Best Business Intelligence Tools for Small Businesses
Data is becoming an increasing part of everything businesses do. But although information has become essential to remaining competitive, many companies still only capture a small portion of the data they could access if they had the right tools in place. Thanks to advancements in technology, however, analytics are becoming accessible to even the smallest startup.
Choosing the right business intelligence (BI) tool can be tricky, especially with so many solutions on the market. First, you’ll need to understand how BI can help your own business, followed by understanding what criteria you should apply as you begin searching for a solution.
|Best Business Intelligence Tools|
|Zoho Reports||$0-$445.50 per month||iOS, Android||Zoho CRM, Salesforce, QuickBooks, Xero|
|IBM Watson Analytics||$0-$80 per month||iOS||IBM tools only|
|Microsoft Power BI||$0-$9 per user per month||iOS, Android, Microsoft||Access, Excel, Salesforce, MailChimp|
|Tableau Desktop||$70 per user per month||iOS||Salesforce, SAP, Amazon Web Services|
|Sisense||Not publicly provided||iOS, Android||Facebook, MailChimp, PayPal, YouTube, Xero|
|Domo||Not publicly provided||iOS, Android||Box, Facebook, Salesforce, Shopify, MailChimp|
|Google Analytics||Free for small businesses||iOS, Android||GitHub, Google+, Twitter, YouTube|
|Salesforce Einstein Analytics||Not publicly provided||iOS, Android||Salesforce, Amazon, Google BigQuery|
|SAP Analytics Cloud||$23-$152 per user per month||iOS||SAP Business Warehouse, SAP HANA|
|Chartio||Not publicly provided||Access on mobile via bookmark||Facebook Ads, Zapier, Hubspot|
Does your business need BI tools?
No matter what type of business you operate, it can benefit from the information you can extract using BI tools. In fact, you likely already use some form of BI, assuming you occasionally check how many people read your business blog or clicked on your latest tweet.
BI tools take it a step further, letting you gather data that can power even the smallest parts of your business. Here are a few ways BI tools can help your business.
- Customer sentiment — By paying close attention to how your customers feel about your brand, you can make adjustments to improve satisfaction levels.
- Marketing insights — Launching a new marketing campaign? You can monitor results in real time if you have the right tool in place.
- Employee reporting — By following employee activities, you can determine whether your staffing levels are appropriate.
- Project milestones — Keep an eye on how your projects are progressing and learn in advance when you may be running behind schedule.
- Streamline operations — When you can determine where your team may be wasting time, you can save money by redirecting them and improving efficiency.
How to choose the right BI tools for your business
Once you understand why you need BI as part of your business, you can begin your search for the perfect solution. This is a very individual consideration, since each company has its own unique environment. Only you know the people and processes that are specific to your own business, but there are a few steps that can help get you started on your search.
As with any major business decision, it can help to make a list. Pull your most trusted team members into your conference room and indulge in a brief brainstorming session. List all of the features you think are important in a BI solution, rapid-fire style, without editing the list as you go. This will give you information you can work with as you decide which features are most important to you.
One of the most important features in any type of software is usability. If you’re like many businesses, you don’t have a full development team at your disposal, so it’s likely important to you to have a solution you can begin using right away, without the need to employ someone to customize it to your own needs. If this is toward the top of your list, you’ll be able to quickly eliminate any of the solutions that are known for being either difficult to set up or use on a daily basis.
Integrations may also be on your priority list. You likely already have software in place, even if it’s merely the email or word processing software you use. Finding BI tools that feature integrations with those tools will save you a great deal of time and effort. With BI, these integrations also mean that your employee and customer activities will be tracked beyond traditional sources like your social media profiles and your website. In other words, you’ll be able to analyze interactions taking place through your business email, customer relationship management (CRM) and more.
Collecting data is only the first part of the process, though. It’s also important, as you look for a solution, that you prioritize how data will be delivered to you. Some solutions provide real-time insights through a dashboard, for instance, which may be preferable to some businesses, while others would prefer to pull the information on a monthly or bimonthly basis. By identifying these preferences up front, you’ll avoid being disappointed by a solution that doesn’t quite do what you need it to do.
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10 top business intelligence tools
Here are 10 of the top BI solutions on the market, along with their unique feature sets.
If a dashboard is important to you, Zoho Reports has you covered. With vivid colors and charts, the Zoho Reports dashboard makes it easy to see what’s going on in real time. Using Zoho’s Essential Connectors, you can import data from a wide variety of file formats, including Excel, HTML, Zoho Docs, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. When you pull reports, you can combine multiple tables to get a better overview of your business. Making these reports is easy, thanks in large part to Zoho Reports’s drag-and-drop report builder.
There is a free plan, but that includes only two users and 10,000 rows. Paid plans are based on the number of users and rows, starting at $22.50 per month, going up to $445.50 per month and billed annually.
IBM Watson Analytics
IBM’s Watson has become the poster child for business intelligence, showcasing how technology can adapt and learn as humans do. IBM Watson Analytics lurks in the background, monitoring business activity to identify trends. To get set up, you’ll simply connect the software to databases, files or a cloud storage service. One of the best things about IBM’s analytics option is that you can get information simply by inputting a question. You’ll also have multiple dashboard options to ensure that information is displayed the way you want to see it.
The free plan allows you to upload spreadsheets, get visualizations and pull insights on your business, but you’ll need to upgrade to the $30 per month plan to get more storage options. However, if you want multi-user collaboration and access to the full suite of connectors, you’ll need to upgrade to the $80 per month plan.
Microsoft Power BI
Connections are Microsoft’s strong suit, which is no surprise, considering it produces many of the tools already used in business. You can link up your Microsoft BI tool to hundreds of data sources and get started creating reports right away. Features include cloud collaboration and sharing, as well as on-premise report deployment. You can also easily create personalized dashboards that give you a 360-degree view of how your business is doing. By setting up mobile alerts, you’ll be notified wherever you are when information changes.
The free version of Microsoft BI gives you the ability to connect to hundreds of data sources, plus custom visualizations for building reports and the ability to embed your reports on public websites. However, for features like sharing and collaboration, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version at $9.99 per user per month.
Tableau’s visual analytics make it easy to identify trends and get actionable insights about your business. You can connect to hundreds of data sources, including all of the top database and spreadsheet solutions. Interactive maps help you easily visualize geographic data, such as where your website visits originate. With Tableau Server and Tableau Online, you can set up an environment where everyone on your team can create, view and collaborate on reports. You’ll have the choice of either a cloud-based or on-premise solution, based on your preferences, though keep in mind that the cloud version comes with enhanced scalability. If you already pay for cloud hosting, Tableau can work with providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform to add the solution to your existing infrastructure.
Tableau Desktop is included in Tableau Creator, which costs $70 per user per month. Creator also includes Tableau Prep, a report-building tool that helps you make advanced data reports.
Businesses want access to complex datasets broken down into easy-to-understand reports. Sisense helps with that, combining data from all of a business’s sources into one dashboard. The dashboard makes it easy to filter through all of the data to get to exactly the information you need. Additionally, Sisense has custom dashboards for functions like marketing and customer service, as well as role-based dashboards for CEOs, CFOs and sales directors.
In addition to the standard integrations, you can also connect Sisense to your eBay and Facebook Ads accounts, making it a good solution for smaller businesses and startups. Sisense’s Pulse Alerts will run in the background, detecting the most important variations in your business and notifying you so you can take action as quickly as possible. You’ll have the option of an on-premise or cloud-based version of Sisense, as well as a hybrid version that works with the way you run your other solutions. Sisense’s pricing is provided only by request.
As a full-mobile cloud-based solution, Domo aims to make it easy for businesses of all sizes to access enterprise-level data analytics. You’ll get more than 500 data connectors and a mobile app that makes it easy for teams to collaborate on data management. Using predictive analytics, Domo sends notifications about things that are relevant to your business, including trending topics and changes to your business. Since it’s cloud-based, Domo has the flexibility necessary to expand databases quickly as a business’s needs change. The dashboard is embeddable in portals, websites and outside applications to make it easy to keep business partners and vendors updated on how your business is doing.
Although Domo doesn’t provide information on its pricing publicly, there are three plans: standard, professional and enterprise. Standard includes all the features for up to 20 users and four concurrent data connections. You’ll also need to upgrade to a higher tier for features like personalized data permissions and bulk content administration.
Many businesses already use Google Analytics to get information on daily website traffic. You’ll get a simple dashboard that displays data on interactions with your website. If you use Google Adwords, you can put analytics to use in determining how well your investment is paying off. Analytics also has a built-in diagnostics tool that identifies issues with your analytics implementation and offers suggestions to repair them. With Smart Lists, you’ll not only get information on the people visiting your website, but you’ll have a list of people who are most likely to convert so that you can follow up. Another feature, Smart Goals, will help you tweak your Google Ads performance to get the most out of every dollar you spend.
Most of Google Analytics is free, but if you need a more powerful, enterprise-geared version, you’ll need to talk to Google about upgrading to a paid edition.
Salesforce Einstein Analytics
For Salesforce users, Einstein Analytics is likely the easiest option, since it’s built into the platform. You can easily connect to your Sales Cloud and Service Cloud data to monitor activity and determine where you need to take action. Best of all, the app is connected to the rest of your CRM, so when you see information you need to put to use, you can do so directly from your dashboard, whether it’s assigning a task to a team member or updating a record. If you add Einstein Discovery to your analytics solution, you’ll be able to get natural language answers and recommendations to help you put your data to use. The data is available to everyone on the team, so everyone will be able to monitor progress and pinpoint challenges on an ongoing basis.
Salesforce does not provide public pricing information for Einstein Analytics or Discovery.
SAP Analytics Cloud
SAP specializes in business applications, and its analytics solution is designed to help companies monitor processes in real time. The SAP Analytics Cloud is designed for financial planning and analysis, so it’s ideal for businesses that prioritize monitoring financial performance and cash flow. The software is available in both on-premise and cloud versions, with connectors making it easy to use with other SAP products, including SAP Business Warehouse and SAP Hana. You’ll also be able to connect to non-SAP applications, but this may require technical assistance. The dashboard provides a visually-appealing overview of business operations, pulling data from a variety of sources.
Pricing starts at $23 per user per month for up to 20 users and includes all features. For unlimited users, you’ll pay $152 per user per month.
Chartio seeks to meet the unique needs of various individuals within a business, including a business’s data analyst, who has a high-level expertise in extracting and working with information, and founders and execs, who want the information presented in a visual format. You can pull data from a variety of sources, including spreadsheets, Amazon Redshift and Microsoft Azure. It also integrates with popular applications like Facebook Ads, Zapier and Hubspot. As the name implies, Chartio specializes in charts, providing pie charts and bar graphs to give you a visual view of the information you’re tracking. Reports can be easily exported and shared by email, PDF, scheduled reports and shareable links. You can also view historical data through Snapshots to easily compare today’s numbers with how you were performing months or years ago.
Pricing information is not provided, but all customers get unlimited reports, unlimited online training and personalized onboarding.
The bottom line
Parsing the details of business intelligence tools can seem intimidating at first, and the pure volume of information you’ll be examining to weigh all the options might make you want to throw up your hands. But BI offers powerful capabilities that can give your business a boost — ignoring these tools is the best way to ensure you keep doing things slowly and inefficiently. Do a little research, pick an option that seems like it’s a match for your needs, and jump into the world of BI with both feet. Your business will thank you.