Analytics 101: How to Unlock Future Growth for Small and Midsize Businesses

Data is critical to form strategies for employing people, offering products and services, and providing real customer experiences.  When companies experience rapid growth, it’s possible for connections between teams and processes to become siloed with the result that company-wide insights suffer.

If your company is having trouble managing all the data coming to you, you aren’t alone.  According to Forrester Research, midsize companies face a number of data and analytics challenges:

  • 52% inconsistent level of quality
  • 41% data materializes too fast for them to manage
  • 37% inability to build a complete view of the customer across channels

Luckily, acquiring the tools needed to obtain and analyze data is more accessible for small and midsize companies than ever before. The key is choosing the right tool for the business. Doing so can set the foundation for long-term, steady growth with insight-driven reasoning – not just hunches.

What is analytics software?

The basic function of all analytics software is retrieving, analyzing, consolidating, and sharing all the data that the company generates. The technology can process information that is acquired through the entire business or just a specific team, function, or transaction type.

Let’s unpack that simple definition a little more. As data volumes continue to swell and market dynamics evolve, businesses are beginning to expect more from their analytics software. Instead of capturing data and generating reports, the technology that discovers patterns in customer behavior, competitor movements, and less-obvious trends when change, large or small, happens.

Some analytics software is addressing this emerging requirement by applying embedded machine learning, for example. This advancement allows analytics to “read” the information the business generates, recommend viable actions, and test the desirability of their outcomes. Doing so gives decision-makers the instant, accurate insight they need to move the company forward profitably, efficiently, and compliantly.

When should a small or midsize business adopt analytics software?

Internal changes are inevitable as a small or midsize company expands. Profit margins get tighter, competition becomes more threatening, processes evolve, and employee numbers grow across more regions. There is a point when the business must act faster than the traditional routine of pulling reports, updating spreadsheets, and dedicating hours to analyze it all.

Before a small or midsize business decides to invest in our analytics software, they often discuss any combination, if not all, of the following challenges:

  • Scattered data across teams: Data is duplicated and scattered across multiple sources, making it difficult to see a complete view of the business.
  • Reliance on historical data: Small and midsize companies often required IT to generate reports. Unfortunately, this process results in outdated insights, inhibiting the diverse critical thinking, and fast-acting decision-making needed to expand the business.
  • Broken connections between the business and IT: The growing frustration of waiting for IT to deliver analytics reports empowers some decision-makers to create their own content, which is most likely inaccurate and biased.

What benefits could small and midsize businesses expect from analytics?

The main benefit of using analytics software is making better-informed decisions with the same level of precision, expertise, and confidence as a large enterprise. More importantly, this can be achieved without hiring a data scientist with a PhD or purchasing expensive analytics packages that the business needs to grow into to realize the full potential of the investment.

Analytics software designed with embedded machine learning can automate the decision-making process. This technology can pull data from other business systems – such as an e-commerce Web site, call center portal, social media channel, accounting solution, customer relationship management application, and supply chain planning tool. Based on this information, additional insight can be derived to examine financial performance, customer experience, and a range of industry and market dynamics to discover new competitive advantages.

In addition to retrieving significantly insightful information, small and midsize companies benefit from the opportunity to improve communication and collaboration within teams, across organizations, and throughout every aspect of the business. Colleagues can access insights and work together to identify overarching patterns and trends, find solutions to mitigate risk, and determine the best way to take on new opportunities.

Another tool that small and midsize companies often find useful is a dashboard that presents reports and insights visually. Decision-makers can access a quick, automated view into critical business drivers such as wasteful spending, budget allocation, and the development and promotion of high-performing talent.

The access and affordability of analytics software are further enhanced with the cloud. With this deployment option, businesses never have to worry about purchasing tools that will go unused. Instead, they pay for what is needed now and acquire new tools and capabilities only on their timeline.

What should small and midsize businesses consider when selecting analytics software?

When choosing analytics software, it is critical to remember the ultimate goal: push the company forward with insights that drive proper action, sustainable growth, and the opportunity to expand. This focus may require the adoption of new capabilities and integration with existing business systems.

For all these reasons, small and midsize businesses should follow these best practices recommended by Forrester Research:

  • Embrace modern technology to address future needs: Invest in technology and build an IT architecture that can scale to the demands of growing data volume and user numbers and exchanging data across a growing landscape of layers of technology and third-party solutions. It is also important to choose analytics that are intuitive enough to help ensure every employee can us it without requiring in-depth training.
  • Unify data around a single, but layered, data platform: Increase operational efficiency and visibility by building actionable, unified, 360-degree views of customers, products, and operations.
  • Encourage more sophisticated self-service predictive analytics: Empower all employees to use augmented analytics to yield better insights. Small and midsize companies can ramp up their workforce’s analytics skills by automating the decision-making process as much as possible with machine learning and artificial intelligence. This approach pushes insights to users in real time, rather than pulling data through a traditional Q&A-based experience.

What benefits does analytics software from SAP bring to small and midsize companies?

Analytics software is rapidly evolving – and cloud technologies are only beginning to reshape it. Modern cloud analytics solutions require very little maintenance, while innovations are made available immediately to all users with a regular new release schedule. Thanks to this delivery mechanism, there’s always a new advancement that is expediting and eliminating traditional approaches to using data, accessing insights, and turning decisions into action.

For this reason, it is paramount that small and midsize businesses choose a technology provider that is a proven innovator. At SAP, we are always proactively looking for opportunities to help our customers succeed. We co-innovate with our customers and global partner ecosystem to deliver the tools that are helping hundreds of thousands of small and midsize companies become formidable competitors.

Discover what specific digital technologies mean to small and midsize companies. Bookmark the Getting Started series page to learn the basics of analytics, HR and people engagement solutions, digital platforms, procurement and expense management tools, and ERP and CRM applications.

And if you are ready to explore  SAP Analytics Cloud, we invite you to register for a free 30 day trial.  

Mario Farag is senior director of Analytics Marketing at SAP