Choosing the Right Business Intelligence Tool for Your Small Business
By Alice Williams
Business intelligence (BI) is a powerful tool that can help your small business save money, increase profits, and operate more efficiently. Here is a quick guide on how to find the best BI solution, so you can make 2016 the year your small business takes advantage of everything BI has to offer.
Establish Your Use Case and Your Budget
There are a variety of BI tools available to small businesses. Some help users solve a host of business challenges, while others focus on particular areas of business, such as HR, sales, or accounting. There are also industry-specific BI tools, including options that target the health care, financial, and retail sectors. So before you start looking into business intelligence products, it’s critical that you identify your use case (what you hope to accomplish using BI) — and your budget. This will narrow down your options and help ensure you choose a tool that meets your needs.
Consider Other Important Features
Once you’ve identified your objective and budget, look for tools that offer the following features.
User Friendly Implementation and Upkeep
If your small business is like most, you don’t employ a large team of IT professionals. That means it’s important the solution you choose is easy to implement and maintain. This will minimize initial costs, as well as the solution’s lifetime expenses. To help further reduce costs (and increase employee buy-in) select a product that your non-tech employees can learn to use — and gain insights from — without the assistance of IT.
When business owners buy more BI power than they need, their expenses skyrocket and ROI plummets. Avoid BI vendors that require a minimum deal size before they’ll engage with you. Instead, look for companies that offer affordable, entry-level BI solutions that can scale with your organization as it grows.
Excellent Customer Service
Some BI vendors charge by the minute when you call their help line, and others bill hefty “professional service” fees that your small business might not have the budget for. Before you commit to a vendor, understand the ins and outs of their service contract, and read their customer service reviews.
Mobile BI tools give your team real-time access to dashboards, data, and reports right from their phone or other connected device. Look for mobile apps that are HTML5-based. These apps will transfer cleanly across all major mobile browsers, which is important in today’s BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment.
As a small-business owner, you may not have high-level managers like CFOs or COOs to update you on specific areas of your business. With an easy-to-understand executive dashboard, however, you can quickly check in on various aspects of your business from a single screen whenever you want.
Look at BI Options That Cater Directly to Small Business Needs
There are dozens of solid BI tools on the market today, but some make a concerted effort to address small business needs directly. Here are a few of the most popular options that work well with small companies and startups.
Combining business-user capabilities with an enterprise-level platform, Yurbi is an outstanding BI tool for small businesses. It’s also reasonably priced, mobile friendly, and backed by a top-notch customer service team. You can take a test drive of Yurbi to learn more about its features.
Launched just two years ago, Grow is becoming a go-to BI solution for small businesses. It’s an affordable Cloud-based solution that offers a wealth of high-level information and dynamic, real-time dashboards. Plus, Grow lets business users pull data from various sources — including Excel and Dropbox — into comprehensive reports.
- Microsoft Power BI
Using Microsoft Power BI, end users can import data and reports from various files, and create, view, and share dashboards or documents with ease. Microsoft Power BI is a highly intuitive tool, but it’s not expensive. In fact, there is a free entry-level version of Microsoft Power BI, and the Pro version starts at just $9.99 per user per month.
Alice Williams has written in-depth on a wide variety of topics which include business, technology and social media. She has a masters degree in Communication Studies from San Francisco State University. Follow her at @1alicehw.