Measuring ROI

Turning data into profits

Learn how business intelligence can help your small business get an edge up on the competition.

Published: February 21, 2013
Updated: February 17, 2017

Business owners are always looking for information that will give them an advantage over the competition. From estimating how much inventory to stock to comparing billing rates with hard costs, business owners look to many different types of data to help them make smart business decisions.

Business intelligence (BI) software can help business owners quickly compile and analyze information related to sales, inventory, customer satisfaction and other key metrics, identify primary business challenges, and make data-driven decisions. These could be big decisions related to the entire company or smaller decisions focused on day-to-day operations. While very small businesses probably don't need to focus on business intelligence, BI software can help growing businesses measure the impact of hiring employees, adding a second location or developing a new product line.

BI software is often installed by a software or business process consultant and generally provides information in a central dashboard that you can monitor. However, understanding the business questions you want to answer is key to making sense of this wealth of information. The data itself is only one part of the story. Here are few tips to help you get the most from your business intelligence:

  • Look at what drives a product's performance. If you have a good product that's not selling, business intelligence can help you determine why customers don't believe it can help solve their problems. You may find the issue is with your positioning –­ not your product.

  • Learn from your peers and neighbors. Looking at external data sets from your industry or region can help you make more informed decisions. For example, local consumer purchasing data can help you determine what items to keep on your shelves each season.

  • Analyze the bottom line. As your business grows there are a variety of factors that can affect the profitability of your product sales. Business intelligence software can help you separate pools of profit and know what product areas are losing money.

  • Find ways to improve processes. Business intelligence software can help you uncover opportunities to increase productivity and gain efficiencies in your business. For example, instead of routing delivery trucks one way, the intelligence software might show you a better way to route the trucks to save time and money.

  • Know where to look. If you don't know where to start, target your search for the right software with these providers: SAP Business Suite, IBM, Tableau Software, iDashboards, and QlikView. Pricing can vary based on the provider and each individual product, however many of these solutions offer a free trial period for users to test.

With the right questions in mind, business intelligence can give you the insights you need to boost productivity, save money, or increase customer satisfaction – whatever your business goal might be.