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Ignore Business Intelligence at Your Own Peril: A Look at Business Intelligence Tools

Larry Alton
Ignore Business Intelligence at Your Own Peril: A Look at Business Intelligence Tools

While the term “business intelligence” may seem like a buzzword to you, it’s an important topic that you can’t ignore. Bigger corporations and billion dollar businesses have been using business intelligence tools for years, but the trickle down effect now means small businesses have incredible access as well. If you want to remain competitive, it’s time that you make your own investment.

3 Reasons You Need BI Tools

Business intelligence, or the practice of leveraging data to predict future outcomes, is something that separates archaic businesses of the past from progressive modern businesses that are thriving and growing. And while each business has unique needs and various strategies for accomplishing their goals, using business intelligence tools is a smart idea for a number of general reasons. These include:

1. Understanding Customers

According to Agata Kwapien of datapine, “Business intelligence for small business helps to gather data about your customers’ behavior and structure it in a clear form so that it can be analyzed fast and easy.”

“With insights about your customers’ behavior you can make effective business decisions,” Kwapien continues. This is undoubtedly the biggest reason small businesses need business intelligence tools. After all, the only way to succeed and scale is to understand exactly what your customers want and desire.

2. Being Able to Quickly Pivot

When you understand what your customers want, you also gain the ability to quickly pivot in order to meet their needs. While you may eventually pivot anyway, business intelligence tools often provide a valuable head start. By pivoting six weeks or six months sooner than the competition, you can hopefully establish your products and services and gain a significant competitive advantage.

3. Predicting Future Trends

Do you ever wish you could predict the future? Well, business intelligence tools are the next best thing to having a fortune teller on staff. Using the knowledge you acquire, you can make accurate and strategic predictions regarding how specific trends and events will unfold in your industry.

How to Evaluate BI Tools

Once you come to the realization that business intelligence tools are right for your business, you then have to determine which of the many tools available in the marketplace is right for you. Here are some factors to consider when evaluating various selections:

Establish evaluation criteria

If you aren’t careful, you might overthink the evaluation process and wind up drowning in different features and functions. The key is to establish criteria and priorities. Industry expert Rick Sherman suggests breaking criteria down into three categories to simplify the process. These categories are “must-haves,” “nice-to-haves” and “will-not-use.”

Consider functionality 

Functionality is the biggest thing. You need a platform that’s comprehensive and functional. And because so much of business intelligence is about visualizing findings through charts, graphs and reports that decision makers can use, you’ll need to spend a lot of time studying the visual functionality and presentation elements.

Understand training requirements

Finally, don’t forget about the training requirements. While any good BI tool will require an investment in employee training, ensure that the platform is intuitive to some extent. The last thing you want is to purchase a solution and then spend weeks or months training.

There are certainly other criteria worth looking at, but these tips will point you in a positive direction and allow you to separate the good from the average.

Don’t Overlook Business Intelligence

The one thing you cannot do in 2016 and beyond is ignore business intelligence. While it may sound like a buzzword, it’s actually a very relevant and significant topic that needs to be taken seriously within your organization. Keep these tips in mind and be on the lookout for a solution that meets your needs.

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Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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