EXECUTIVE enterprises (SMEs) may have (i.e. data interpretation,

EXECUTIVE SUMMARYBusiness Intelligence (BI) can be defined as “the Set of products and services that allow users to access and analyse Information for decision-making at all levels of the business: operational, tactical and strategic”. BI tools enhance collaborative work and synthesize information in a visual, easy to read, way for the management, which makes them great decision-making solutions in organisations. In view of the importance this concept has taken in recent years, numerous tools have been developed by large, well-known and small, upcoming software developers in the form of software-as-a-service (SaaS) as well as platform-as-a-service (PaaS) formats.This report highlights the different possible needs small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may have (i.e. data interpretation, deriving insights from data, visualisation etc.) and discusses the different options that SMEs need to weigh when considering a BI tool – features and capabilities of the tool, system integration with the existing data sources, software provider’s reputation and support as well as the cost of adopting the tool, considering also cost of support, training, installation and future updates.The report then lists down the different types of BI solutions that are available in the market and provides a quick pros & cons analysis before recommending the cloud based solution which provides all the essential functionalities of a BI tool but in a more affordable and higher ROI option for SMEs.?1 BACKGROUNDSMEs operate in a highly competitive and constantly innovate environment. It is essential for any SME to have tools of all kinds that?facilitate the achievement of competitive advantages and differentiation. As the term indicates, Business Intelligence (BI) tools bring together all the necessary means to convert data into relevant, valuable and reliable info to which decision makers of an organisation have access. The goal is to allow for easy interpretation of data, which lead to identifying new opportunities and implementing effective strategies based on insights, which, in turn, can provide businesses with a competitive market advantage and long-term stability. (Rud, 2009) (Dedi? & Stanier, 2016)As SMEs are beginning to recognise the benefits that a successfully implemented BI solution can have for their business, there has been a surge in demand for these tools. As a result, there are now thousands of vendors offering a multitude of different products and services. With such a wide range of vendors vying for business, it is often a difficult task to sort the facts from the fiction and find out what the business really needs.2 METHODOLOGYThis report aims to identify the needs for SMEs to use business intelligence tools, highlight the importance of using an efficient BI tool and its applications as a practical solution to manage information essential to help the decision-making process. Furthermore, it explores and compares different capabilities of the suggested BI tools and provides a cost/benefit analysis to help SMEs select the best solution.The report summarises the latest literature around the subject and provides a guide to selecting and implementing the right BI tool for any SME.3 WHY SMEs NEED A BI SOLUTION3.1 Interpretation of plain dataSMEs should take a quality over quantity approach to data instead of simply collecting large volumes of meaningless information, which, for a business manager, mean that it is imperative to access data quickly and with relative ease. Without an effective BI solution, this process can often be complicated and time-consuming as data is tied up in complex systems and spread across multiple reports as different departments may use different reporting tools. This can severely diminish data quality and make it impossible to form a coherent overview of company performance. 3.2 Relying on Excel – the common practiceSpreadsheets may have been the centre of business intelligence operations for SMBs for many years but, as data requirements have grown, spreadsheets have become an increasingly inefficient way of storing information; they require a large amount of manual work which can cause significant delays, leading to data being both inaccurate and outdated. The manual nature of this approach also makes it more susceptible to human error which can skew important data, diminishing its value. A BI solution can help to streamline the data collection, analysis and reporting process, removing this dependency on manual spreadsheet analysis. 3.3 Data vs InsightsWhen a business draws its data from a range of different sources (sales, customer service, finance), it can be difficult to consolidate this information into actionable insights. An effective BI solution can help to discover the information that really matters and to keep track of it in relation to the company’s strategic goals. 3.4 Visualisation and mobilityData visualisation tools can help bring your data to life and make it much easier to interpret through the use of charts, visualisations and dashboards. On the other hand, In the modern age, it is becoming increasingly important that information can be accessed anywhere, at any time. Traditional on-site Business Intelligence operations may be seen as a more secure option but they severely restrict the way that data can be accessed and this can limit its utility. Developments in technology such as Cloud Business Intelligence have meant that this data can now be accessed anywhere in the world with users simply needing access to the internet. Advances in Mobile BI also mean that users can access their data on the go through smartphones and tablet devices. 4 CHOOSING A BI SOLUTIONOne thing that quickly becomes apparent is that there’s no shortage of Business Intelligence offerings on the market. They define “Business Intelligence” differently, have different target markets, and approach Business Intelligence in very different ways. What ought to be a straightforward comparison of like-with-like Business Intelligence systems quickly turns into a debate about the nature of Business Intelligence itself. So, what are the elements to consider when selecting the best BI solution for an SME? 4.1 Critical Success Factors (CSFs) of the BI toolThere are many studies on BI success factors (Scholtz, Schnieder, Kurze, Gluchowski & Boehringer, 2010). In the context of Business Intelligence systems, CSFs can be perceived as a set of tasks and procedures that should be addressed in order to ensure BI systems accomplishment.It is generally believed that the implementation of a BI system is not a conventional application- based on an IT project (such as an operational or transactional system), which has been the focus of many CSF studies. Instead, it shares similar characteristics with other infrastructural projects such as an enterprise resourcing planning systems implementation. That is, implementing a BI system is not a simple activity entailing merely the purchase of a combination of software and hardware; rather, it is a complex undertaking requiring appropriate infrastructure and resources over a lengthy period (Rud, 2009). BI system implementation is viewed as an organic cycle that evolves over time.Figure 1: CSFs of BI systems implementation in SMEs  Source: Olszak & Ziemba (2012)4.2 Components of the Business Intelligence Tool4.2.1 Conventional and analytical components: 1. Multidimensional: refers to all the ways in which information can be found: spreadsheets, Databases, among others. ?2. Data Mining: synthesize big data that companies generate through production processes, operational performance, markets and customers. With this information, SMEs can identify trends and behaviours and identify relationships between the bases. ?3. Agents: These are programs that think and perform complex tasks without the need for human intervention; algorithms in charge of locating trends in?different variables, compare them with the business rules and generate reactions to a set of circumstances. ?4. Data Warehouse: an information technology?that decentralises decisions, and provides analysis tools and information to support decision making. 5. Spatial Analysis: present Information relevant to the business such as the geographic location of the clients. ?6. DataMart: represent a subset of the information, designed by a specific area, can use OLAP technology structures.4.2.2 Business Intelligence components The competitive advantage of organizations depends, to a large extent, on the way of interpreting and taking advantage of the information. Therefore, a comprehensive business intelligence solution should cover the following three elements: (Arnott et al., 2004) 1. Conceptual design of the system: In a BI environment, the central objective of the system is information, which is why the design of the strategies?is of great importance. This should answer several essential questions:?What is the relevant information for making decisions? What should be the format and composition of the data to be used? And where does this data come from? 2. Construction and feeding of data warehouse and/or DataMart: in a way that provides direct understanding between operational systems and information requirements for decision-making. Both databases should be appropriately and jointly structured. 3. Information exploitation tools: there are five?Basic tools to consider: Query & reporting?(Preparation and consultation of reports), analytical scorecards reports (of key indicators for management), OLAP (online analytical processing tools) and data mining (extracting useful knowledge from information in the company’s databases). Understanding the above would help an SME to form a view on what is required from a business intelligence solution, but what are the tools an organisation needs to have to evaluate different solutions?5 EVALUATION FRAMEWORKS5.1 Benefits ManagementGiven the size of SMEs (10-500 employees) which entails a centralised decision-making process, an initial analysis of stakeholders positioning in SMEs shows a general positive direction with regards to the adoption of a particular BI tool. As the decision-making process tends to be driven by senior management (Top Down approach), triggered by the need for receiving higher benefits. However, some resistance and compromises (from the Finance and Operations departments) may be needed along the way. Teams are required to work together (in coalition) in order to achieve “Benefits realisation” and resolve any issues related to the selection and later integration of the BI tool, as they begin to see the mutual benefit of their agreement.Figure 2: SME Stakeholder Analysis Source: Ward & Daniel (2006)5.2 Tangible and Intangible benefitsIn terms of business benefits, it is not difficult to justify the investment in a BI tool. Successful SMEs can see the benefits of using BI tool and its effects on time management and the realisation of competitive advantages. However, justifying the investment in a new BI tool may represent a challenge from a financial and technical (implementation) points of view.Figure 3: Investment justification of the BI tool Source: Ward & Daniel (2006)A suggested approach to justification is to consider the various ways in which a particular BI tool can lead to massive improvement in the SME’s performance to create new business options. There are five different ways this improvement can take place: Table 1 Investment justification elementsJustification element Tangible benefits Intangible benefitsReduce current costs • Lower costs in support and maintenance• Reduction in operational costs • Optimising senior management time and effort• Streamlining decision making processGrowth in business volume • Real business growth that leads to increased revenue • Higher service level• Enhanced efficiency throughout different departments in the SMESmart application of BI • Reduced cost of external consultants• Less investment in R Realisation of competitive advantages • Increased capability of staff and management• Reduce vulnerability to market forcesWays of working • Smoother flow of instructions (top bottom)• Efficient allocation of business resources • Higher sense of achievement for staff and middle management New capabilities • Create new opportunities for strategic growth • Stay ahead of competitionSource: Author’s views on elements mentioned in Ward & Daniel (2006), P. 318-3216 EVALUATION OF THE MOST POPULAR BI SOLUTIONS6.1 Enterprise-grade Business Intelligence solutions These are the highly-capable and scalable Business Intelligence suites sold by the likes of Cognos (IBM), Business Objects (SAP), and Hyperion (Oracle). For: Very scalable, even to the very largest businesses. Every feature a business could ever want and more. Against: They’re expensive and complex to implement and run. SMEs often pay for tools that they don’t want or need, and which don’t get adopted. 6.2 Data visualisation tools Simply put, these are the cool tools that allow managers to visualise data via graphs and dashboards. Tableau and Qlikview are examples of successful products in this area. For: They’re really powerful graphically, and make great-looking, complex dashboards and data visualisations. Against: require to be installed on individual PCs as they’re client server tools. They don’t always have all the basic reporting capabilities such as scheduling, printing and self-serve report creation. Creating new reports is not an end user activity. 6.3 Report-writing tools These are products designed for basic reporting tasks such as formatting data into printable reports. Crystal Reports — now sold by SAP — is an example of a report-writing tool. For: They’re cheap and effective for printing reports. Against: They’re not Business Intelligence tools. They can’t analyse and drill down into data, and creating reports is time-consuming and highly technical — often an IT task, and not for the regular user. 6.4 “Home-grown” Business Intelligence solutions It’s perfectly possible to use Microsoft Excel and Microsoft SQL Server to hand crank a Business Intelligence capability. For: There’s little capital outlay involved. Many SMEs already employ analysts who carry out these tasks. Against: It can take a long time to implement and even longer get to real ROI. And, taking staffing time into account, the true cost is usually higher than other Business Intelligence solution. Also, this lacks essential features such as security, self serve reporting, scheduling, and mobile support. 6.5 ERP “packaged” Business Intelligence or reporting functionality These days, most ERP solutions (Enterprise Resource Planning) have some sort of business intelligence tool bundled-in. For: They’re designed to work with the existing ERP or core system. There is no need to worry about integration costs or compatibility. Against: They can only work with the data that’s in the ERP or core systems, and ignore data held in other systems. They’re often inflexible, as well, and can be difficult or expensive to modify. 6.6 Cloud-based Business Intelligence tools Business intelligence doesn’t have to be on premise. Increasingly, there are web-based solutions which companies can buy into on a software as a service (SaaS) basis, and access securely over the internet, like Dondas BI, Matillion and Sisense.For: Reduced risk of implementation because the solution is “pay as you go”. Typically, it is designed to be easy to use and no hardware or software is required. Web-based, so accessible from anywhere. Usually faster to implement than traditional alternatives. Against: Some Cloud-based Business Intelligence systems are just that, namely tools that happen to be in the Cloud, and which may still require hard work such as data integration. And some customers have security/reliability concerns about the Cloud, although this typically isn’t the case nowadays. ?RECOMMENDATIONEach one of the different types of Business Intelligence tools reviewed above has its own unique benefits. However, we believe that Cloud BI is in a league of its own when it comes to the potential return on investment. These days, it is generally accepted that Business Intelligence can dramatically enhance a company’s performance. What’s less well known is how Cloud BI raises the bar on that enhanced performance. Traditional Business Intelligence delivers, but Cloud BI delivers more by providing the same mix of analytics, reports and dashboards that traditional Business Intelligence provides, but providing them faster, providing them with greater flexibility, and at a lower cost. Which means that in any like-for-like comparison, Cloud BI delivers a greater ROI than traditional Business Intelligence.