How Does Business Intelligence Benefit the Average Solopreneur?
Business intelligence (BI) is a catch-all term for the process of analyzing data related to your company. It helps you make more informed decisions about things like sales, marketing and sourcing.
Business intelligence and BI tools are sometimes considered best for larger corporations with significant resources to throw around. After all, they have plenty of money to put toward analysts and data collection schemes.
In addition, many older BI tools aren’t that user-friendly and expect you to have some kind of programming or data analysis experience. This may be a reasonable ask of a company with a team of analysts, but it’s so practical for individuals running their own business.
Fortunately, there are business intelligence tools and strategies that can help solopreneurs and the self-employed. In some cases, they can be almost essential to business success.
Here’s how BI can benefit just about any solopreneur — and how you can incorporate it into your business’s decision-making workflow.
Why BI Can Be a Major Competitive Advantage for Business Owners
At its core, business intelligence is all about using available data and analyzing it so you can have the best possible idea of how your company stands. This information can tell you who you’re selling to, the competition you face and which of your investments are paying off. That way, you can make highly informed decisions about the direction of your business.
With BI, you can better understand who your customer base is, what needs they have, and how best to communicate with them. BI can also provide hard data to support or check assumptions you may have made about your business. You may find one vendor is cheaper than another or that a new service can save your company money.
This can be a major advantage, especially if your competitors aren’t using data in the same way.
In practice, this means BI can make a business better at selling goods, developing new products and building strong customer relationships. It can also help you identify areas where you may cut costs or make spending more efficient.
Some of these benefits are even more pronounced for solopreneurs. When you need to think fast, you may not have immediate access to support or advice. In non-solo businesses, decision-makers often have the opportunity to collaborate or turn to team members for input. You may be on your own.
The data can help remove some of the guesswork of business and provide you with an alternative perspective. You could get a more clear-sighted view of the situation.
Business intelligence is also great if you struggle to make sense of data on your own. Most modern BI tools don’t just analyze information and find insights. They also help create visualizations and present info in a format that’s easy to understand.
BI tools typically come with powerful features that help you represent abstract data in a way that’s often much easier to parse. This allows you to make the best possible decisions with the information you have.
Self-Service BI Tools and Technology
As useful as BI can be for any business, some tools are built for enterprises and presume some level of coding or IT knowledge.
This doesn’t mean you need a programming course to get started with BI. Instead, you can look for self-service BI tools, which are much more user-friendly than some older platforms and software.
These tools are designed so any employee at a company, regardless of preexisting skill set, can analyze business data — making them perfect for solopreneurs.
In the past, most BI work was handled by IT employees — meaning these tools expected some level of technical expertise. Now, it’s more common for this equipment to be self-service — or, at least, user-friendly enough that you can use them effectively without significant experience.
Some BI platforms integrate new machine learning and AI tech to make these tools even more powerful and easy to use.
For example, Microsoft’s Power BI recently integrated some new AI tech, called natural language processing (NLP). You can ask the tool a question in plain English — like “which of my customer segments have driven the most profit growth this year?” — and it will try to answer it. It will even pull up relevant data and present it in a visual format if possible.
With this analysis, you could tweak your marketing and focus on appealing to the customer segments that seem to be really responding to your advertising or those who may be getting left behind.
You may not be able to answer every question in this way — but this use of AI shows the direction BI tools are headed in. More programs are using AI unobtrusively and help improve functionality without asking more of the user.
How to Make BI Work for Your Business
If you want to use BI in your work, you can use a few different strategies to get started.
Experts recommend you begin building your BI infrastructure with a goal. What key performance indicators do you want to improve?
Once you’ve identified your goals, you can move on to data collection and organization.
Identify all the information you have access to or could collect — like web analytics, sales and marketing data, and customer feedback. Then, you’ll need to figure out what will be the most relevant to your goal — and how to pull everything together sot a BI tool can analyze it. The info will often need to be in the form of a spreadsheet or a similar format to be most useful.
Some BI tools may also help you uncover and organize data, if this sounds like it could be a challenge for your business.
Next, you can pick a tool and get to work. Searching for self-service BI tools will yield a few lists of popular options that you can use to get started.
Business Intelligence Can Offer a Major Advantage for Solopreneurs
BI platforms can offer some serious value for solopreneurs wanting a competitive advantage.
New BI tools are more user-friendly than ever, and their developers are continuing to add new features that make them simpler and more streamlined for general use.
You will need an idea of what you want to get out of BI for the best possible return on investment. However, BI can be a truly valuable tool for anyone wishing to learn more about their business and make better decisions.
About the Author: Eleanor Hecks
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.