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The Benefits of Business Intelligence tools for SMBs

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The idea that if you build it, they will come, sounded great in the Kevin Costner movie, but in the world of business, and with a galaxy of competitors jockeying for the same customers you are, simply having a great product/service, website, and a toll-free number, isn’t going to cut it anymore. Business intelligence (BI) isn’t just for the Big Dogs anymore. In the global marketplace, everyone, from the sole proprietor with a page on Etsy.com, to the husband-and-wife team with a custom dog collar shop down the street, can and is using BI to build their business and compete effectively.

Well past the days of acting on hunches and gut instinct, businesses have too many variables to consider to rely on what they can see today or through reviewing the past quarter’s records. And they simply don’t have the time to waste trying to sort through every variable weighing in on what makes their competitors get the leg up in a given period. The term “data warehousing” goes back to the 1990s in business, perhaps earlier in other spheres, such as academic research and think tanks. What this term attempted to convey was the scale of the data relevant to making well-informed and astute decisions about a company’s strategy, now and 10, 20, 30 years into the future.

The scale of this undertaking would be daunting without the use of tools that allow stakeholders to review information that has been sifted and tailored to their analytical, reporting and interface preferences. And it’s not just for big business. The little guy doesn’t have to be left out of the global game, just because s/he only has one location and 50 or < employees – and in point of fact, s/he cannot afford to sit by and watch the game. BI systems can bring the data from multiple operating systems, generate the most salient reports (whenever needed), and show what is most relevant to any given user, in real-time. It can also show each user what’s on the horizon, through advanced trending capabilities.

Exciting things are happening for small and medium-sized business (SMBs) through BI, from calculating profitability for millions of customers, to seeing the path visitors use to enter and find specific products/services on a company’s website, to spotting fraudulent transactions as they occur. A great example of BI’s capabilities is that of GE, which uses it to integrate historic and close-to-real-time data to improve customer service, optimize rail car repairs, and reduce its operating costs (Source: http://www.business2community.com/business-intelligence/business-intelligence-tools-key-benefits-smbs-0723448).

Some insiders consider BI the crystal ball of business. Take for example Amazon, the “books others have bought” response is an example of the power of predictive analytics, and moreover, by using this BI functionality, Amazon is effectively shaping the buying patterns of customers in the present and future.

The benefits of BI include revealing hidden trends, the cost of new customers over time, and in recent years vendors have made strides in making the BI software considerably easier for small businesses to implement and afford (Source: www.inetsoft.com/products/StyleIntelligence/).

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