Business Intelligence (BI) for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs): How to Get Started

How can SMEs use Business Intelligence (BI) without being overwhelmed? The powerful way of gathering, analyzing and using data for decisions is now accessible to even SME companies and we show how.

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Do you ever feel like your business is a bit of a black box? Are you uncertain about how to make decisions that will help propel it forward? If so, Business Intelligence (BI) may be a part of the answer. Analyzing and interpreting data might initially sound intimidating. Still, with the right tools and techniques, it can be easier than you think and will help you make decisions based on facts, and insights and enable data-driven management.

Business Intelligence helps organizations make better decisions by providing insights into their operations and performance. By leveraging BI insights, especially also SMEs can gain an edge over their competition in today’s competitive markets. With access to real-time information on customer behavior, sales trends, and other key metrics, companies can stay ahead of the curve and remain innovative even in challenging times. Data-driven decisions are no longer just for large enterprises – they are quickly becoming essential for small businesses too, if they want to survive in this digital age.

So let’s explore why BI is crucial for SMEs and how they can get started!

Understanding Business Intelligence for SMEs

This section will give you a little more understanding of Business Intelligence (BI), especially in the context of SME companies with more limited resources and where the need for faster and more practical solutions is higher. But first, we start with a little introduction to the topic:

Definition and Explanation of Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) is a set of data analysis techniques used to support better decision-making in businesses. It involves collecting, organizing, and analyzing data from various sources such as customers, suppliers, competitors, and internal operations. 

ArticleBusiness Intelligence (BI) vs Business Analytics (BA) – Understanding the Difference

BI uses predictive analytics to gain insights into customers’ buying patterns, market trends, and other key performance indicators. This helps businesses make informed decisions about pricing strategies, promotional campaigns, and marketing tactics while ensuring they are meeting customer needs. It also allows them to anticipate potential risks or opportunities that might arise in their industry or market before they happen. The aim is to give companies an edge over their competition by being more agile and responsive than the competition.

The potential of Business Intelligence goes well beyond just analyzing past performance; it can be used for forecasting future trends as well. BI technologies can also SMEs with the ability to make forward-looking decisions based on real-time data analysis rather than relying on outdated assumptions or hunches about the future (the “Gut Feeling”). 

BI enables organizations to increase operational efficiency by optimizing processes through automation and streamlining workflow across departments, this happens because there is a better understanding of what happens in a company. With this improved visibility into operational costs and bottlenecks within existing systems, every SME can identify areas where improvements should be made – leading to greater efficiency overall as well as cost savings over time.

7 Ways how Business Intelligence Can Benefit SMEs

By leveraging Business Intelligence solutions, small businesses have a powerful tool that can help them gain insight into their operations while making critical decisions based on facts rather than gut feelings or guesswork. Here are some key benefits that come with using BI:

  1. Improved Decision Making: With access to real-time information on customer behavior, sales trends, and other key metrics, companies can make smarter decisions faster than ever before with minimal risk of mistakes due to outdated assumptions or inadequate data points.
  2. More Confidence while making decisions: BI solutions allow companies to be confident in their decisions because they provide an additional layer of analysis which can help verify the accuracy of any conclusion.
  3. Increased Profitability: With access to accurate data on sales trends, pricing strategies and promotional campaigns, SMEs are able to make more informed decisions that will ultimately lead to increased profitability.
  4. Increased Efficiency: Automating tasks such as report generation and financial forecasts can drastically reduce the amount of time spent on mundane activities and free up resources for more critical projects;
  5. Cost Savings: By identifying areas where improvements need to be made within existing systems, such as reducing waste or eliminating redundancies in processes, will result in significant cost savings;
  6. Enhanced Competitiveness: Being able to anticipate market shifts or changes in customer behavior gives organizations a leg up over their competitors who may not have access to such insights yet;
  7. Increased Customer Satisfaction: Knowing what your customers want even before they do means you can make sure your offerings are always relevant – increasing loyalty among existing clients while attracting new ones at the same time;

Current State of Business Intelligence Adoption by SMEs & Its Potential

Despite all its potential benefits mentioned above, however, adoption of Business Intelligence is still relatively low among small businesses compared to large corporations who have been using these tools for many years now – mainly due to a lack of technical know-how as well as related costs associated with getting started with BI solutions like software licenses and hardware investments etc.. 

That said, however, there is no denying that BI offers enormous potential, especially when it comes to helping smaller businesses become smarter in terms of understanding customer preferences better which would eventually result in increased sales & profits along with improved bottom lines for many small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

Fortunately, today, there are several lower-cost options available for SME entrepreneurs looking to get started with basic BI capabilities, so it’s worth investigating what could help! The last years showed that hundreds and thousands of smaller BI platforms and analytics start-ups popped up offering BI analytics for a fraction of the price. But also more advanced solutions like MoreThanDigital Insights became available. (Get it for free)

Getting Started with Business Intelligence

There are some steps to consider when starting to get acquainted with Business Intelligence for SMEs:

  1. Defining the Strategic Vision: The first step for any SME looking to begin their business intelligence journey is to define a clear vision for what they want it to accomplish. This involves determining the company’s key objectives, such as whether it wants to increase sales or reduce costs, identifying the most profitable areas of its operations, and pinpointing the areas where improved data-driven decision-making could lead to the most significant gains.
  2. Data Collection & Analysis: The next step is to start collecting and analyzing relevant data points from different sources, such as customer surveys, financial statements, sales records, etc. The goal here is to identify patterns in customer behavior that can help inform future decisions and generate insights into how best to optimize operations for maximum effect. It’s vital for businesses starting with BI solutions to ensure that their data collection strategy adheres to all relevant laws and regulations (e.g., GDPR) and also that they have sufficient storage capacity in place so as not to run out of space too quickly.
  3. Selecting Appropriate Technology & Infrastructure: Once a business has identified its objectives and gathered enough data points, it’s time to begin setting the appropriate technology and infrastructure needed for the successful implementation of its BI solution. This includes selecting both software applications (such as Business Intelligence platforms like Tableau, QlikView, or broader external platforms like MoreThanDigital Insights) as well as hardware components (such as servers, storage systems, etc.) depending on the size of the organization’s needs and budget constraints.
  4. Training Employees & Ensuring Proper Maintenance: With adequate technology in place, companies should then focus on training employees on proper usage of these new tools and also ensuring regular maintenance of these systems by keeping them up-to-date with security patches and other updates that may come along from time to time. Moreover, having a dedicated team in place for monitoring any potential issues or breakdowns associated with these solutions would go a long way towards reducing potential risks over time – which is especially important given the ever-evolving nature of IT infrastructures today.
  5. Regular Performance Monitoring & Evaluation: Finally, businesses should ensure regular performance monitoring & evaluation of their BI solutions to ensure they remain aligned with their original goals/objectives while maximizing returns on investment at all times – something which can be done by regularly analyzing metrics such as user engagement rates (per user/platform), overall system performance/speed/accuracy rates, etc. Ideally, this should involve an automated process, so that room for human error is minimized while still ensuring the effectiveness of this process over time!

Measuring the Impact of Business Intelligence

Without making things too complicated, SMEs should regularly measure the impact of BI on their business. This depends entirely on the goals set (as we discussed before) but also on the targets you have.

Regularly check and evaluate the outcomes of your BI investments! Here are some sample questions you could ask yourself in this process:

  • Are you saving costs? 
  • Are you using it regularly? 
  • Is it part of your team meetings?
  • Did you identify areas for improvement?
  • What needs to change to get better insights?
  • Are we satisfied with the outcomes?
  • Do we need different analytics?
  • Which are the most used/most important metrics?
  • etc.

The problem of the “Company Culture”

Company culture is an essential factor in the success of any organization, and it is difficult to establish a data-driven company culture. It requires understanding your team’s needs, setting clear goals, and using data to measure progress toward those goals. Moreover, it involves adapting as needed when new information or trends arise. Building a thriving data-driven company culture takes time and effort but ultimately pays off with improved performance and better/more precise decision-making.

Here is an extensive article on implementing a data-driven company culture in your SME: Data-Driven Culture in 13 Steps – Build a culture for data and analytics


Business Intelligence is a powerful tool/concept for small and medium-sized enterprises, not only for large corporations. It can help inform decision-making and generate insights into how best to optimize operations for maximum effect.

Getting started with Business Inteligence (BI) doesn’t need to be overwhelming – start by identifying your objectives, gathering data points, selecting the appropriate technology & infrastructure required for successfully implementing your solution, training employees on proper usage of these new tools, and also ensuring regular maintenance.

Measure success through key performance indicators (KPIs) such as user engagement rates (per user/platform), revenues, costs, conversion rates, and other metrics you find essential while regularly evaluating progress toward original goals and adjusting accordingly. Don’t try to do too much at once or become overwhelmed; instead, build resources slowly over time so that you may leverage the power of Business Intelligence in a sustainable way.

Solutions like MorethanDigital Insights are perfect ways to start and help you get the most out of data-driven decision-making, strategic planning, or simplify data-driven management.

Try it today and see how easy it can be with our Insights platform.

Benjamin Talin

Benjamin Talin is founder of MoreThanDigital, a serial entrepreneur and innovator. He has founded countless businesses, ranging in age from 13 to the present. His passion is using technology and innovation to change the status quo, and his experience covers everything from marketing to product development to new technology strategy. One of Benjamin's great desires is to share his expertise with others, and he frequently speaks at conferences on a variety of topics related to entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation. Additionally, he advises governments, ministries and EU commissions on issues such as education, economic development, digitalization, and the technological future.

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