The Scalability of BI within SMEs

The scalability of Business Intelligence (BI) within Smaller and Medium sized businesses.

Historically BI Systems such Business Objects, Cognos and Microstrategy have been the main pioneers in the industry, and have been widely implemented during the last 25 years. Traditionally BI is used in large enterprises with many large database / data warehouse and data set systems. The idea of Business Intelligence systems is to allow for complex information assimilation and gathering, sharing in a secure environment and to present bite sized pieces of accurate information and visualisation/graphs for operational and strategic purposes and the necessary decision making.

Large companies and institutions have the investment to fund such infrastructure and systems which can be very expensive to implement. However such systems can achieve a good and short to mid-term Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Capital (ROC). However the budgets for such projects sometimes reach the multiple millions.

The release of new IT operating systems (such as Windows 10), emergence of Big Data systems, mobile technology, server space, the emergence of Big Data in the cloud and scalable server farms that can be leased relatively inexpensively depending usage, are changing the game and presenting new opportunities. The dynamics of Business Intelligence can now be successfully scaled to small and medium sized businesses. Some of the key players in the industry like SAP Business Objects, Microsoft, Cognos and others have been pushing their Business Intelligence offerings to make them scalable, and affordable, for smaller to medium sized businesses.

How can large enterprise BI principles scale to smaller or medium enterprise BI solutions?

There are many data source tools available that can help manage all aspects of a business from customers, staff and management:

Size of Business Basic Recommended Tool Enhanced Options
1-5 MS Office - MS Excel 

MS Office Professional Plus and MS Power BI 

 

6-15 MS Office Professional Plus and MS Power BI

A small Access / SQL Server installation (SQL Server will allow for growth)

 

16-50

A database enterprise package such as Oracle, SQL Server or Teradata with data feeds into Excel fo BI purposes

SAP Business Objects /

MS Office Professional Plus  & MS Power BI/

A Dashboarding Tool Qlikview/Tableau
51-200

 

A database enterprise package such as Oracle, SQL Server or Teradata

SAP Business Objects /

MS Office Professional Plus  & MS Power BI

A Dashboarding Tool Qlikview/Tableau
With a view of using Cloud Based Services and Scalable Server Farms
>200

 

A database enterprise package such as Oracle, SQL Server or Teradata

SAP Business Objects /

MS Office Professional Plus  & MS Power BI

With a view of using Cloud Based Services and Scalable Server Farms

Multiple BI Products for multiple business functions or BAUs.

 

If you are a small to medium business investing in BI could be deemed as expensive but there are savings to be made on data and information centric activities. The nature of these will depend on the industry sector your small business is in:

 

Hospitality & Catering: - BI can enrich the analytics used to ascertain clientele trends based on information that is provided by your guests.

Agriculture and Fisheries: - BI can enrich understanding into historical, current and future commodity pricing based on various trends and economic factors

IT Services: - BI can help with realise project delivery metrics (Prince or Agile Based)

Building Sector: - BI can help establishing material prices, trends and comparisons

Financial Services: - BI can help with Wealth Management, Investment, Credit Risk and Debt Structuring.

Each solution can based on Transactional (Current or Relational) and/or Analytical (Historical help with trend analysis or Datawarehouse / Datamart) database implementations.

If you were considering to make use of any of the BI Packages mentioned in this article I would recommend highlighting some of the data centric and time consuming activities in your business and seek expert advice about how to use BI to its full capacity.

About the Author.

Steven Jan Hawker is director and technical specialist with Kernow Business Intelligence Solutions based in Cornwall. 

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