Until recently, Business Intelligence (BI) was mainly utilized by large companies due to its perceived lack of cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). However, BI is now gaining more attention from SMEs, and more smaller companies are adopting it. These companies aim to benefit from the same insights that large companies have been leveraging for years, such as identifying trends and patterns, improving customer satisfaction through personalized offers and services, optimizing resource utilization, and ultimately, supporting decision-making with reliable and comprehensive figures. With technological innovations om the one hand, and the increasing accessibility of BI to even smaller companies on the other, these possibilities are becoming much more attainable and, in the long term, contribute to an irreversible paradigm shift.
Despite this, there is still a clear "hierarchy," if you will, in the way and speed with which different types - or sizes - of companies are using business intelligence and data analytics in their operations:
For most "micro-enterprises" (with fewer than 10 employees and annual sales of less than €2 million), data modeling is usually done using the ubiquitous MS Excel, with selected basic values and ratios used for monthly variance analysis. Such evaluations are usually presented on page-based media, and focus on profit and loss statements, balance sheet and liquidity data, as well as information on order volume, productivity (or capacity utilization) and general market events.
While the ubiquitous Excel is usually sufficient for monitoring basic metrics in the very smallest companies, even slightly larger companies - in which different systems often collect, generate and manage data - require somewhat more comprehensive tools. The technical, personnel and content-related effort required for this quickly overwhelms companies that are not set up for this.
Fundamentally, two general approaches prove most feasible for this group of companies: On the one hand, providers of special BI platforms that specifically target SMEs and whose comprehensive software products support the company employees themselves in evaluating data. - On the other hand, providers of BI and data analysis services that supply SMEs directly - i.e. without the detour of an elaborate and static technical solution - with immediately usable data.
An increasing number of providers of relevant specialized software are targeting precisely this type of company with their offerings, promising "customized" solutions based on their own proprietary software platforms.
But exactly this is - even if manufacturers claim the opposite in every case - for the vast majority of companies in this situation already a disproportionate, indeed an extremely "big" solution, which can very quickly lead to excessive demands, high cost overruns and to frustration, and which thus in essence does exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to solve, namely to provide a simple, reliable and easy to act overview of the entrepreneurially relevant data.
Here are some points to consider before considering a "custom" BI platform solution:
For companies that are outgrowing the use of Excel as the universal solution for their data management and analysis needs, (a) the use of Tableau and (b) the outsourcing of the necessary activities are the ideal solution. First among the reasons, of course, are: Flexibility, savings in time and effort, and most importantly, cost-effectiveness:
Outsourcing business intelligence and data analytics to an external service provider is a cost-effective option for smaller companies compared to investing in their own software solutions or third-party platforms. By outsourcing these activities, smaller companies can save money on in-house software and hardware. In-house implementation of a complex system and training staff to manage business intelligence and data analytics is often more expensive than outsourcing, particularly since external service providers offer flexible pricing options that can accommodate smaller business budgets.
External service providers can save small businesses valuable time by providing the business intelligence and data analytics they need without requiring the customer to dedicate internal resources. They largely develop reports and dashboards without a detour, providing real-time insights into business operations. External service providers can simplify data query and analysis processes.
As a company grows, its data analytics needs will also grow, and an external service provider can scale its services accordingly. As a company grows, it may need more sophisticated data analytics tools, which an external service provider can provide or suggest. But external service providers can also adapt their services to meet a client's changing needs (e.g., by providing additional resources and support for projects as needed).
External service providers specialize exclusively in business intelligence and data analytics and bring specialized knowledge and experience that smaller companies may lack. In addition, they can bring different perspectives and, if necessary, provide guidance and recommendations for improving data quality and data-driven decision making.
External service providers can and will customize their services to meet the specific needs of each client. They ensure that they receive customized solutions by tailoring their services to the specific needs and goals of a client, for example, by developing custom dashboards and reports to present data in a way that makes sense to that client.
External service providers can help ensure the quality and accuracy of data on an ongoing basis by implementing appropriate data management and cleansing processes. In addition to data management and cleansing processes to ensure data quality, they will also provide guidance to improve data collection and storage.
External service providers can typically deliver results much faster than if smaller companies were to invest in their own software or third-party platforms and spend time learning how to use them.
As a matter of course, an external service provider like appliQ analytics also relies on technology for its activities, even centrally so. We conduct a large part of our evaluation and visualization tasks using Tableau software, which is considered an industry standard; and we do so in combination with other custom tools, some of which we have developed ourselves.
But we take on this part completely ourselves, instead of ultimately just saddling our customers with additional systems, which are not only expensive to acquire, but above all also have to be learned, operated and maintained, in addition to whatever other systems they already operate.
From experience we know that hardly any company is eager to constantly implement new systems. Most likely, you already have far more different, highly heterogeneous systems in use than you can list off the top of your head - from time recording to warehouse/inventory recording, accounting, web analytics, as well as possibly in-house or third-party eCommerce stores, licensing, accounting, support, administration, CRM and HRM systems of various kinds, to name just the most common ones.
If your company is not predominantly made up of computer scientists, and you do not operate the multitude of your current systems for the pure fun of the technical challenge, the effort to create an overall view of the existing data treasures will therefore certainly hardly be achievable with the internally available resources.
Here we bring proven solutions (such as Tableau, but also our own programming solutions) to bear - so you don't have to!
Your key advantage in using an external services provider is that you don't have to deal with the details. We bring together your data sources, perform the most important visualization and evaluation steps, and after as short a time as possible, provide you with a finished package according to your wishes: either an up-to-date status overview, or a set of dynamic dashboards that allows you to view your data in real time at any time.
Unlike the "custom" solutions offered by BI platform vendors, an external BI and analytics service provider actually provides you with custom-fit solutions that will help you move your business forward very quickly and easily, allowing you to really effectively implement and leverage the benefits of data-centric working.
Call or write us, and we will take care of finding a suitable solution that will help you - as quickly and easily as possible.
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