Top Business Intelligence Tools for Smaller Operations
The technological “big bang” that occurred with the rapid spread of Internet access and portable computing has changed virtually every industry on the face of the planet. In fact, there’s hardly a single career or vocation that isn’t dependent on technology in one way or another.
Growing pains aside, the technology boom has been advantageous for most professionals, companies, and small businesses. For instance, instead of being limited to interacting only with the clientele who walk through your doors, the digital age has given us special tools to foster relationships with prospective customers before they ever set foot into your brick-and-mortar location (assuming you even have one at this point).
Another major benefit that technology has brought us is data. As people use the World Wide Web, their activities produce mountains of data that analysts can use to develop new products and services. But for small businesses that have limited access to analytical expertise that Fortune 500 companies enjoy, interpreting this valuable data is often where the trouble lies.
So how can a small business make use of the data at its disposal?
What exactly is a business intelligence tool?
If you’re even remotely familiar with the world of digital analytics, you’ll know that there are tons of tools available, each of which has been designed to make it super easy to collect a specific type of data. Unfortunately, these analytic tools are often extremely limited when it comes to helping you make sense of the raw data. That’s where business intelligence tools come in.
Business intelligence (BI) tools are a type of tool that help you distill large amounts of data. Basically, these are business-oriented programs that analyze and present data in such a way that makes it extremely easy for you to make decisions and plans. Because when you’re making important decisions, specific data sets prove to be irrelevant. Instead, you need to see concise and applicable summaries of the data, allowing you to use the information you’ve collected as part of your decision making.
Business intelligence tools for small businesses
Now that you’ve got an idea of what a BI tool is, we want to highlight a couple specific options that are particularly well-suited to small businesses.
Tableau Server is a great business intelligence tool for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s an enterprise-class business intelligence system, meaning that it’s got the power and depth to handle all your data. However, the fact that Tableau — with its TR-score of 8.0 out of 10 — is extremely scalable means that the power it offers can benefit even small businesses. As an added bonus, you can take advantage of Tableau’s free trial to try the feature-rich business intelligence software for yourself.
TIBCO Spotfire is another popular business intelligence tool with an impressive TR-score of 8.3. One of the most compelling reasons to give TIBCO Spotfire a chance is its versatility; the program has a plethora of data visualization options, can analyze data in countless file types, and can even create blended analyses of data from multiple sources. In brief, this is one of the most well-rounded, powerful business intelligence tools that small businesses are likely to find extremely valuable.
How to choose a business intelligence tool
If you’ve decided that implementing a business intelligence tool is the right choice for your small business, there are a couple of things you should consider to ensure that you choose the right one for your specific needs.
Many of us depend on a number of different programs and services to run our small businesses, making integrations an important consideration when choosing a business intelligence tool. Particularly if you use analytics programs that collect a lot of your data, it’s prudent to ensure the business intelligence tool you’re considering is compatible with that analytics tool.
Besides integrations, another important consideration is whether the business intelligence tool can import data in real-time. Depending on your industry, having access to real-time data (versus using a program that collects data only intermittently) can be a major hindrance to informed decision-making.
Finally, you want to consider how flexible, customizable, and easy the program is. A steep learning curve and any inability to interface may harness meeting your needs, and can significantly limit the utility of the program.