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What Makes the Small and Midsize BI Market Tick?

The appetite for certain kinds of BI technologies might be cooling -- at least among small and midsize enterprises that have found something better in open source software and cloud offerings.

The appetite for certain kinds of business intelligence (BI) technologies might be cooling -- at least among small and midsize enterprise (SME) organizations.

This isn't necessarily indicative of a problem, says Dresner Advisory Services, which published its new "Small and Mid-Sized Enterprise Business Intelligence Market Study" in September.

Instead, it correlates to sustained interest in core BI technologies -- especially reporting, dashboards, and advanced data visualizations -- as well as demand for new BI technologies such as BI discovery. It's also a function of a decline in demand for another, once-dominant type of BI.

If anything, small enterprises especially are having a lot of success with BI. They just aren't buying function- or vertical-specific BI apps the way they used to. They've found something better in open source software (OSS) and cloud offerings.

SMEs Are Overwhelmingly Successful with BI

First, the good news. SMEs -- small enterprises, especially -- are much more likely than their large enterprise brethren to report high levels of BI usage. It isn't even close, according to the report. "Not to underestimate this SME BI pervasiveness, [but] small enterprises … are almost three times as likely as large organizations to report the highest ... BI penetration and significantly less likely to report the lowest levels of penetration," writes Howard Dresner, president of Dresner Advisory Services.

Dresner's survey sample consists of a near-equal distribution of small (31 percent), midsize (30 percent), and large (39 percent) organizations. The report defines "small" as a company with between 1 and 100 employees, "medium" as 101 to 1000 employees, and "large" as 1001or more employees.

Almost a third of small enterprises say they've achieved BI penetration of 81 percent or more.

Less than 10 percent of large enterprises said the same. (Midsize enterprises didn't fare much better, with less than 15 percent reporting a rate of BI penetration greater than 81 percent.)

Small enterprises are also more likely to have made good on the Holy Grail of decision support: a single version of the truth. About 35 percent of small business respondents said they had achieved "data as truth." This means a "common view of enterprise data is available with common application of data, filters, rules, and semantics," according to the Dresner report.

Just over 20 percent of large enterprises claim to have achieved "data as truth." (The percentage is about the same for midsize enterprises.) Similarly, "large organizations are more likely than SMEs to report department-level or multiple inconsistent data sources," the report says.

SMEs Crave BI Mainstays -- Plus Open Source and Cloud

Dresner cites "sustained high interest" among SMEs in reporting, dashboard, and advanced visualization technologies. Data discovery, too, generated "high interest" in 2016.

At the same time, SMEs are less interested in hot-button technology categories such as mobile BI, software-as-a-service (SaaS) BI, self-service data prep, and BI search. Even so, mobile and SaaS BI, self-service data prep, and BI search are still in the top half of SME priorities.

On the whole, SMEs are still consuming BI. Their appetite for prepackaged -- i.e., vertical- or function-specific -- BI apps has cooled, however. "Prepackaged applications, which we would expect to appeal to the SME audience, fell most sharply across four years [2013–2016] of study," the report indicates.

Similarly, Dresner discovers a not-so-surprising schism in priorities between large enterprises and SMEs. "There are significant distinctions between small and large organizations elsewhere. Large organizations are much more likely to prioritize data warehousing and they have somewhat more extensive reporting requirements. Large organizations are more interested in data mining, enterprise planning, governance, and big data, among other areas," the report explains.

From 2013 through 2016, SME interest in OSS BI and social media analytics technologies outpaced that of large enterprises.

There's one other nugget of note in the Dresner report. Operations has now surpassed executive management and sales to become the top departmental consumer of BI among SMEs. This is a major change from the prior status quo. Dresner attributes it to "efficiency and establishment of leading institutional BI best practices" in small and midsize enterprise organizations.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a technology writer with 20 years of experience. His writing has focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and analytics for almost 15 years. Swoyer has an abiding interest in tech, but he’s particularly intrigued by the thorny people and process problems technology vendors never, ever want to talk about. You can contact him at evets@alwaysbedisrupting.com.


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