Business Intelligence: providing small businesses with big insights

The pandemic has posed severe challenges for Australia’s small businesses, but in doing so, it has accelerated a digital transformation trend that is ushering in a new era of innovation. To stand out and thrive in competitive markets, small businesses must identify and leverage operational advantages. Technology has long been considered an essential foundation. As small businesses digitally transform more processes, they have at their disposal vast amounts of data that could hold the key to long-term success if collected, analysed and utilised effectively.

Today, Business Intelligence (BI) represents one of the greatest competitive advantages a company can wield. In the process of turning data into insights and insights into informed decisions, BI can provide small businesses with the analytics and fact-based decisions that were once reserved for only the biggest organisations. According to Gartner research, the analytics and BI market grew by 10 per cent in 2019, with significant further growth forecast over the next five years. As it evolves, it will offer significant opportunities for small businesses – whether a retail store, rural farm or a consultancy practice – that make it a core part of their operations.

For small businesses, how can business intelligence help them unlock their data and true potential?

Immediate, fact-based decisions

Agility and adaptability are key traits for small businesses today. BI not only quickly and accurately compiles and analyses data, it can effectively use it to determine new revenue streams, refocus time or funds, and identify operational improvements. For example, a small business could use BI to analyse new product sales, supply chain efficiency or the ROI of a new marketing strategy. Data eradicates the need for speculation, allowing business owners to see exactly how to maximise what’s working and minimise what isn’t. You needn’t be a data scientist either; BI provides insights visually so it’s easy to digest. And by providing insights in real-time, businesses can remain agile and adaptable: two valuable traits during today’s uncertainties.

Enhanced business performance

Smart, efficient and effective businesses are successful businesses. BI tools monitor tasks, processes and outputs, identifying bottlenecks and operational inefficiencies and providing solutions to boost business performance.

Crucially, BI does so holistically, analysing an entire business. Too often, businesses operate in silos, whereby key insights and decisions are made in isolation without the overall health or strategy of a business in mind. Software like Zoho’s new Business Intelligence (BI) Platform enables businesses to obtain and analyse cross-departmental data and ultimately implement more competitive strategies through real-time insights.

Forecasting the future

Understandably, over the last 18 months, small businesses have been operating with short-term solutions rather than long-term strategies in mind. To provide the clarity that makes running a small business much easier, BI can use past trends to forecast future activity. By processing historical data, small businesses can position themselves to cater to evolving industry and consumer trends, identify risks and opportunities, and stay one step ahead.

Forecasting is especially helpful for issues like cashflow. BI can analyse historical data and present possible upcoming peaks and troughs in sales, the most effective sales channels and even customer acquisition versus customer retention costs. With many small businesses again contending with lockdown, BI can analyse historical data to forecast when consumer spending might rebound, effective marketing channels, and whether to focus on customer retention or acquisition.

The true value of business intelligence comes from staying ahead of the curve and leveraging something that already exists within your businesses: data. With real-time information at your fingertips, BI can empower businesses to win new customers, tap new markets, become both agile and future-focused, and be the catalyst for a new era of small businesses with big potential.