Business owners know that data and technology are the main ingredients for sustainable growth. But this brings up so many questions – what kind of data do you need to analyze? What's the right technology to enable business growth? What are the best tools for your business?

Coming up with all the right answers can be daunting, especially for smaller businesses that may not have the budget, personnel, or know-how to implement complex tools and dashboards. 

But it doesn't have to be that way. 

It's possible for small businesses to gather relevant and actionable business intelligence that helps them reach targets and optimize the business. Let's take a look at how small companies can leverage business intelligence to have a full overview of the business and grow better.

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Examples of Business Intelligence

There are a multitude of ways to use BI, so your specific use case will mainly depend on your company's industry and needs. Some of the most common ways small businesses use BI include:

  • Analyze financial data to track revenue, profits, and other KPIs
  • Analyze customer preferences and behavior
  • Track sales and marketing performance
  • Identify issues and bottlenecks in operations
  • Identify which operations need to be optimized
  • Identify trends within the business and in the market

For example, an ecommerce company could make use of BI to find out at a glance their most popular products among consumers, if customers are experiencing common problems with their products or services, or if there are delays or bottlenecks in the delivery of goods.

Or, if you want to streamline your sales process, you could use BI to automate reporting of sales performance. Analyzing sales data in real time allows you to optimize your sales and lead generation strategies. You could also create a dashboard to monitor customer satisfaction and identify what are the most common causes of customer churn to prevent it before it happens.

In addition, many businesses use BI to keep track of financial metrics in real time, such as MRR and ARR, to make sure they're on track to hit targets – and, if not, they can quickly pivot strategies to increase revenue.

Top Business Intelligence Tools for Small Businesses

As you can see from the examples above, you can (and should) use BI in just about any area of your business where you want more clarity and transparency. But how can you make it happen without too much complexity?

Like with any tool you get for your business, make sure you focus your search on tools that are made with small businesses in mind – these are more likely to be a better fit for your company's specific requirements and budget, without forcing you to pay for features you don't really need. Here's a quick overview of BI tools for small businesses to help you get started on your search. A lot of these can scale as you grow, so you can get those extra features once you scale up.

1. Tableau

Tableaus homepage showing Business Intelligence options

As one of the leading providers in the BI and analytics market, Tableau can be a great choice for many businesses small and large. This user-friendly tool allows users to build dashboards and visualize data, making it easy to find all the data you need in one place and make nimble decisions. 

Pricing: Tableau's plans start at $12/user/month, billed annually.

2. Looker

Lookers homepage showing BI features

Another great option for small businesses, Looker is an easy-to-use BI software and data analytics platform that helps companies explore, analyze, and share real-time analytics. It allows you to create custom dashboards for easy data visualization and make sure the right stakeholders have access to the most relevant data in real time.

Pricing: Looker has a flexible pricing model, so prospective customers need to get in touch with their team for a personalized quote.

3. Cluvio

Cluvios website showing business intelligence features

Cluvio is a BI tool created with startups and small businesses in mind. It allows users to easily analyze data and create interactive dashboards that can be shared with your team in just a few minutes. With Cluvio, your team can keep track of important KPIs, receive notifications based on conditions you set, customize reports, and more.

Pricing: Cluvio offers a basic free plan for accounts with a single user. Paid plans start at $279/month.

4. Domo

Domos website showing small business BI use cases

Domo is a scalable BI and analytics platform that allows you to integrate data from various sources to visualize it all in one place, enabling your team to have quick access to data, and derive data-driven insights for a range of business processes.

Pricing: Domo offers a free trial, but interested users need to contact their team to get a custom quote.

5. Google Data Studio

Google Data Studio for SMBs using Business Intelligence

Google Data Studio offers a free and easy-to-use platform for businesses to build custom reports and dashboards, enabling quick data visualization and streamlined reporting. It connects with over 300 data sources to unify your data for a simple overview of the business.

Pricing: Though it has more basic features than other tools in this list, Google Data Studio is free, making it an appealing choice for many small organizations.

Making the Most of Business Intelligence Data

Choosing the right BI software is only the tip of the iceberg. When implementing BI processes in your organization, follow these best practices for accurate and transparent data analysis:

  1. Make sure the data you're analyzing is high-quality and valuable. Every data-based strategy begins with quality data. Make sure you're collecting accurate and relevant data to begin with – if you can't trust your data, you can't trust any insights you get from it.
  2. Organize your data. In addition to collecting quality data, make sure you're organizing and storing it correctly and safely.
  3. Don't deploy solutions that are too complex or too expensive. When looking for a BI solution for your business, it might be tempting to go for a tool that promises the world, with a wealth of features and add-ons. But oftentimes less is more: focus on what your business needs and find a tool that suits you, not the other way around.
  4. Get a solution that works for you in the short term. While it's important to think about the long term, your BI solution needs to work for you now in order to work in the future. Try finding a tool that starts out simple and fulfills your current needs, but that you can add more features as you grow.
  5. Avoid data silos. Sometimes your data strategy might not work because your data is siloed in different applications. For example, if you store part of your customer data in one application and another part in another place, you wouldn't get the whole picture of the data, and your analysis would be fragmented and incomplete.

Business Intelligence Is Built on Integrated Data

In order to have trustworthy and reliable insights into your business, integrating your data is a must. Keeping all your data in sync gives you a unified, complete, and enriched view that you can translate into valuable information and actionable insights. 

One of the simplest ways for small businesses to integrate their data is by using native integrations such as Operations Hub or iPaaS solutions such as Zapier or Automate.io. These tools have a range of different functionalities, including automating workflows, syncing data two ways, automating tasks, and much more. 

For example, by syncing your customer support software with your CRM in real time, you can make sure your CRM always has the most up-to-date information about your customers, including churn risk, pain points, and past purchases. This type of integration enables you to quickly view the complete data in your dashboard and make informed decisions.

While it's normal for small businesses to struggle with accessing transparent and accurate data, the right mix of processes, people, and tools can significantly improve your data strategy and make sure your data reports are reliable and trustworthy.

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Originally published Jan 14, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated April 21 2021