1 BACKGROUNDSMEs operate in a highly competitive and constantly innovate environment. It is essential for any SME to have tools of all kinds that?facilitate the achievement of competitive advantages and differentiation. As the term indicates, Business Intelligence (BI) tools bring together all the necessary means to convert data into relevant, valuable and reliable info to which decision makers of an organisation have access. The goal is to allow for easy interpretation of data, which lead to identifying new opportunities and implementing effective strategies based on insights, which, in turn, can provide businesses with a competitive market advantage and long-term stability. (Rud, 2009) (Dedi? & Stanier, 2016)As SMEs began to understand the benefits that a successful BI solution could bring, the demand for these solutions has increased significantly. As a result, there are now thousands of suppliers offering a wide range of products and services that makes it often difficult for SMEs to explore or to find out what really works for them.2 METHODOLOGYThis report aims to identify the needs for SMEs to use business intelligence tools, highlight the importance of using an efficient BI tool and its applications as a practical solution to manage information essential to help the decision-making process. Furthermore, it explores and compares different capabilities of the suggested BI tools and provides a cost/benefit analysis to help SMEs select the best solution.The report summarises the latest literature around the subject and provides a guide to selecting and implementing the right BI tool for any SME.3 WHY SMEs NEED A BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE TOOL3.1 Interpretation of plain dataSMEs should take a qualitative approach to data rather than simply gathering large amounts of meaningless data, which allows business managers to access data quickly and easily.Without an efficient BI solution, the process can be complex and time-consuming, as data is gathered from multiple sources and used to generate multiple reports for different departments. This can significantly reduce the quality of data and make it impossible to create a consistent overview of the performance of the company.3.2 Relying on Excel – the common practiceData tables have been the centre of business intelligence for SMEs for many years, but as data requirements are increasing, data tables have become inefficient in increasingly obsolete; as they require a lot of manual work, which can cause significant delays leading to having inaccurate and outdated data. The manual nature of working with spreadsheets makes it more prone to human error that can distort important results and reduce its value.A BI solution helps to simplify data collection, analysis and reporting, and eliminate the need for manual data analysis.3.3 Data vs InsightsIf a company gathers data from several different departments (e.g. sales, customer service, and finance), it may be difficult to integrate this information in order to draw insightful conclusions.An effective BI solution can help finding relevant insights which makes it easier for the management to keep track of the company’s strategic goals.3.4 Visualisation and mobilityData visualization helps in converting figures into charts, graphs, and dashboards. On the other hand, as it is becoming increasingly important today that information is available at any time, traditional on-site business intelligence, although considered more secure, it significantly limit access to data that can hinder its usefulness.Technology developments in Business Intelligence, allows for worldwide access to insights by simply connecting to the Internet. Developments in Mobile BI also enables managers to access insights on the go, through smartphones and tablets.4 CHOOSING A BI SOLUTIONThere are many business intelligence solutions on offers in the BI market today. Designed for different target markets and approach data analysis in very different ways.One could easily get lost in looking into different available offerings for BI solutions. So, which elements should be considered when choosing the best solution for SMEs?4.1 Critical Success Factors (CSFs) of the BI toolThere are many studies that addressed BI success factors (Scholtz, Schnieder, Kurze, Gluchowski & Boehringer, 2010). One can consider certain procedures to address in order to ensure the suitability of the BI solution.In general, the implementation of the business intelligence solution is not a traditional application of an information technology project (such as an operating system or transactions). Instead, BI solutions have similar characteristics to infrastructural projects such as the implementation of ERP (enterprise resourcing planning) systems. This means that the implementation of a BI solution is a complex task that requires infrastructure and resources over a long period of time (Rud, 2009). Figure 1: CSFs of BI systems implementation in SMEs Source: Olszak & Ziemba (2012)4.2 Components of the Business Intelligence Tool4.2.1 Conventional and analytical components: 1. Multidimensional: refers to all the ways in which information can be found: spreadsheets, Databases, among others. ?2. Data Mining: synthesize big data that companies generate through production processes, operational performance, markets and customers. With this information, SMEs can identify trends and behaviours and identify relationships between the bases. ?3. Agents: These are programs that think and perform complex tasks without the need for human intervention; algorithms in charge of locating trends in?different variables, compare them with the business rules and generate reactions to a set of circumstances. ?4. Data Warehouse: an information technology?that decentralises decisions, and provides analysis tools and information to support decision making. 5. Spatial Analysis: present Information relevant to the business such as the geographic location of the clients. ?6. DataMart: represent a subset of the information, designed by a specific area, can use OLAP technology structures.4.2.2 Business Intelligence components The competitive advantage of organizations depends, to a large extent, on the way of interpreting and taking advantage of the information. Therefore, a comprehensive business intelligence solution should cover the following three elements: (Arnott et al., 2004) 1. Conceptual design of the system: In a BI environment, the central objective of the system is information, which is why the design of the strategies?is of great importance. This should answer several essential questions:?What is the relevant information for making decisions? What should be the format and composition of the data to be used? And where does this data come from? 2. Construction and feeding of data warehouse and/or DataMart: in a way that provides direct understanding between operational systems and information requirements for decision-making. Both databases should be appropriately and jointly structured. 3. Information exploitation tools: there are five?Basic tools to consider: Query & reporting?(Preparation and consultation of reports), analytical scorecards reports (of key indicators for management), OLAP (online analytical processing tools) and data mining (extracting useful knowledge from information in the company’s databases). Understanding the above would help an SME to form a view on what is required from a business intelligence solution, but what are the tools an organisation needs to have to evaluate different solutions?5 EVALUATION FRAMEWORKS5.1 Benefits ManagementGiven the size of SMEs (10-500 employees) which entails a centralised decision-making process, an initial analysis of stakeholders positioning in SMEs shows a general positive direction with regards to the adoption of a particular BI tool. As the decision-making process tends to be driven by senior management (Top Down approach), triggered by the need for receiving higher benefits. However, some resistance and compromises (from the Finance and Operations departments) may be needed along the way. Teams are required to work together (in coalition) in order to achieve “Benefits realisation” and resolve any issues related to the selection and later integration of the BI tool, as they begin to see the mutual benefit of their agreement.Figure 2: SME Stakeholder Analysis Source: Ward & Daniel (2006)?5.2 Tangible and Intangible benefitsIn terms of business benefits, it is not difficult to justify the investment in a BI tool. Successful SMEs can see the benefits of using BI tool and its effects on time management and the realisation of competitive advantages. However, justifying the investment in a new BI tool may represent a challenge from a financial and technical (implementation) points of view.Figure 3: Investment justification of the BI tool Source: Ward & Daniel (2006)A suggested approach to justification is to consider the various ways in which a particular BI tool can lead to massive improvement in the SME’s performance to create new business options. There are five different ways this improvement can take place: ?Table 1 Investment justification elementsJustification element Tangible benefits Intangible benefitsReduce current costs • Lower costs in support and maintenance• Reduction in operational costs • Optimising senior management time and effort• Streamlining decision making processGrowth in business volume • Real business growth that leads to increased revenue • Higher service level• Enhanced efficiency throughout different departments in the SMESmart application of BI • Reduced cost of external consultants• Less investment in R Realisation of competitive advantages • Increased capability of staff and management• Reduce vulnerability to market forcesWays of working • Smoother flow of instructions (top bottom)• Efficient allocation of business resources • Higher sense of achievement for staff and middle management New capabilities • Create new opportunities for strategic growth • Stay ahead of competitionSource: Author’s views on elements mentioned in Ward & Daniel (2006), P. 318-3216 EVALUATION OF THE MOST POPULAR BI SOLUTIONS FOR SMEsThere are many Enterprise BI Solutions that are scalable suites like Cognos (IBM), Business Objects (SAP) and Hyperion (Oracle). Although they may have every function a business might ever want and more, but they are designed for larger businesses, expensive and complex to implement and manage by SMEs. Below there is a list of different options that are more suitable for SMEs: Table 2 Types of BI solutions for SMEsFunction Description Example Pros ConsData visualisation Cool tools that allow managers to visualise data via graphs and dashboards Qlikview Tableau Powerful graphics and make great-looking, complex dashboards and data visualisations Require to be installed on individual Don’t have all the basic reporting capabilities such as scheduling, printing and self-serve report creation. Report writing Designed for basic reporting tasks such as formatting data into printable reports Crystal Reports (now sold by SAP) They’re cheap and effective for printing reports Can’t analyse and drill down into data Creating reports is time consuming and highly technicalIn house solutions Perfectly possible to use MS office tools for BI analysis Microsoft Excel Microsoft SQL Server Cheapest option, many SMEs employ data analysts who are capable of producing such analysis Could be time consuming to produce reportsLacks essential features such as security, self serve reporting, scheduling, and mobile supportERP “packaged” BI functionality most Enterprise Resource Planning solutions have some sort of business intelligence tool bundled-in ERP package designed to work with the existing ERP, easily integrated, usually at no cost ignore data held in other systems often inflexible and can be difficult or expensive to modifyCloud-based tools web-based solutions which companies can buy into on a software as a service (SaaS) basis, and access securely over the internet Dondas BIMatillion Sisense Reduced risk of implementation, pay as you go – efficient, easy to use, no hardware Some Cloud-based BI systems are normal enterprise solutions that happen to be on the cloudmay still require data integrationmay have security/reliability concerns Source: Author’s views on elements mentioned in Dedi? & Stanier, 2016. RECOMMENDATIONEach one of the different types of Business Intelligence tools reviewed above has its own unique benefits. However, we believe that Cloud BI is in a league of its own when it comes to the potential return on investment. These days, it is generally accepted that Business Intelligence can dramatically enhance a company’s performance. What’s less well known is how Cloud BI raises the bar on that enhanced performance. Traditional Business Intelligence delivers, but Cloud BI delivers more by providing the same mix of analytics, reports and dashboards that traditional Business Intelligence provides, but providing them faster, providing them with greater flexibility, and at a lower cost. Which means that in any like-for-like comparison, Cloud BI delivers a greater ROI than traditional Business Intelligence.
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