Are you making the best informed business decisions?

Increasing complexities in making effective and timely business decisions in an unpredictable world and competitive markets have driven more and more SMEs to adopt business intelligence (BI) technologies.

They do this because their gut feelings have been right in the past and although the business has tons of data they don’t have access to useful, actionable insights(1). Reliance on spreadsheets is still widespread, even though it’s been known for years that their accuracy isn’t guaranteed.(2)

Increasing complexities in making effective and timely business decisions in an unpredictable world and competitive markets have driven more and more SMEs to adopt business intelligence (BI) technologies.

In 2020, increasing the use of data and insights was one of the top three technology priorities for SMEs, and data management was one of their biggest concerns.(3)

Key questions to ask of the business:

Is there access to timely, accurate, informative KPIs and powerful data visualisations to support business decisions?
To what extent is the business leveraging the value of data and analytics to drive improvements and generate insights?
Is data and reporting across all business processes and systems consolidated into one BI tool, or spread across disparate systems and spreadsheets?
How labour intensive are your processes for preparing management information and analysing data?

What does this often look like in average SMEs?

At the lowest levels of IT maturity you’ll see a labour intensive process of manual data extraction and Excel-based analysis. SME businesses can struggle to extract, merge and process multiple data sets, where too much effort is spent on preparing reports and not enough on analysing them for opportunities and exceptions. You’ll see information access and formats aren’t standardised, data is unreliable, and data sets are missing for parts of the business that are using paper forms. The business doesn’t have visibility of the KPIs that are fundamental to understanding business performance. The majority of mistakes in spreadsheets are from human error – copying and pasting incorrect data from multiple sheets or overtyping mistakes in formulas.

What does good look like?

At higher levels of IT maturity, SMEs recognise the benefits to be gained from effective data analysis and BI reporting. They understand that the value of data analytics increases exponentially when combining multiple datasets from different systems and across multiple business processes and departments, stored in a modern data warehouse. Information is well managed in a standardised approach and clearly tied to strategic goals. SMEs adopt BI tools which provide a visual presentation of KPIs, drawing attention to the exceptions that require management intervention and allowing drill down to analyse root causes.

The author William Gibson famously said the future is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed. This is true of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience. These tools look for patterns in data and help business make better decisions in the future based on example scenarios that they provide - 'predictive analytics'. The most advanced businesses are already using AI to automate data management processes and to forecast demand, detect fraud and anomalies, and derive market insights.

Many SME businesses may feel that AI and machine learning are beyond them, or that data warehouses are only for the bigger players. Gone are the days when data warehousing projects were lumbering dinosaur-style projects that took forever, drained budgets, and produced business intelligence (BI) just in time to tell you what to do 10 years ago. Modern data warehouse solutions are also simplifying and automating the application of AI and machine learning, reducing the technical barriers to deployment, making these capabilities increasingly available to the masses.


"With almost 200 operatives spread across 50 nationwide sites on any given day we were certainly generating plenty of data. Data only becomes power when it can be easily and instantly presented into a format that is consistent and relevant"

David Woffendin , Checkmate Fire
Chief Operating Officer

Checkmate Fire worked with Fluid to build operational management dashboards, using PowerBI in the Microsoft Power Platform. Now senior managers can see real time reports on business performance throughout the company, the business units, and for each individual contract manager. This means no more labour intensive production of system trackers and reporting, and enables Checkmate to increase operational efficiencies across the board.

Read the Case Study


(1) The State of Decision Making 2020 whitepaper
(2) Forbes Report: 88 per cent of spreadsheets have errors
(3)State of Technology at UK SMEs, 2020 research report

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