Big data and business intelligence (BI) used to be only for enterprise companies. Now, however, thanks to the software as a service (SaaS) revolution, even small businesses can afford to track and tap into a wealth of information.
However, becoming a data-driven small business isn’t easy. Because you’re dealing with complex troves of records that have multiple sources and are therefore highly unlikely to be structured uniformly, it can be difficult to process it all and interpret it into insights your business can actually use.
What’s more, many of the leading business intelligence solutions require unreasonably expensive and lengthy onboarding processes and they can only be used by teams of coders. Not exactly small business-friendly.
Here’s how to make the most of the data at your fingertips.
Use a Central Location for Data
A central location for all of your data means you save time getting it all together. There’s no need to log in and out of multiple accounts to collect the data and join it all in a single place, as long as your holistic BI dashboard can feed all the data from multiple sources to a single cloud-based hub.
According to a recent study  by Aberdeen, the average business intelligence user references 30 unique data sources on a regular basis. When all of your sources are set to automatically aggregate to a central hub, you’ll know exactly where to go to look for vital information about your key performance indicators  (KPIs), so you can more easily make data-driven decisions about your business to grow profits.
Ensure Wide Accessibility
To be the most efficient, your BI platform needs to be accessible from multiple devices. This is where using a cloud-based platform comes in beneficial. Because it runs in the cloud, anyone with access can log in to the platform from anywhere there is an Internet connection, using the web or an app on a mobile device. Being able to get to the information you need, when and where you need it, ensures that you’ll be able to make the most of it.
Keep it Simple
The platform you use should be as simple as possible. It’s easy to get swept away by immersive dropdown menus and data slicing parameters, but if you let the complexity go overboard, it will not only take more time to use — it will be harder to get the valuable information you need so you can take action.
The more data sources you have, the more complex your data matrix will become. You’ll need a platform that can help you centralize, parse and visualize all the data and process it for your ongoing real-time analysis. This will help you address the challenges of big data, simplifying everything so you can focus on what matters, instead of wasting time.
Focus on Ease of Use
There are plenty of BI platforms out there today, but a lot of them require the users to be proficient in coding to gather and process the data into actionable insights. This isn’t a problem if you happen to work as part of a team of developers. But for the average business, having the technical resources just isn’t possible. Instead, focus on finding an easy-to-use system that doesn’t require coded queries and find people proficient in coding  to help program it.
When tools involve cumbersome learning curves and ongoing usability friction, you’ll have a hard time getting employees trained to use it, and when they are trained, they are less inclined to want to use it. Your data isn’t going to do you any good if you spend so much time gathering and processing it that you can’t focus on what to do with it.
Remember the Benefits of Fast Action
Today’s consumers act fast, so to get or keep their business, it’s important for you to be able to act fast too — responding to your customers’ needs as they come. While some issues can be anticipated, others can’t. Real-time data technologies can help you act fast — no matter what your customers demand.
Data shows many external factors can influence search behavior — from holiday sales, to sporting events, and even the weather. Use real-time insights to tailor your approach as necessary.
Use The Right Business Intelligence Solutions
Studies show the businesses which get the most value from business intelligence solutions and analytics, focus on collaboration and boosting team confidence, rather than technology alone. With the right platform, your business can glean insights from data to produce better products and services, improve the overall customer experience, and more.
Data  Photo via Shutterstock