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Not that long ago, business intelligence systems were out of reach for most small-to-medium-sized companies. For most SMEs analyzing data was not as critical as simply processing it through business applications. From a proprietor’s perspective, any data analysis that Excel couldn’t handle probably was not worth the time.

That’s all changed. Today, SMEs are awash in data from multiple sources. Beyond their own internal applications, they collect data on visitor activity to their websites. They use data-driven services from online critical business services such as Groupon, Google’s AdWords, and Amazon.com’s Associates programs. SMEs are among the fastest growing segment in data-rich online advertising, according to research from iDate.

Instead of drowning in the data they get from these services, many SMEs are swimming with its tide in order to reach new business opportunities. They run free basic analytics apps from Google and others to find trends among their customers and learn how to apply it to their business. Or, they even /wp-content/uploads/2012/07/shutterstock_83173603_169931.jpgget richer analytics from fee-based online business intelligence services in the cloud. Some even run commercial packages in their own modest data centers. As a result, SMEs are getting more insights into their business potential from big data.

There are countless ways digging into their data can improve SME operations and sales. They can get a jump on when to adjust staffing levels based on shifts in sales data. They improve marketing programs by parsing the data in more refined ways than Excel. Inc. magazine reports on how analytics can help SMEs refine their websites to drive more sales.

What I find exciting is that as more SMEs build successful businesses in part through thoughtful data analysis, analytics will become far more prevalent, perhaps someday becoming as ubiquitous as Excel. Naturally, that’s a good thing for my company. But it’s also a true benefit to local and regional economies by helping make local businesses more efficient and better prepared for growth. And analytics might help propel more than a few SMEs to become major enterprises with a global impact.

Not all SMEs will use analytics to achieve business goals. But with analytics you can reach new levels and set new goals to achieve faster and more effectively.

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