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Jim Manico
Jim Manico
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Business Intelligence: Your Next Step

No huge revelation that more small and midsize companies are turning to BI to make better business decisions. And no huge surprise that SMBs are ahead of large enterprises in their deployment of SaaS-based BI vs. more expensive on-premises software.

No huge revelation that more small and midsize companies are turning to BI to make better business decisions. And no huge surprise that SMBs are ahead of large enterprises in their deployment of SaaS-based BI vs. more expensive on-premises software.In fact, the wealth of stats presented by a new Aberdeen Group study, "Business Intelligence for the Small to Medium Sized Business" (free PDF), while insightful, jibe with much of what bMighty has been reporting for a while now.

So less of a question is if than is how. IMHO, that's where Aberdeen's survey of some 650 SMBs is the most insightful, detailing the steps they should take to better reap BI's benefits based on how far along they are on the adoption curve (based on time to information, utilization of BI assets, employee productivity, and cost-per-user of BI apps). Here's a synopsis of what you should be thinking about:

Laggards (30% of surveyed SMBs) 1. Examine methods to automate report generation delivery: One in five SMB BI laggards have this capability, which frees up the time and resources required for manually pulling together reports. (70% of best-in-class SMBs use this feature.)

2. Create a formal training program for BI use: 12% of laggards (less than one-third of best-in-class SMBs) have a formal training program -- a "low-impact solution" that will go a long way in resolving laggards' lack of expertise.

3. Investigate the use of data cleansing tools: Not quite one-quarter of laggards take advantage of these tools, which automatically extract irrelevant data, improving the quality and usability of analyzed information. (63% of best-in-class SMBs use these tools.)

Industry Average (50% of surveyed SMBs) 1. Define the BI and IT skill sets necessary to meet goals: Just one out of four industry-average SMB BI users have mapped their projects' goals to the skills they have at their disposal, leaving them at risk for going over those projects' budgets and deadlines.

2. Improve ability to monitor the usage level of the BI system: Ditto on the number of industry-average SMB BI users that track for money-wasting underutilization or system-straining overutilization, which can also impact the timeliness of data delivery. (59% of best-in-class SMBs monitor their systems.)

3. Invest in BI dashboard technology: Best-in-class SMB BI users reign supreme in their use of dashboard tech, which helps the less-technical users get their hands on the analytical information that can drive better business decisions.

Best-In-Class (20% of surveyed SMBs) 1. Establish a BI center of excellence: To date, 11% of best-in-class SMB BI users have set up an independent internal organization that develops best practices for companywide BI understanding and training.

2. Leverage automated alert reporting tools: A step beyond data collection, assembly, and delivery, these tools provide faster visibility into key state changes and allow for faster response.

Now for you attentive vendors, keep in mind SMBs' top 5 criteria in choosing a solution: ease of use, software license cost, implementation consulting costs, integration capabilities with other apps, and ongoing support costs. Among their top business pressures: getting their hands on relevant business data faster, improving data integration from multiple apps, providing more of their employees with analytical capabilities, and reducing BI implementation costs.

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