Today I read Julie Hunt
's blog entitled Selling Software to SMB Markets - Who and How to Target
which discusses the fact that many solution providers fall short in how they target their solution offerings because they are applying enterprise viewpoints to small and medium-sized organizations. The implications of this are astronomical for SMBs looking at business intelligence offerings and trying to adapt enterprise targeted applications to their organizations, while being told that solution providers have moved downstream to target their specific needs. Overall, the level of success of BI for SMBs is directly tied to the fact that solutions developed actually reflect the needs of the market.
By creating software offerings that are subsets or smaller versions of enterprise solutions, SMBs are only getting a small percentage of potential benefits. Smaller businesses may not have the same financial or IT resources as their enterprise counterparts, but they are generally more dynamic, collaborative, and quick to act. BI solutions need to reflect this, and so far, only a small number of market solutions do. Requiring heavy IT infrastructures or only being able to capture a specific number of rows or needing technical skills to build analytics. Even many of the self-proclaimed self-service offerings are far from that for many business users tasked with donning their analytical hats consistently and on-the-fly.
The question to ask is how does this lack of focus help or hinder SMBs on the whole? As mentioned, SMBs may have similar business challenges to their enterprise counterparts, but are much more dynamic in their ability to take action. As BI offerings become more mature the hope is that these features will become built within the overall infrastructure. The reality for both small and mid-sized organizations, however, is that solution providers need to understand that although they have great ways to integrate their technology within broader IT infrastructures, integration shouldn't be the main challenge for SMB adoption of BI. SMBs should be able to link and consolidate the information of their choice and interact with that data without weeks or months of development.
However, the reality is that the BI market is not there yet. And, I personally don't think it will ever be, because vendors with robust infrastructures are not willing to put their current offerings on the shelf and develop solutions that are net new. Luckily, there will always be new entrants, and the few strategic vendors that like to take advantage of new technologies. Even though dynamic, quick to deploy, and very easy to use BI is slowly becoming available, SMBs still have a while before solutions really address their business pains and are developed with them specifically in mind. In many ways this can be compared to politicians making decisions that affect other geographic regions without fully understanding the culture or the consequences. Although not as serious within B2B organizations, the fact remains that many smaller companies do not have the resources to develop solutions that best meet their needs and are reliant on what is already available without understanding the complexity of the market around them.
Overall, SMBs require caution when evaluating BI offerings. It is important to make sure that vendor SMB strategy directly ties to what small and mid-sized companies need, versus a stripped away approach to solution functionality.