Growing Small Business | BI, the cloud and why they matter

What are the real cost benefits of moving to the cloud, and what’s so great about the cloud for a growing small business? Is business intelligence really better in the cloud?

Does the cloud really matter when it comes to business intelligence?

Using the cloud to power business intelligence and other critical apps often allows a growing small business to connect multiple data sources and apps in one place.  So, in a sense the cloud enables more intelligence while remaining a cost-effective and simple way to manage and process large amounts of data.  And small business don’t need a professional data analyst and a score of IT professionals to get there.

When asked how they are using the cloud to drive business performance, 78-percent of small businesses said that integrated business intelligence is a valuable part of their strategy, according to an infographic on cloud computing.

Integrated business intelligence helps connect all facets of an organization and allows a small business leader to gain a single, in-depth view across performance indicators.  This enables more strategic planning when growing a small business.


This short film by Microsoft gives some insight into a typical day at a small UK-based company. Watch how they use a single integrated cloud solution to manage and accelerate the business.

If you’re interested in integration you may also want to check out this article on integrated business systems.

For the typical growing small business, expensive business management suites integrated with all the bells and whistles are generally ignored by even for the fastest growing small business.  The truth is, to save on IT overhead most SMBs use only essential software and hardware to support key business functions including reporting, accounting and planning.

For example a dedicated fixed-asset management solution would be expensive and difficult to maintain for a growing small business. On the other hand, an app like Excel makes it easy to set up lists of assets and depreciation schedules to manage fixed assets, weather you’ve got 50 or 1,000 assets.You can learn more about cloud based fixed asset management in this post.

So what’s wrong with using Excel as a growing small business?

Nothing.  Businesses of all sizes have been using Excel or comparable apps for decades and growing small businesses will continue to need the tools inside them for the life of the company.  But let’s look at this from a pain perspective…

A growing small business might be able to make-do with spreadsheets and an off-the-shelf accounting solution to track inventory, payroll and pay the bills, but at some point or another a spreadsheet will break, totals won’t be accurate and headaches will ensue.  Left unnoticed, these kind of accounting errors can cause costly damages to an SMB.

In addition to Excel, a small business might start out with simple point-of-sale apps, or payroll software that gets HR functions done a little quicker.  But for a steadily growing small business, rekeying data from one system to another can also lead to errors and will definitely create bottlenecks in accounting processes and waste a lot of time.

Long story short, without the right systems in place the books can get unruly pretty quick and that’s when many expanding businesses realize that making do with outdated or under-powered systems can cost a growing small business serious money.

The Good News…

There are affordable solutions in the cloud that won’t blow the budget out of the water.

Of course, they aren’t necessarily cheap either but when you consider the cost of hours spent keeping aging systems alive or fixing broken Excel equations, a complete SMB management cloud suite may save a business considerable money and improve critical accounting and planning. Checkout some of the prices on different suites here.

The right software can truly help make for a more profitable business overall.  It’s up to the business owner or executive to decide when to make the move to an integrated cloud suite. If you’re in the processes of looking for new apps it might also be worth your while to get into a free small business accounting software trial to see what a cloud based business solution can do.

What’s so great about the cloud?

By moving from desktop and locally based apps to the cloud a small business owner may be able to break out of the make-do mindset and start using technology that actually drives new business and growth.

With a single view of the business through a cloud based app suite,  a growing small business can gain secure access to the data they need in a number of business tasks and roles, including:

Financial management

Gain greater control over finances and streamline operations to cut costs and support business growth.

Data visualization

One of the most powerful ways for identifying patterns, outliers, or trends is to view it in a chart, graph, or scorecard. Look for cloud CRM and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or accounting solutions with built-in visualization features.

Social and big data analytics

The amount of social data available about prospects, customers, and potential hires is growing all the time. When you start using cloud-based tools you can more easily integrate and analyze social data.

Data storage and IaaS

Infrastructure as a service allows you to store data in the cloud at an affordable price and to easily add more storage capacity when you need it. Your cloud provider handles data security and storage maintenance.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Cloud-based CRM tools help you better service your customers—and win new ones—with a complete view of their history and what problems or opportunities they might be facing today.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Cloud based enterprise resource planning allows a growing small business to take advantage of enterprise-grade accounting and planning tools with multi-entity and multi-currency accounting and in depth reporting.

Cloud insights by the numbers

  • 39% of cloud-using businesses use cloud systems to extend analytics to employees.
  • 48% use cloud to provide business intelligence through a mobility solution
  • 78% of SMBs see value in business intelligence integration
  • 74% see value in business intelligenc statistical models.

Source: Cloud for Insights by Microsoft, Infographic

Before businesses can use data effectively to drive decisions and improve results, it’s important to bring all the data together in one place. Cloud-based solutions may be the best answer.

The scale and economics of the cloud make it possible for any size business to take advantage of big data for financial and customer relationship management, marketing, and predictive analytics.

Data is most useful to business decision makers if it is easy to access, easy to manipulate, and easy to incorporate into reports, spreadsheets, and presentations.

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