Small Business Analytics

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Let's democratize data. Data analysis used to be the realm of only the biggest businesses, but that does not need to be the case today. New small business analytics tools are emerging that allow even small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to harness the power of the vast amounts of data at our fingertips.

Think about this - Apollo 11 landed on the moon with less ROM, RAM, and processing power than the modern day smart phone (or even the smart phones of yesteryear – Blackberry anyone?). The flow of data from humanity as a whole has gone from a dribble to a flood.

Photo by Nasa on Unsplash

Back in 2017 Domo calculated that humanity creates  2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. With us being cooped up inside due to Covid-19 with nothing to do other than post on the internet, that number surely has not gotten smaller.

We have an abundance of  data at our fingertips.

The main problem small and medium sized businesses today face is not the lack of data, but ability to manage the data and report on it easily.

Small Business Analytics Hurdles

Small and medium size businesses reported three big hurdles to implementing a Business Intelligence (BI) solution:

  1. They lack the right people to implement the solution – 57% of SME’s surveyed reported that they did not have the right personnel to implement their business analytics solution. Not only do you need someone who understands how to use the BI tool you are working with, but they also have to interact with the APIs for the software you are trying to pull data from. Beyond that, it takes a strong data engineer to set up the data model and warehouse correctly for rapid reporting. Most BI problems start at the data model level
  2. The tools are too complicated to implement and maintain - 42% of SME business leaders say the BI solutions are too complicated. Some of these BI tools are so complicated virtually the only people who can use them are software engineers.
  3. It takes too long to implement the solution - 35% of SMEs reported that their solution took too long to implement. If the process is long and arduous, adoption rate is likely to be lower and your project is less likely to succeed.
What then is the solution?

Data Analytics tools

The first part of the solution is picking the right small business analytics tool for you. Depending on the enterprise tools you are using, you may already have the reports you need.

Some CRMs have analytics tools built into them already. Or if you are in marketing, Google Analytics has nice basic reporting features. At a certain point, though, you may outgrow these “baked-in” features and want some custom reporting that is outside the boxed solutions you are using.

Let’s take a look outside the box.

  • Metabase – this is a great resource if you are an open-source advocate. It has a very powerful reporting suite, is very easy to learn and use even if you are not a software developer, and starts out FREE! You will have to do some leg work to set it up and connect it to your data sources, though. Once you get the tool set up correctly, it is very user-friendly and can connect easily to most databases.
  • PowerBI – this tool delivers a lot of power right out of the box and plays nicely with Microsoft products, being Microsoft’s BI solution. This product starts at under $10/user/month, so is very reasonable for small companies. It is not quite as easy on the end-user as Metabase, so you might have to do some studying or befriend PowerBI devs. If you are looking for advanced analytics, PowerBI also has packages that include AI and Machine Learning tools, but expect to pay a pretty penny for the added functionality.
  • Qlik – if you have tried other solutions and are disappointed by how long it takes to generate dashboards and reports, take a look at Qlik. Qlik’s “In-Memory BI” stores your reports in RAM rather than physical memory to allow for extremely fast reporting. Additionally, this platform utilizes full outer joins – meaning it indexes every possible relationship among data to give you unique and powerful insights that you might miss using traditional SQL queries.
These three options are some of the most user-friendly and cost effective small business analytics options on the market right now. There are other similarly powerful tools, such as Tableau, but they tend to be more technical , and more expensive. These options may be appropriate for your business, but if this is your first time delving into BI tools, you would be better served starting with one of these tools.

If you need help picking the right BI tool for your company, reach out for a free consultation.

Rapid BI – fractional data management

While you can go download any of these “self service” tools for your small business analytics and start hacking the data and tool together, you are probably going to run into issues unless you have a technical background.

The biggest issue facing SMEs as noted above is the lack of expertise to deploy BI solutions.

These tools have user-friendly interfaces, but still on you to architect the data correctly – building the data warehouse, data models, ETL pipelines. Once the data is structured correctly, the users can build powerful reports on their own with the occasional tweak to the data model.

At this point you can either hire a full-time internal developer, or look for fractional services.

Hiring a full time developer can be very beneficial, but it can also take a lot of time to find someone who is truly a 10X dev, and it can be expensive. If you go this route, listen to our Chief Executive Developer's thoughts on hiring devs.

Rapid BI solves the technical, pricing, and speed to deployment issues for SMEs.

With Rapid BI you get Level 12’s industry leading data engineers fractionally. You don’t need to become a SQL master to unleash the power of data, we can do that for you. Most builds can be completed in a couple of weeks, meaning you don’t have to wait for an overworked IT team to get around to your project.

If you are ready to take the next step in making your business data driven, reach out to us.

Originally published on 2020-10-15 by Level 12

Reach out to us to discuss your complex deployment needs (or to chat about Star Trek)