Insufficient data from Andrew Fryer

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Business Intelligence for Small Business – Where’s the evidence?

Georgina (Curious George on the TechNet team) sent me some feedback about my last post, she wanted to know was there any evidence to support my assertion that BI was being used more widely in small business.

Is there any independent advice from Gartner, IDC, Forrester etc?  Generally their research does support this trend, but they don’t focus on this market so much because the vendors who commission the reports haven’t traditionally been interested in small business.

However,  I have my own experience, and a good network of friends in the BI industry. We have put BI into brewers, franchises, printers, fashion houses to name a few sectors. The companies were between £15 –50m turnover most of whom had less then 250 employees. 

Initially when I started doing this, the big barrier to wider adoption was the license costs. which could account for 50% of the whole implementation and sometimes nearly as much as the ERP system they were using. Fortunately as more and more tools appeared like SQL Server, and Excel got better at analysing the data, expensive BI user tools were no longer needed or needed in lower numbers, making the whole solution more affordable.

The next generation of BI tools will mean that this investment can be further reduced by doing all the hard work in the internet cloud.  In future any business will choose to have their line of business data hosted in the cloud, and to have a service to analyse that data.

Many vendors are developing services like this. Microsoft’s approach to this area (what the IT industry calls Software plus Services) is a little bit different in that you can mix and match what is kept on premise (say your data) and what you want to do in the cloud. A good example is the black art of data mining, a set of techniques to discover relationships and customer behaviour for example that were not apparent.  Microsoft is designing it’s cloud offering to let you do your data mining from data in the cloud or that you have locally , and then to either analyse that from a browser, or from Excel.

Of course all of this stuff could be used by big business, but my bet is that small startups not hindered by the prejudices of large entrenched IT departments will go this way and then stay with it as they thrive and grow.