If you’ve been keeping up you’ll have read our post on top collaboration and project management tools for SMEs, you’ll have enjoyed our piece on essential customer relationship management (CRM) software and you’ll be eagerly anticipating the next instalment in our top small business tools series. The good news is you’ve found it!
This time we’re assessing business intelligence software, which you might have thought was reserved for the giant corporate behemoths with entire departments dedicated to efficiency streamlining. However, you might be surprised at just how much help small businesses can get from the right business intelligence software.
Business intelligence software, often referred to as BI, is like having a super-smart assistant for your business. It’s a type of technology that helps you make sense of all the data your business generates. Imagine you have lots of puzzle pieces – customer information, sales figures, market trends etc. – Your BI software puts these pieces together to give you a clear picture of how your business is performing.
For small businesses, this is especially handy when it comes to managing growth. It can help you understand your customers better, see which products or services are selling well, and even spot market trends early. This means you can make smarter decisions about where to focus your efforts, how to price your offering and how to stay ahead of the competition. In simple terms, it’s like having a crystal ball that helps you make better business decisions based on real data.
Frankly, in a world as driven by data as ours, can your business afford not to utilise the valuable insights gleaned from powerful business intelligence software? This guide explores five key business intelligence software solutions, including Tableau, Looker Studio, DashboardFox, Microsoft Power BI, and SAS Business Intelligence.
Tableau is a leader in the BI tools market, known for its robust data visualisation capabilities. It offers SMEs an intuitive interface to create interactive dashboards and visualise data from multiple data sources, enhancing their business processes. Tableau’s strength lies in its ability to handle large and complex datasets, making data analysis accessible to business users with varying technical expertise. It also looks gorgeous, being able to present your data in a wide array of attractive and easy to digest formats. Though there’s a plan that starts at £12 per month, this is really only useful for working with pre-existing data views and you’ll want the £34 per month plan to really start taking advantage of Tableau’s power.
Looker Studio, formerly known as Google Data Studio and now part of Google Analytics, empowers SMEs with real-time analytics and advanced analysis features. It excels in data management, allowing users to seamlessly integrate disparate data from both internal and external systems. The platform’s natural language processing capabilities make it easy to generate actionable business insights and identify trends without extensive manual data entry. Whilst there is a Pro plan costing £7 per user per month, you can get started for free and plug in various sources to get beautiful visualisations. Just like with Google Analytics however, the trade off is that you’re sharing all of your data with Google (as the old adage goes, if something is free, you’re the product). It’s also incredibly fiddly to set up so needs a lot of training (or the help of a specialist) to get the most from it.
DashboardFox stands out for its almost infinitely customisable reporting capabilities. This BI tool offers ad hoc queries and seamless integration, enabling business intelligence at a fraction of the cost of some of its rivals. It’s particularly beneficial for small business data needs, allowing for easy data entry and interactive data visualisation without needing extensive technical knowledge. Of particular appeal to many users will be its all-too-rare-these-days pricing model of offering the entire platform for a single one time fee.
Microsoft Power BI is renowned for its integration with other Microsoft products like Microsoft Excel. It’s ideal for SMEs looking for a business intelligence tool with advanced features but a familiar, user-friendly interface. Power BI provides real-time data tracking and is excellent for data analytics, offering predictive analytics and data connectors to multiple sources. Ultimately if you’re already embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem this could well be an upgrade path worth choosing. Power BI Pro plans start at £8.20 per user.
SAS Viya Business Intelligence is a great business intelligence solution for growing SMEs needing complex data analysis. It offers advanced features like predictive analysis and natural language understanding, making it a powerful tool for business performance optimisation. Its key features include embedded analytics, which help in enabling users to analyse data and create interactive reports efficiently. This is one to look at if your company growth trajectory is through the roof and you’re seeking a solution that can scale with you all the way up to enterprise level. Given this is a more bespoke solution than the other off the shelf options above, pricing is available on request (which always means not cheap) but this is top tier analytics.