Survey Shows Business Intelligence Wants and Struggles of SMBs

October 18, 2011
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While dashboards and reporting continue to be critical elements driving adoption of business intelligence (BI) among small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), most SMBs are unable to access all of the data they need, and don’t have an easy way to understand it in order to make better business decisions, according to a recent BI survey by LogiXML.  

While dashboards and reporting continue to be critical elements driving adoption of business intelligence (BI) among small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), most SMBs are unable to access all of the data they need, and don’t have an easy way to understand it in order to make better business decisions, according to a recent BI survey by LogiXML.  

The survey asked 605 professionals at SMBs across multiple industries and found that dashboards and reporting, basic operational metrics and KPIs, and predictive analytics were their top BI and analytics needs. The three biggest obstacles preventing SMBs from gaining  better insight and better decision-making from their data were accessing multiple, disparate data sources, setting up data models and formulas to analyze data, and presenting (visualizing) the results in an understandable way.

The survey findings seem consistent with several existing BI and analytics trends in the SMB space: basic reporting and dashboarding hasn’t gone anywhere, and SMBs are still looking for good, solid, basic decision-making information first and foremost.  However, SMBs are still struggling to access all of the data they need, and that most BI business users are bound by what data IT provides to them.

These challenges are indicative of many companies still adhering to traditional BI approaches with complex platforms that require significant IT involvement. Unlike their enterprise counterparts, who have these big IT infrastructures that allow them to create datamarts and warehouses to bring this stuff together, most SMBs are relying on their BI applications to go directly at these data sources and to bring them together in some unified view.

For preparing BI data to be viewed and analyzed, a combined 51 percent of the survey respondents cited that IT aggregates the data and is responsible for all or a portion of the reporting and analysis requirements of business units. Alternately, 34 percent stated that the business unit aggregates the data and creates all of the reporting and analysis.

The availability of IT resources varied by size of company; 57 percent of companies with 1 -50 employees cited that they did not have enough IT staff – either with or without the right skills – to support their BI needs. Thirty-one percent of companies with 51 – 500 employees indicated that they had enough IT resources with the right skills to support their BI needs. Those with 500+ employees were split between having and not having the right resources and skills – 27 percent versus 26 percent, respectively.

According to the survey, awareness of and interest in mobile BI platforms among SMBs is relatively strong, but actual usage is minimal; there’s still more talk than there is deployment going on. Since adoption of some of the more popular mobile devices such as Apple’s iPad has often been motivated more by employees than SMB purchase orders, actual business applications such as mobile BI have to play catch-up.

The survey also looked at social and collaborative BI in SMBs. While some might expect greater interest in social and collaborative BI elements in larger companies, the study found those were viewed as more important by small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

This could have something to do with the typical employee profile of those firms which may be led and even owned by people who have a greater level of familiarity and expectations when it comes to things like social interactions in the business world.

These are only a few of the many findings to be considered in the study. Anyone who is interested in or deals with the SMB market should consider checking it out.