Data & Analytics

Business Intelligence for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) – 5 Myths Dispelled

  • 05 Apr 2022

What does more certainty mean to you? Peace of mind? A weight off your shoulders? A better night’s sleep?

What about more time? Head to the golf course, the great outdoors, more holidays?


In 2022, SMEs are facing a fiercely competitive, unpredictable business climate. It has never been more important to have timely access to information to monitor business performance and make informed decisions.

Typically, Small and Medium Enterprises are owner managed entrepreneurial companies. Most entrepreneurs make their business decisions based on their past experiences and gut feelings. Some who are more tech savvy use spreadsheets to store their data, analyse company performance and help them in the decision-making process.

This approach can be adequate when the organisation is small. However, as smaller companies grow, face stiff competition, or a evolving reality due to rapid digitisation, changing consumer behaviour & disrupted supply chains; it becomes imperative that decisions are based on more than intuition.

Over time, SMEs accumulate a significant amount of data, but often this information is not available to the decision makers at the right time and in the right format. It is often siloed in different systems or spreadsheets, in different formats with inconsistent definitions.

What SMEs need is Business Intelligence (BI), but what is BI? It can be defined as the ability to analyse meaningful information from the data available to the organisation, for the purposes of supporting decision-making, improving business performance.

As we move into an increasingly uncertain world, the margin for error is narrowing. Running a business blind is a huge operational and financial risk.

The data landscape has changed beyond recognition over the last 5 years. SMEs can now realise the benefits of BI in their business. Although there is an appreciation that there is a need to ‘do something’ to get better information into the decision-making process, there are a number of myths that hold business leaders back from making good investment decisions when it comes to BI.



Myth 1: Business Intelligence is about technology

BI is not a technology buying exercise, it’s a strategic change in how your business operates. The core of a BI solution is the underlying data model, which is developed based on the organisation’s business requirements. The data model maps out how data will be captured, integrated, managed & moved throughout organisation to get the information required.

SME owners should focus on ensuring that the data model meets the business requirements rather than on technology.


Myth 2: Dashboards means Business Intelligence

Culture eats software for breakfast. Unfortunately, most BI vendors try to impress the business users with the data visualisation aspects and give the perception that dashboards mean Business Intelligence. But in reality, the concept of business intelligence spans people, processes, and tools required to organise and store data, enable access and present meaningful information to the business users promptly.

A pretty graphical dashboard is the tangible output, but the strategy, people & process that makes the dashboards possible is the true alchemy of BI.


Myth 3: BI Solutions means a multi-year programme of work

In years gone by, building a data warehouse / BI solution was a monolithic multi-year programme of work with a large siloed team of specialists. This is no longer the case. Cloud based storage solutions can be spun up in a number of days, dashboards can be in users hands within a couple of months if not weeks; demonstrating tangible value to stakeholders. Agile delivery of BI solutions is now standard, enabling users to see value quickly, learn what’s useful & what’s not; iterations can be made quickly.

Whilst having a long term vision for how data will drive business performance is critical, modern BI solutions can deliver value within 2-3months; not 2-3 years.


Myth 4: Business Intelligence Solutions are expensive

Historically, BI vendors offered on-premise solutions with flexible deployment options but, this required significant technology, human capital, and financial investment. In the past, due to the huge financial investments required, it was practically impossible for SMEs to acquire a BI solution.

But the advent of cloud based BI technology has completely eliminated the investment and resources required to deploy a BI solution. BI solutions are now being deployed in a private or public cloud, and some are offered on a subscription (rental) basis, thus allowing SMEs to shift from the capital expenditure (CAPEX) to operational expenditure (OPEX) model.

SMEs can now harness the power of BI technology without the need for substantial investment in resources (financial or intellectual).


Myth 5: Choosing the right business intelligence solution is difficult

SME business leaders give too much energy to deliberating which technology is the right solution. For SMEs, the reality is that choosing the tools is the easiest part of the equation. The answer is always: keep it simple. The bigger tasks are identifying the key strategic questions you want information to answer, building the business data model, making the process & people changes to produce reliable information on a consistent basis. Then lastly, which tools can do the job. In that order.



Business intelligence is a set of technologies and processes that enable people at all levels of an organisation to derive actionable insights into their decision making process. SMEs can now utilise it to monitor business performance, understand operational efficiencies and explore untapped opportunities.

However, it is important for SMEs owners to understand that BI is totally ineffective if they can’t interpret the information and act on it. Technology is a small part of the puzzle. More important are the culture and creativity within an organisation to deliver stakeholder value. For this reason, SMEs should focus more on people & process changes required to become a data inspired business, rather than which technology to buy.

The companies who understand & apply this principle will be the fastest growing SMEs in the years to come … and maybe get a better night’s sleep into the bargain.




  • Data & Analytics