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Business intelligence strategies for SMEs

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It’s common knowledge that using data to inform your decisions is a great way to drive growth, but the term ‘data’ is so broad, and ‘growth’ is rather subjective. This can result in conflicting advice and crossed wires.

Business intelligence (BI) is a broad term referring to the use of key data analysis to inform your business’ growth. There are so many things to consider – how will you gather your data? What data is actually useful? How will you use this data to drive growth? What tools are right for your business? It’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed, especially as an SME, where resources may be limited.

At Sustainit, we understand how difficult it can be when planning your data-driven growth. Our team have put together a few pointers to help you get started with your BI strategy.

Read Time
3 mins
Pip Stockford

What is a business intelligence strategy?

BI benefits businesses of all sizes, but is particularly useful for SMEs looking to make that next growth step. Your BI strategy is informed from data of all types (this can vary a fair bit depending on your sector, but the key principles remain the same).

You’ll use both external and internal data to inform your decisions; it’s important that you incorporate both types to ensure a well-rounded, complete understanding of your business’ position in the market.

Internal data consists of any e-commerce data, customer feedback, market performance, customer details and seasonal data that you’ve collected. External data is focused on analysing your competitors’ performance and processes, identifying risks to your businesses, and noting areas where they’re underperforming and which you can capitalise on.

How to use business intelligence

A crucial component of providing transparent analysis, BI allows you to see exactly what needs to be done in order to progress. Your usage will vary depending on your industry. If you’re a SaaS company, you’ll rely quite heavily on customer feedback and performance data, while if you operate an e-commerce business, you’ll want to keep track of your sales data and key competitor analysis. Determine:

  • What’s your end goal? Lay out a list of objectives to help inform your BI strategy.
  • Your budget – there’s no point investing in overly pricy solutions that aren’t affordable for SMEs.
  • Short-term/long-term success – how will you measure the success of your BI strategy?
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Identify your key data types

Mapping out a clear understanding of what data is crucial to your business is a key step to success. There is absolutely such thing as too much data – there’s no point in analysing seasonal trends if your business isn’t seasonal, for example. Take the time to lay out what’s relevant to your unique growth circumstances. Many SMEs liaise with data specialists to help make this complicated process a little easier.

Gather your data

Once you’ve got a good idea of what data you’re looking to gather, it’s time to collate it ready for analysis. There’s a wide variety of BI tools that you can use, making it difficult to choose the right one. We’d recommend using a free online software selection tool to help expedite this process.

Analyse your data

A good BI tool will also include powerful analysis features, including, but not limited to:

  • Customisable dashboards that help you generate user-specific results.
  • Interactive reports that allow you to drill down to the nitty gritty; it’s always important that your data is presented well to aid with engagement.
  • Predictive analysis functions that identify trends and forecast future performance.
  • Easy integration into other software that you already use (like CRMs, sales tools, etc.) to help build out the bigger picture.

Your analysis should focus on identifying trends that your business is seeing – analyse customer behaviour, buying patterns and relationships, gauge the efficacy of your budgets and identify any gaps in your processes.

What are the benefits of business intelligence?

Huge conglomerates use their BI strategy to inform every decision that they make. Implementing affordable analysis into your workflow allows you to harness the power of data frequently and easily.

Choosing your BI software is the first step in an ongoing process. Performing frequent, accurate analysis of your data will help to improve many facets of your business:

  • Organisational efficiency – by providing a broad overview of your business, BI makes it crystal clear where your inefficiencies are, allowing you to make targeted improvements based on your results.
  • As an SME, every decision made carries a lot of weight for the decision-makers and can often come charged with emotion. BI allows you to make data-driven decisions that are logical and more likely to succeed.
  • Employee satisfaction can be measured using BI; employees’ opinions are a valuable data point that should be used at every juncture.
  • By using tools to process data, you’ll invariably save a lot of time.
  • Make specific, tailored improvements to help your SME stand out from your competitors.
  • Improve customer experience – a good BI strategy will compare and contrast qualitative data from customers with quantitative data from other sources, letting you make adjustments that suit both your customers and your business.

Build your business intelligence strategy with Sustainit

Sustainit is a family-run, independent global sustainability data consultancy. We specialise in making your data work for you, and rely on over 40 years’ experience to ensure that you make the most of out of your business intelligence.

If you’re looking for help improving your SME’s sustainability and data-driven growth, or need help implementing BI tools into your processes, get in touch with our team today. We work with businesses at every stage of their sustainability journey, focusing on genuine, positive change every step of the way.