How SMEs can find balance between challenges and benefits through BI implementation

July 8th, 2017 – Getting to the bottom of business information (BI) can be a difficult exercise, especially for SMEs, as their data is buried in multiple layers and legacy systems. BI facilitates the manager to take the best decisions, at a right time. At the same time, BI solution is perceived to be expensive, time consuming and risky proposition, to implement even for established entities. But in reality it is a wrong perception about BI.

Put simply BI is a combination of computer applications, IT infrastructure and other related tools to access and analyze data, in order to make improved business decisions, from time to time.

The scenario has changed dramatically, in value of ownership of BI to SMEs, because when SMEs compute BI’s Return on Investment (ROI), its benefits outweighs the cost incurred. Access to cloud computing, direct data querying at local level and multiple online modeling techniques has changed the scenario on BI implementation for SMEs. It is important to keep in mind these three dimensions if one has to evaluate BI as a viable tool for SMEs:


1. Getting the information you need is difficult as it is spread across different mini silos including manual documents to simple spreadsheets. Here BI has to provide an up-to-date and reliable data.
2. Turning raw data into useful information is difficult as it requires the application of business rules and complicated process. The thought of facing such challenges in SMEs, with limited skills set, itself raises doubts.
3. The BI reporting interfaces are often difficult to use and sometimes require technical expertise. Giving the impression that normal users in SMEs, cannot do it.
4. Traditional managers from conservative setups have a knack to “invent” and manipulate their own Management Information Systems (MIS) as per their own convenience. This tendency may give rise to unreliable conclusions and conflicting results.
5. It is generally seen, that reporting and data entry points, in conventional SMEs are more manual, infrequent. One gets January’s sales figures in mid-February. One finds out that a key product line is selling fast, several weeks after it has happened. One gets management information, monthly or quarterly, not weekly or daily.

Action points

1. It is always advisable for SMEs to plan out the details at micro level.
2. Decide on which data ought to be extracted from the system. Data size and range may vary. A small dataset can be helpful in solving the riddle and sometimes a full range of data can fall short of expectations. But BI application facilitates the management to take quick and effective decisions.
3. SMEs must convert their data into a simplified format so that it is easy to use and work with. Only then good insights or inferences can be generated.
4. Calculations and business rules would be required when implementing BI, so that raw data turns into an explicit business tool.
5. Always think and strategize on how the data needs to be joined together, for example, when analyzing sales, for invoices to customers, products and sales representatives.


1.Applicable Intelligence: One of the biggest reasons for BI becoming popular in the SME sector is its ability to provide applicable intelligence, which they have never experienced before.
2. Speedy answers: BI applications have come a long way in the past decade, from generating intelligence from a relatively small subset of data, overseen by specialists. Now, with inbuilt intelligence in the BI system, decisive results and visualisations are prompt in nature.
3. Real time phenomena: BI solutions, has the inbuilt capabilities to give results in real time. It not only helps the decision maker to understand the history in data, but also indicates on predicting future.
4. Data visualization: All BI solutions come with, inbuilt user friendly, visual framework. Understanding and comparing the past, present and future, through colorful visuals and statistical graphs, is a big plus.
5. Information integration: In SMEs, business data tends to get spread around everywhere and trapped in unaccounted silos, BI removes presents a more holistic picture, formed from all data sources.

SMEs want quick results from their operations. Nowadays, it is becoming, an essential activity to not only do data analysis but also take instant action. Conclusively, it could be underlined, that BI is indeed an intelligent business tool, which helps organizations to find answers to difficult business propositions, which comes up during the decision making process.

Written by Economic Times
Photo: Business Information Technology

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