are now tons of inexpensive an easy-to-use platforms and offerings that can aid any small business in engaging in any of the above BI requirements.
With all this being said all businesses are different and the process each one goes through will be dependent on the desired outlook. However, one thing is for sure, all businesses can and will benefit from the incorporation of good data practices and the corresponding BI that evolves from it.