10 business intelligence tools for small businesses

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Think business intelligence (BI) is only for the big guys? Not anymore.

In the past, business intelligence software was expensive and effectively limited to big businesses. Integrating it into existing systems (let alone running it) required more resources and IT infrastructure than the typical small to mid-sized professional service firms could muster. (Hiring a team of SQL data analysts doesn’t come cheap.)

But thanks to technological advances like AI, machine learning, and the cloud, BI software is more accessible than ever. Today’s off-the-shelf tools can do more than the complex deployments of a decade ago, and it’s only getting better. 

Check out what business intelligence can do for your professional services firm, along with 10 of the best BI tools you can start implementing right now.

What is a business intelligence tool?

A business intelligence tool is a software or cloud-based solution that turns data into insights. BI tools use task automation to pull data from various sources into a single, unified interface and then analyze and report on that data. 

Decision-makers and analysts can view and interpret both the data and analyses, turning it all into actionable insights — otherwise known as business intelligence.

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Why do small businesses need business intelligence?

Data is king, but only when that data becomes actionable — only when it becomes business intelligence.

Consider these four reasons why SMBs should use business intelligence — not just leave it for the enterprises to enjoy.

Gaining a competitive advantage

First, business intelligence tools help small businesses gain a competitive edge by identifying market trends and optimizing business strategies. 

These are activities every professional services org attempts to do (or should), of course. But doing them based on experience, intuition, or guesswork is one thing. Doing them based on real-time data-driven business intelligence is another.

Improving client satisfaction

Second, business intelligence aids in understanding and meeting client needs more effectively, enhancing client satisfaction and loyalty. 

In professional services, business intelligence alone isn’t enough — the human touch still matters greatly. But there’s the information your clients tell you, and then there’s everything they don’t want (or know) to tell you. Business intelligence can reveal the hidden or unknown factors that help drive better client outcomes.

Making data-driven decisions

Third, business intelligence helps you make informed decisions based on accurate data and analytics. Making decisions in your firm based on real data, not opinions or hunches, helps push your business forward. It also tends to lead to more consistently positive decision-making results.

Better understanding of customer behavior

Getting back to the client side, there’s what your clients say, and then there’s what they do. Sometimes, these don’t match up nearly as well as we’d like.

Business intelligence tools help you see both sides of that dynamic by providing insights into actual customer behavior, preferences, and patterns. And, as you know, these may vary quite a bit from what your client surveys say.

By leveraging BI, professional services can tailor their offerings and marketing strategies more precisely — based on hard data.

10 business intelligence tools ideal for small businesses

While not every business intelligence tool is right for the needs of SMBs, these 10 BI tools offer SMB-friendly features that help you turn big data into meaningful actions.

1. Teamwork.com

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Teamwork.com is a project and resource management tool that any client service firm or small business can use in surprisingly powerful ways for business intelligence. The platform collects and analyzes data from tasks, finances, tickets, and an entire library of integrations.

Small businesses use Teamwork.com for numerous BI-related tasks, including:

  • Generating reports: Create robust reports to track everything from project health to time spent, resource utilization, project and client profitability, and beyond.

  • Creating dashboards: Monitor projects at a glance with real-time customizable visuals, plus automated notifications about tasks and project status.

  • Visualizing data: Choose the view that suits you — whether you prefer tables, Gantt charts, Kanban boards, or lists, you can see all your project progress in one central location.

  • Tracking KPIs: Create custom reports by project or client to track the data that’s relevant to your firm, or set milestones to easily track goal progress along the way.

  • Sharing insights: Invite clients to their Teamwork.com project with custom permissions for easy collaboration with proofs, comments, messages, and docs.

Using the data from Teamwork.com, your team can identify bottlenecks, optimize resources, identify projects with the best profit potential, and forecast future performance.

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Integrate Teamwork.com with the tools you love

Want to dive even deeper into the platform’s BI capabilities? Check out Teamwork.com’s full list of integrations, including Easy Insight, Grow, and Numerics.

Browse integrations

2. Looker Studio

Looker Studio is a fully cloud-based tool for data analytics and visualization. Made by Google, Looker Studio is great for SMBs because most technically competent professionals can use the drag-and-drop interface with little training.

It’s not as powerful as the enterprise-level Looker tool, but it’s far more user-friendly. The beefier version requires some SQL pros on your team. But your current team can likely pick up and use Looker Studio to run ad-hoc queries and start learning from your data.

3. Zoho Analytics

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Another cloud-based solution, Zoho Analytics, is also easy to learn and use, even if you don’t have deep technical skills, thanks partly to great walkthroughs and demos. 

The AI-powered assistant (named Zia) can guide users using contextual insights and automate data preparation, pulling in data from multiple sources. Zia understands natural language well and can generate basic formulas from nontechnical prompts.

Zoho Analytics offers a free Personal plan, making it a great choice for those just getting started. And it integrates well with the rest of Zoho’s suite of business tools, so it’s an obvious choice if you’re already using their other products.

4. Microsoft Power BI

If you’re already invested in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, then Power BI is your go-to first step into the world of small business intelligence tools. It’s also an industry leader, with more than 115 million users.

Power BI perfectly integrates with the rest of the Microsoft Office suite, so you can send data visualizations over to a PowerPoint presentation or Teams channel with just a click. If you’re using Power Automate, good news: Power BI also integrates there. 

Power BI also “feels” like a Microsoft 365 app, with an interface familiar to anyone with experience using Excel, Word, or anything else in the suite.

Power BI is fairly intuitive, but it’s not as beginner-friendly as some of the other tools we’re including here (like Looker Studio). You won’t need a huge team of SQL engineers to benefit from Power BI, but you may need a power user or two. 

One nice feature for new users is the query editor, which acts as a kind of versioning or history tool that lets you roll the data back if something goes wrong.

5. Metabase

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BI software doesn’t usually prioritize looks. It’s data-heavy, utilitarian software that doesn’t have time for silly things like UI and UX — or so it seems.

Metabase is the exception to that rule. The interface is clean, friendly, and colorful. The platform is easy to learn and even advertises itself as “no SQL needed.”

The trade-off for this refreshing simplicity is, well, the simplicity. You can’t do as much with Metabase as you can with more advanced (and harder-to-use) solutions.

If you’re just getting started with business intelligence or you don’t want to go that deep into the discipline, Metabase is a great solution. And the free on-premises version eliminates the cost of entry. Just be aware that a lot of companies eventually grow out of Metabase.

6. Tableau

Tableau is a classic BI tool that receives lots of praise for its collaboration features and data visualization capabilities. That said, it’s definitely in the “some experience required” category, lagging behind other tools in terms of features designed for non-experts. No natural language interfacing here, for example.

However, the prebuilt workbooks for popular data sources (like Salesforce and Marketo) are helpful if you use those tools.

If you’re looking for a highly collaborative cloud-based business intelligence tool that performs better than most at data visualization, Tableau might be the right choice for you. But you’ll need the right level of skills and training on your team.

7. Sisense

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Sisense was one of the earliest BI tools to add consumer-friendly AI features, allowing users to create analytics boosted by AI. That’s a pretty common feature these days, but it’s still notable that Sisense got this right much sooner than the rest.

Sisense is a good middle-of-the-road choice for data analysis. It’s simplified but not overly so, and if you need to go deeper, Sisense can likely meet your needs.

One high point for Sisense is the ability to create analytic apps that you can embed elsewhere, leveraging Sisense even outside its own platform.

8. Klipfolio

Klipfolio is an interactive KPI tracking data analytics tool. With it, you can pull in data sets from multiple sources and feed that data into the metrics KPIs that you’ve established for your organization. Klipfolio makes creating a custom dashboard simple and straightforward, so it’s ideal for SMBs that need to get going with BI quickly. 

Integrations are a highlight here — Klipfolio integrates with a lot of tools that are popular among SMBs, including QuickBooks, Google Analytics, and Salesforce.

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9. Domo

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Domo is a big, powerful BI tool with more bells and whistles than most. That means it may not be the easiest tool to learn and operate. But if you can master it, Domo is incredibly powerful with broad functionality.

Domo boasts more than 440 data connectors and an entire app store full of APIs. So pretty much anywhere your data lives, Domo can access it and turn it into insights.

While Domo isn’t the simplest option out there, it does have a tool called Magic ETL, which allows users to prep their data without SQL knowledge. Custom pricing means Domo may scale with you, too.

10. OracleBI

OracleBI is a part of Oracle Analytics, a significant BI platform and suite of analytics tools for mining data, discovering new insights, and interacting with data collaboratively. 

Oracle states that its products “meet data analytics requirements from small and medium-sized businesses to large global enterprises.” But, in reality, Oracle Business Intelligence and Analytics certainly lends itself more toward larger firms. 

It can play a role in professional services firms, but it likely won’t be the go-to choice for smaller operations.

Empower your business with data-driven insights from Teamwork.com

Business intelligence tools can deliver forecasting and insights that you won’t reach any other way. It’s a smart way to refine business processes and make better decisions.

Teamwork.com can help you move on from analytics by spreadsheet and take charge of your workflows. It’s the ideal choice for businesses that want to optimize and streamline operations more broadly, so their BI efforts deliver stronger results.

Teamwork.com is the perfect complement to your analytics platform — it serves as a client tracker, resource management platform, client billing tool, and much more. It can also feed project data into your BI dashboard, enabling better predictive analytics for project outcomes and timelines. 

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