Small business BI business intelligence

Get started with Business Intelligence (BI): A short guide for small businesses

If you want to make more informed small business decisions, you need to know about Business Intelligence (BI).

Business intelligence unites business objectives, data, and visualization tools to help organizations make smarter choices that directly impact future planning. 


5 reasons your small business needs BI

Data is the most powerful tool in a small business’s arsenal these days. Don’t just gather data—make decisions based off what that data is telling you. Otherwise, you’re likely missing opportunities in operations, sales, communications, and HR.

It’s time to embrace business intelligence! Small businesses use business intelligence to:

1. Analyze sales trends

Small businesses use BI tools to analyze sales data and identify patterns and trends that can help them make better decisions about how to allocate resources, attract and retain customers, and budget for a better future.

2. Monitor customer behavior

BI tools can help small businesses track customer behavior and preferences, which can help them personalize their products and services and refine their outreach strategies.

3. Improve inventory management

By analyzing sales data and forecasts, small businesses can optimize their inventory levels to reduce waste and improve systems and efficiency, as well as profitability.

4. Track employee performance

BI tools can help small businesses track employee performance and productivity, which can help identify areas for improvement within internal organizational structures and systems and among departments and teams.

5. Monitor financial performance

Small businesses can use BI tools to track financial performance and identify opportunities for cost reduction, revenue growth, and profitability.

Data visualization business intelligence

How does my small business get started with business intelligence?

1. Define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

What do you want to improve or better understand in the coming months or years? Identify your pain points, the areas in which the small business struggles, such as:

  • Increasing profit
  • Analyzing customer behavior
  • Comparing data with competitors
  • Predicting future success
  • Optimizing operations
  • Spotting market trends

2. Gather data.

Collect data from various sources, including internal databases and spreadsheets, social media, customer feedback, etc.

3. Choose a BI tool.

Choose from a variety of BI tools, depending on your needs and budget, including Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, and Google Analytics. 

(Check out the survey results in “How to Choose the Right Business Intelligence Tool” from Stitch.)

4. Analyze the data.

You’ll likely need to employ a database strategy to decide how to cull all your data into the BI tool you choose, which will help you to analyze the data and identify trends and patterns. You’ll relate your findings back to the KPIs you defined in step 1.

5. Create dashboards.

Build dashboards that visualize the data in a way that is easy to understand and actionable. 

6. Share insights.

You’ll want to prepare reports and share insights related to your KPIs with key stakeholders, including managers and executives, to drive decision-making.

7. Iterate and improve.

But this is not a one-and-done process! Continuously monitor and analyze the data to identify areas for improvement and optimize business performance.

Do you think it’s time to introduce a more robust data strategy into your small business planning? We can help! Visit our Services page to see what we do.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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