Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have depended on outside contractors for information technology services for several years. That’s why the cloud fits in well with a small business strategy. When the bottom line simply can’t afford large investments in internal staff or infrastructure, SMB owners can leave IT nuts and bolts to the experts.
Two recent developments are accelerating the trend of SMBs’ reliance on third-party providers. First, SMBs have become acutely aware of the potential competitive advantages of data analytics. Second, more cloud providers now offer business intelligence (BI) as part of their overall Software as a Service bundle, making the cloud even more attractive and cost-effective for SMBs. AMI-Partners’ most recent Global Market Forecast Model predicts that cloud-based BI and analytics options adopted by SMBs will continue to grow by 20 percent through 2015.
And for good reason: A study by IBM and MIT Sloan found that organizations driven by analytics and business intelligence outperform their industry peers by 2.2 times. However, not all organizations are at a point where they can take full advantage of analytics. Another study, from Gartner, found that some of the barriers to broader analytics adoption include system costs and complexity, and lack of responsiveness to user needs for faster and more functional data analysis and tools. Participants said IT spends too much of its time “keeping the lights on” and running existing systems. Gartner’s study found that more than 70 percent of IT budgets are spent on operations and maintenance.
What if some of that could be offset by using a cloud-based analytics service? Too often we hear reports from IT managers that line-of-business groups take matters into their own hands, signing on with cloud services to gain the flexibility they need to get work done. Marketing and finance departments need fast access to numbers today and often can’t wait for IT to run through its processes.
Rather than being viewed as an obstacle, the IT staff can better serve its internal customers and regain control of an important part of the enterprise by becoming champions of cloud-based business analytics services.
With cloud services, companies can pay for what they need as opposed to spending money on expensive licensing fees for technology they may never use. And by signing on with a cloud-based service, IT can allow far more people in the company to become data oriented. Once a company decides to move forward with cloud-based analytics, IT staff should be tasked with considering what kind of data access they will offer employees, including which dashboards should be open to view.
While a service provider can manage the back-end technology, it’s up to high-level managers or SMB owners to set policies and access parameters, and determine the best times for a service provider to run updates. Typically, it’s possible to negotiate schedules that will suit the needs of any business.
Many large enterprises mine Big Data, and SMBs can no longer afford to sit on the fence. The good news is that new cloud technologies continue to level the playing field. Now that most cloud providers offer BI and analytics as added services, there’s really nothing stopping SMBs from reaping the benefits.