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Your Small Biz Grows Up: It Needs Business Intelligence

Your Small Biz Grows Up: It Needs Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence solutions analyze critical business information, identify trends, and support business decisions through analysis and reporting.

Ramon Ray | SmallBizTechnology.com

September 27, 2009

Business intelligence is something that many larger businesses use, but smaller businesses don’t really figure it into their needs. Being smaller their often busy putting out fires and just trying to maintain the profitability levels they have. Investing in business intelligence (BI) software, implementing it and using it, is something they don’t think they need to do.

Birst makes software to help businesses gain intelligence from their streams of data. Their spokesperson helps us understand business intelligence better in the following interview:

How do businesses know if they need Birst. Maybe their spreadsheets are ok?

Most companies know very quickly when they’ve moved beyond spreadsheets. It’s taking too much time, effort, and headaches to create too few reports.

While spreadsheets are viable tools for information gathering, they are no longer adequate enough to meet the needs of today’s business environment. SMBs, in particular, must gather adequate information without wasting time and talent.

Spreadsheets have the following challenges:

  • Manual and time consuming
  • Difficult to maintain version control
  • Difficult to update analyses when data is updated
  • Limits to the amount of data that can be analyzed
  • Difficult to “join” different data sets together – from finance and marketing, for example
  • Difficult to create reports on a regular basis and share with other people in the company
  • Easy for information to get corrupted

  • What about the built in analytics of the services they use, such as Google Analytics for web sites. In this case is Birst still needed?

    The built-in analytics in applications are often inadequate. They don’t have the flexibility and ability to “slice and dice” data that real BI applications have. For this reason, the most frequent request of Google Analytics is a robust API that would allow them to export the data for further analysis. Google recently released an API, but it is very rudimentary. For the same reasons, customers often search for better reporting and analytics solutions for business applications like Salesforce.com.

    Also, built-in analytics typically only deal with one data source – the application itself. For example, Google Analytics is a business intelligence tool for web analytics only. SMBs need to look at everything across the business in order to make informed business decisions. Birst tools assist companies in examining all aspects of their business by combining and analyzing data from multiple systems like finance and operations, customer service and the call system, or marketing and websites, all within one solution.

    What kind of applications can Birst connect to?

    Birst handles data exported from applications like CRM, ERP, and financial accounting software programs. Birst supports Oracle, SQL, MySQL, and ODBC databases, delimited files (commas, tabs, etc.), Microsoft Access database (.mdb or .accdb) files, Excel (.xls or .xlsx) files, and cvs files. Birst also has a pre-built connector to Salesforce.com.

    How much user intervention is required for Birst to work well?

    Compared with traditional BI solutions, minimal intervention is required for Birst to work well.

    That said, Birst is a very broad and powerful BI solution, so it can be applied to many types of tasks for many different types of users. The easiest scenario is a business user uploading clean, uncomplicated data sets for standard reporting. Or, an IT analyst setting up executive dashboards with easy-to-use filters and prompts that allow business users to find the answers that they need quickly, all on their own.

    If a company wants to set up terabytes of data from multiple sources that require complex data transformations and calculations, this requires more setup time. However, it’s still significantly faster than attempting to do the same with a traditional on-premise software solution, since Birst is a fully integrated BI solution that leverages automation.

    What is Business Intelligence? Is it simply a software product that interprets numbers in Excel or other application’s data?

    Business Intelligence solutions analyze critical business information, identify trends, and support business decisions through analysis and reporting. Birst is a BI solution that can integrate information from multiple sources, such as business applications, databases, and spreadsheets, so that business managers can monitor their business and make key decisions.

    Business intelligence solutions are an umbrella term for the multiple components required to pull data from multiple systems, warehouse it, analyze it, and create and distribute reports. Birst is unique in that it has integrated these multiple components (which you typically have to buy separately and integrate yourself) into one single offering, which it offers as a subscription service over the internet. It is for this reason that Birst is known as “on-demand” or “cloud” BI.