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SMB Trends Help the Broader Business Intelligence Market

Originally published February 15, 2011

Business intelligence (BI) for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) is becoming a popular topic as solutions targeted to SMBs are well poised to meet the needs of all organizations. The expansion of types of solutions available for this subset of the BI market also broadens the market in terms of diverse technologies, software and licensing costs, and types of solutions available in general. This provides greater variety for individual business units, helps address business pains, creates more dynamic BI applications, and expands overall use. Consequently, the more SMBs benefit from vendor expansion and new market entrants, the more other companies also benefit from the increase in the variety of available solutions.

This article discusses some of the general market changes affecting SMBs. These include quicker implementation times, pricing models, the increase in niche analytics and solutions, and the increasing availability of data warehousing appliances. These aspects represent some key areas of SMB-related BI offerings that have opened the market to smaller organizations. With the continual expansion, organizations with less revenue can take advantage of business intelligence beyond the traditional use of spreadsheets. In addition, the added diversity enables larger organizations to expand their current BI implementations and take advantage of more intuitive and specialized solution offerings.

Mid-Market Solutions that Help All Organizations

Business intelligence expansion to the mid-market is still new within the BI market as a whole. This means that although newer solutions are more dynamic, the market is still young in terms of matching technology to business challenges. In many cases, adoption within SMBs involves niche applications; whereas organizations with mature infrastructures can use these solutions to add on to a mature environment and enhance current features to expand overall use. These different uses benefit solution providers as they search for opportunities to expand their market reach within all companies looking for broader access to information and business insights.

Even with the breadth of solutions available, the ability to implement a full BI solution is still limited to a subset of SMB-targeted solutions, with traditional BI offerings expanding downstream to offer SMBs a smaller version of the larger solution. With the goal being diversity and expansion of use, this means that mid-sized businesses are on the road to broader BI implementations. Overall, whether solution providers focus on one market group versus another, the reality is that business problems expand beyond revenue as businesses within similar industries face common data issues and performance challenges. The increasing flexibility within solution choice is enabling these organizations to look beyond traditional approaches to business intelligence.

Implementation Times

Traditional BI implementations could easily take two years without causing a stir. With a more dynamic marketplace and business users requiring more access to self-service business insights, solutions for SMBs are optimum for a changing market landscape. The increase in diversity leads to a race to provide more value to companies, and what that value translates into is lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO) and quicker implementation times.

By providing solutions that can be implemented faster, organizations benefit from business intelligence more quickly. This, in turn, leads to better insights and data management, providing that a swift implementation is coupled with strong business rules and the goal of addressing specific business issues. Ideally, the quicker the implementation times, the better received business intelligence will be within the organization. (Generally, end users perceive business intelligence more positively if they can access it quickly.) In addition, business intelligence is thought to be a large investment of both time and money. Changing this perception involves the broader benefit of changing the way business users look at business intelligence. With solutions that can be deployed in shorter amounts of time, organizations are more likely to look upon BI projects as beneficial to the business, making expansions easier to sell among stakeholders. Obviously, implementation times represent only one aspect of creating a successful BI project. But they help create the perception of success. 


Traditionally, business intelligence was out of the reach of organizations that didn’t have large budgets and IT infrastructures. Now, not only are BI offerings less expensive, but software, hardware and licensing costs make business intelligence accessible to a broader audience. The key pricing advantage is the fact that many solutions offer subscription licensing so that organizations no longer have large up-front expenditures. Even though subscription fees do not necessarily lead to less expensive business intelligence in the long run, these newer models of pricing offer a good starting point, enabling businesses to budget additional fixed expenses rather than having to justify a large initial cost.

Niche Analytics

Many solutions targeted to SMBs are niche offerings. For instance, sales or marketing analytics, social networking analysis, or financial performance management are general starting points for BI applications. Many SMBs and departments within enterprise organizations develop niche analytics as a business intelligence starting point or as a way for business units to take advantage of business intelligence without the constraints and bottlenecks of large-scale BI infrastructures. This makes niche BI applications a great entry point for companies of all sizes. On the other hand, it can also make business intelligence use limited in terms of overall value. Niche analytics also enable companies to take advantage of out-of-the-box analytics without the development and customization requirements. For any businesses wanting quick access to greater data visibility, niche analytics is an important consideration.

Data Warehouse Appliances

The data warehousing market is broadening in relation to appliance offerings and analytic databases. This is in addition to the traditional data warehouse offerings, which are found within many large-scale and mature BI implementations. Historically, Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft represented many larger BI infrastructures. With performance issues, increasing space, lower costs, in-memory analytics and the proliferation of columnar data stores, the market can offer more diversity to organizations. With trends such as big data and operational business intelligence, the demand for more robust data warehouse solutions has led to the availability of diverse solution offerings, with the increasing expansion of the appliance market. This leads many businesses to look beyond traditional databases toward products and solutions that provide more value in speed and per dollar in overall terabytes.

The Expansion of Business Intelligence

The expansion of business intelligence toward the mid-market provides many benefits for both solution providers and businesses at large. On the one hand, vendors can target a broader audience while providing better value by taking advantage of advancements in technology that lead to lower price points, quicker implementation times, and more diverse and robust applications of analytics. On the other hand, the ability for organizations to create BI environments driven by their needs as opposed to marketplace availability makes it easier for companies of any size to evaluate niche solutions as well as horizontal solution choices.

  • Lyndsay WiseLyndsay Wise

    Lyndsay is the President and Founder of WiseAnalytics, an independent analyst firm specializing in business intelligence, master data management and unstructured data. For more than seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay conducts regular research studies, consults, writes articles and speaks about improving the value of business intelligence within organizations. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com.

    Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Lyndsay's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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