Executive leaders of small businesses and startups frequently lament that they lack the same access to data and insights that enterprise competitors and other more entrenched players enjoy. \n\nMost SMBs haven\u2019t fully adopted business intelligence (BI) analytics, citing various reasons such as a lack of scalable technology infrastructure or skilled human capital. They\u2019re also hesitant to invest in BI because of the perception that it doesn\u2019t align with budget and operational constraints. \n\nFortune Business Insights predicts that the global BI market will grow to $43 billion by 2028, up from $24 billion in 2021. However, the overall adoption rate of BI is just 26% compared to 80% in companies with over 5,000 employees. These findings clearly indicate that larger corporations use BI much more than SMBs. \n\nSo, what\u2019s stopping them? \n\n\u201cThere's no single answer to this question. One issue is that small businesses rarely have enough resources to set up a dedicated data science (DS) team, nor can they afford to bring in temporary consultants,\u201d said Itzik Levy, CEO of small business management software vcita. \u201cThey\u2019re frequently forced to make difficult tradeoffs when it comes to priorities, nobody has the time to learn a new specialized skill.\u201d \n\nMindset is also a problem. \u201cThe main limitation of SMEs to implement analytics is the fact that they think that these new approaches are only applicable to large companies,\u201d wrote Jesus Fajardo, a senior data science analyst. \n\nThe solution: business intelligence tools \n\nWhile mindset is a difficult obstacle to overcome, technology and budget are easier ones to surmount. \n\nMost technology functions of businesses today are SaaS-driven. They have leveled the playing field for SMBs and helped them create automated processes for: \n\nHowever, the data that goes into and comes out of all these processes can be overwhelming, complex, and expensive to collect. That\u2019s where business intelligence (BI) apps and tools come in. \n\nSMBs that have undergone digital transformation are already generating data relating to these business operations disciplines. With the right BI features, they can derive insights that help meet their business objectives from those signals. \n\nWhile the capabilities of actual tools vary, it\u2019s important to understand how to make BI work to your advantage. Small business owners can use BI to do things not normally expected of them and hitherto the domain of enterprise companies \u2013 such as analyzing consumer behavior, estimating market trends, forecasting sales, and improving customer experience. \n\nLet\u2019s break down some of these advantages. \n\nMake informed business decisions \n\nWhat do you need to make business decisions that move the needle? BI can help you in the following ways: \n\nIdentify market trends: Managers and analysts can use data collected from various sources to identify upcoming and maturing products in the market and changing consumer consumption patterns. They can then use this data to measure the company\u2019s sales performance and predict future outcomes. \n\nTrack the performance of your business: Business performance goes way beyond revenue and profits. BI helps you set goals, map out tactics to meet them, understand how you\u2019re performing vis-a-vis these goals, and what changes you can make to stay on track. \n\nCompare data with competitors: Competitive analytics is perhaps the biggest benefit BI tools confers on new players and SMBs. You can track competitors\u2019 strategies and performance in branding, marketing, production, stock market, and compare it with your own over a period of time. \n\nIncrease profit margins: Identifying and plugging gaps in different areas of operations \u2013 whether it\u2019s sourcing, marketing or delivery \u2013 can help SMBs save a dollar here and a dollar there and lead to significant profits at the end of the year. \n\nPredict the success of your business: If you know where the market is going, what your competition is doing, as well as how much you\u2019re selling over time, it\u2019s a matter of time before you improve your forecasting accuracy. \n\nProvide a great customer experience \n\nYou can gain valuable customer information using the right BI analytics. This data will allow you to better understand customers\u2019 demographics (such as age, gender, and location), shopping habits, interests and intents, as well as preferred communication channels. \n\nYou can then go a step further to see how customers are engaging with your brand, what they\u2019re saying about your products (and customer service), and analyze their likes and dislikes to improve the efficiency of your marketing campaigns. \n\nBI can help you answer questions about your customers, such as: \n\nEach of these answers tells you a bit more about your customers\u2019 dynamics with your business. BI is all about understanding the customer journey from the first brand interaction to conversion. For example, local businesses such as pavers, roofers, and landscapers can find out which of their services are more in-demand, what designs their customers prefer, average incomes and other demographic information, etc. This helps them focus on the more profitable customer segments and engage them on appropriate channels. \n\nData also helps you improve customer experience by providing personalized recommendations, targeted campaigns, and automated messages based on shopping behavior. \n\nImprove workforce productivity \n\nRemote and hybrid work practices have changed the way most organizations operate, leading to new challenges in maintaining a productive workforce. Add to that, the organization structure itself has changed in many companies \u2013 there are no hierarchies anymore, and teams are formed and disbanded according to the necessities of the project at hand. \n\nThis is where BI can provide critical insights for SMBs. AI-driven technology can bundle up years of HR experience and enable everyday decisions that improve employee productivity. \n\nThe right tools can help you track individual\/team performance, analyze strengths and weaknesses, identify skills gaps, and create a rewards-and-development progression plan that will lead to optimal performance from each employee. \n\nLeverage data to fine-tune strategy \n\nWith the help of BI tools, SMBs can access critical data on customer behavior, social media marketing, inventory management, and more \u2013 in real time. In fact, lean companies are now moving towards a DIY, smart approach to data, characterized as self-service business intelligence (SSBI). SSBI is all about allowing the end-user to interact with data directly as well as manage it. \n\nThe more control your employees have over data, the more chances your strategies have of succeeding. BI provides an objective analysis of how your business is performing and helps identify the most effective strategy you can use to achieve stated goals and targets. It provides valuable information on where your company should focus its efforts to increase sales and drive profits. \n\nHow, you ask? \n\nBusiness intelligence aims to help leaders, managers, and departmental employees by providing them with usable key information at the right times. That brings us back to the question of mindset. \u201cSmall business owners need BI to look for those parts of the business that are driving the most growth, which might be drowned out by all the noise of getting things done,\u201d Levy emphasized. \u201cOnce these growth levers have been identified, leaders can double down in the right places to bolster revenue.\u201d \n\nThe party has just begun \n\nA recent research paper identified big data analytics as a core driver of operational resilience for SMBs. With better data integration and analysis, SMBs can enable organizational knowledge-sharing, stay competitive, and spur innovation. \n\nWhile data analytics answers specific queries, explains why events took place, and predicts what happens next, BI builds powerful non-linear models that drive business strategy. \n\nLean SMBs that can gather timely intelligence from the powerful BI platforms available today will steal a march over the competition by identifying opportunities and threats faster. They will know where to spend their money, how much to spend, and what outcomes to expect.