Like their bigger business counterparts, SMBs produce piles of information. Yet they tend to lack the kind of analytic capabilities that would enable them to use data to make decisions, says an executive from business intelligence (BI) vendor Business Objects in a recent ComputerWeekly.com article.
His answer, of course, is BI.
The SMB market for BI is relatively untapped, according to the article. Forty-five percent of SMB respondents to a 2006 Forrester Research survey reported they were not using BI. Eight percent were making their first BI purchase, 22 percent were upgrading their current systems, 23 percent were using a BI system with no planned upgrades, and 2 percent didn't know. These numbers make BI "very much a growing market for SMBs," says a Forrester analyst.
SMB interest in BI is growing, especially with the increasing popularity of a software-as-a-service delivery model. BI giants Business Objects and Cognos are beefing up their SaaS offerings in an effort to appeal to SMBs.
Business Objects also recently rolled out a Professional Edition of its Crystal Decisions software with data integration capabilities after determining that integration was a strong requirement for many SMBs. Business Objects is trying to catch up to Microsoft, which has made strong inroads in the SMB BI market over the past year or so.
Central Maine Medical Family, a $280 million medical center briefly profiled in the ComputerWeekly.com article, bought a BI system to encourage employees to focus on strategy rather than simply creating and distributing transactional reports. The Excel spreadsheets the company had been using were overly complicated and required lots of time-consuming manual data entry -- common problems for many companies.