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TDWI Checklist Report | Moving Beyond Spreadsheets: Six Steps for Enabling Small and Midsize Businesses to Gain Data Insights

August 1, 2014

Technology trends are moving in a favorable direction for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) seeking to improve their prowess in business intelligence (BI) and analytics. Tools are becoming easier to use for nontechnical users—that is, business users who may know their data but have neither the training nor the skills to write queries or provision their data. SMBs are generally defined as organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees and less than $1 billion in revenue. Most SMBs do not have the large and experienced IT functions found in most large organizations to manage data, build data warehouses, and develop BI and analytics applications. Thus, the evolution of BI and analytics tools and platforms toward greater ease of use and deployment has the potential to level the playing field for SMBs as they compete with larger organizations.

Currently, the most prevalent tools in use within SMBs for accessing, analyzing, reporting, and presenting data are spreadsheet applications and reporting tools embedded in point solutions for finance, sales, or other operations and business management. However, with analytics becoming a competitive differentiator for SMBs, leadership in these organizations must determine whether users’ current tools and platforms for data access, analysis, presentation, and management are adequate for meeting data-driven decision-making needs. Without the ability to interact with data effectively, SMB users are at a disadvantage, especially as business growth, change, and regulatory duties increase the size of (often scattered) data resources and the complexity of analytical demands.

Although some SMBs came into being with BI and analytics as part of their DNA, many firms are only now realizing that they need to reach higher levels of maturity in how they access, analyze, and share data. They are making plans to upgrade their capabilities. It can’t be done all at once; the best approach is to tackle goals gradually, keeping the deployment of new technologies and methods aligned with business objectives. To ensure alignment, enterprises need good communication and collaboration among business and IT leadership.

This TDWI Checklist Report details six areas where SMBs should focus as they move beyond spreadsheets to improve capabilities for gaining data insights.

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