The recent demise of LucidEra has brought forward the discussion of the need for BI in the SMB and Mid-Market enterprises (companies with 1-999 employees and revenues usually less than $1 billion). My take is that this was based on the limited BI value LuidEra offered and the current difficult economic conditions vs. their SaaS based business model. With the explosion of BI solution targeted at the SMB & mid-market, the BI industry is inundated with newer solutions and scaled-down versions of existing enterprise solution targeted at this segment. I have also seen several discussions on the potential increase in adoption of BI solution based on these solutions being delivered in a SaaS model to address the IT resources and infrastructure in the SMB and mid-market companies.
Business Intelligence is all about gaining 360 degree insight into a company’s business, and helping company executive make decisions based on the facts as opposed to information in Excel spreadsheets or gut feel. Business intelligence can offer significant benefits to small and mid-sized organizations. The problem becomes sifting through the plethora of solutions to select offerings that meet the SMB’s needs. SMBs don’t have the required resources or time to do this.
The key question that needs to be addressed is – what are the BI related need of the SMB and mid-market companies and weather these needs are being met by these BI solutions? The solution delivery model is secondary to the key question. This segment of companies is realizing that business decisions need to be made on more than excel spreadsheets and gut instinct.
SMBs don’t understand data warehouses and BI, as it is applied to large enterprises as they do not have staff that can make sense out of the reporting provided by these standalone BI tools nor do they have IT resources/budgets to integrate standalone BI applications to data from various business applications and business processes. SMBs understand BI in the form of dashboards and reports with drill down capabilities. They need solutions that can provide quick real-time insights and ROI that can have measurable business results. How can the use information from the past to more accurately predict the future or to look at real-time data to more efficiently utilize the existing resources or inventory; make changes to enhance business process or operational efficiencies?
In my recent interaction with business solution vendors that focus on the SMB and mid-market, BI solutions are now available and embedded as part of a larger business solution – integrated business solution like NetSuite; SAP (based on Business Objects acquisition) – Businessone, Business-by-Design, Business All-in-One; Oracle Business Intelligence Standard Edition; other ERP and CRM solutions (Salesforce.com) .
SMB and mid-market companies need to first investigate the BI capabilities that are already provided by these applications or modules that are already integrated and can be easily add-on to their business application solutions. It does not matter whether these solutions are cloud-based (SaaS), hosted or on-premise; utilizing these exiting BI functionality will provide much easier implementation and ROI compared to bringing in new vendors. Most of the vendors mentioned provide easy to use dashboards with BI analytics capabilities to enhance operational efficiencies, analytical and predictive analysis, risk analysis, forecasting, etc. Business application vendors need to increase their focus on their BI solutions as a key value proposition to the SMB and mid-market.