Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

BI for SMBs: Answers to Your FAQs – Part 1


FAQsBuying Criteria & Vendor Shortlists

Business intelligence isn't just for large enterprises anymore. Aberdeen's SMB research reveals that the top pressure driving small businesses to implement BI is the need to move away from "gut feel" and more toward fact-based decisions. And so small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees are adopting technologies we traditionally think of as "enterprise level," from ERP and CRM to BI and analytics.

SMBs are facing the challenges all businesses face – rapidly growing and faster data volumes, decision-makers clamoring for self-service capabilities, and scarce budgets, resources and in-house expertise to devote to analytic projects. These challenges are informing the way SMBs are buying BI software. As a BI vendor that caters to SMBs as much as large enterprises, arcplan decided to compile answers to the most frequently asked questions we hear from small and medium-sized businesses.

1) How do we create a good list of buying criteria?

The first step to implementing a BI solution is to develop a list of good buying criteria. While each company has its own set of priorities, most SMBs must adopt solutions that:

  • Are easy to install, configure and manage
  • Are user friendly and intuitive for end users and developers
  • Don't increase demand on already limited IT resources
  • Easily integrate with existing systems/data sources
  • Have straightforward and simple pricing
  • Are relevant and proven in same-size and same-industry companies

Some companies may be primarily concerned with visual appeal, specific features like drill-down, integration with a particular data source, or amount of customization required, but this list is a good starting point.

2) Should we choose a name-brand BI vendor or a boutique vendor?

Simply choosing a well-known vendor does not guarantee BI success. It's much more important to choose the vendor that best meets your needs – now and in the future. We often counsel our prospects to consider that if their BI project fulfills its promise – to increase revenues, to cut expenses, to help the company grow – they'll need a BI solution that can grow with the company. Sometimes it's best to invest in a tool that has capabilities you may not need now but can envision yourself needing someday. Otherwise you'll be forced to migrate to a new platform in the future, which is usually no small undertaking. Other advantages of working with smaller niche vendors include:

  • Their eagerness to provide the best products and services at a more affordable price than megavendors.
  • Customer service is more prompt and personal.
  • Because of the less complicated nature of their solutions, implementation times are generally shorter (often just a few weeks).
  • They often still provide advanced capabilities like ad-hoc reporting, mobile BI, and predictive analytics – just at a smaller price tag.

Check out Part 2 of this series, which covers Cloud BI vs. SaaS.


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