There are too many articles and theories about business intelligence that look in business intelligence as one IT tool and only IT tool. Because of that you can find different definitions that define the business intelligence as one application that will perform some analysis activities for your business. Another issue that I found at existing theories is that all tools looking for analysis of internal company factors. Because of that there are some missing elements:

  • First of all, business intelligence is the process, and not only IT tool.
  • Second, business intelligence must incorporate analyzing of the external factors in addition to internal factors.

Before you decide to implement business intelligence solutions into your small business you must look at business intelligence as a process. In this way, you will find that business intelligence as a process will increase the overall business potential energy of your business. Business intelligence is a process that supports decisions making and that will allow entrepreneurs to better understanding, analyzing and predicting the occurrences in and out of their businesses. Every change or need of change will be predicted from the process of business intelligence and in that way entrepreneurs will make better and timely decisions. Maybe you think that you don’t need to have investments into the business intelligence because your small business is too small and there is not needing about it. However, that will be wrong thinking because:

  • Business intelligence as a process can be implemented without big investments.
  • Second there will be always needing for a decision making process and because of that also will be need for business intelligence as a process.

Business intelligence as a process can be free, but the tools that will automate the process are something that will need investment. Some areas where business intelligence can be used in small businesses are:

External areas:
Market research
Analyzing of competitors
Analyzing of suppliers
Analyzing of different products
Analyzing of new technology
Internal areas:
Inventory control
Best selling products
Sales comparing
Customers analyzing
Costs analyzing
Financial analyzing
Operational analyzing

This is one short list that will give you benefit for your business. As a process business intelligence must perform several different actions:

Identify the need for business intelligence. What you want to track and analyze that will improve your decision making process?
Collect the information. When you know what is your business needs you can define the sources of informations and start collecting them. Sources can be from inside and from outside the business. For example, if you want to track your inventories you will find informations about that inside your business. If you want to track competitors you will find that informations from outside your business as internet, newspapers, magazines, blogs…
Analyzing of collected information. When you have the needed information you can start with analyzing. Here you must come to conclusions and extraction of knowledge from raw informations.
Implementation of knowledge into decision making. If you have knowledge you can implement the new knowledge into a decision making process.
This is never ending processes of business intelligence. As you can see this process don’t need additional tools. However, the process of collection and analyzing of informations can be simplified if we use IT in the process. If you collect a big amount of information it will be time consuming to analyze them and extract needed knowledge. Many of the informations will be in the text format that must be read first. I’ve used Text Mining to analyze the informations from news that I collect from web based newspaper according to the key words. In that process daily I receive hundreds of textual materials with desired keyword that is mentioned keyword that I want to track. I cannot read all of that informations. However, with text mining I receive graphical presentations that present interpretations about important things in that news. If the informations is in the structured format you can use MS Excel or MS Access to make simple analysis as pivot tables that will give you some important hidden trends.

You can see that most important is to start with the process that will increase your business potential energy. After some period of time, you can see possibilities to invest in some BI solutions.