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The 4 Biggest Business-Intelligence Challenges Facing Entrepreneurs BI is all about turning data into insightful and actionable information.

By Pratik Dholakiya Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ben A. Pruchnie | Getty Images

Business intelligence is no longer a luxury that only big organizations can afford. The need for BI-driven insights might be more pronounced in companies that deal with large amounts of information, nowadays, even SMEs and entrepreneurs need to make data-driven decisions.

BI is all about turning data into insightful and actionable information. This includes information that can be used to improve sales, eliminate wasteful processes, and identify opportunities for growing your company. In other words, it is essential for making business decisions that are based on solid facts.

However, a lot of small enterprises are hesitant to implement BI, due to worries about cost and effort. Thanks to some major tech advances in recent years, these assumptions are now false. Nowadays, powerful BI is accessible to everyone. Analysis platform costs have come down, data is increasingly stored in the cloud, implementations are faster, computers can now teach themselves and interfaces are so easy to navigate that the non-analysts among us can find their own correlations and trends.

Here are four challenges associated with BI operations – and some advice for contending with them.

1. Business intelligence is expensive.

The price of deploying BI is a primary concern among SMEs. In addition to the cost of acquiring the right software, looking for qualified individuals such as data science experts, IT infrastructure professionals and consulting analysts may sound terrifying to a cash-strapped company.

Related: 3 Enterprise Business Intelligence Trends That Can Benefit Your Business

This is no longer the case with the rise of self-service BI (SSBI) platforms. Today, some platforms make SSBI accessible to small businesses without requiring anyone to shell out major cash for deployment. For a small business, you should also opt for BI vendors that offer scalable solutions with minimal TCO.

To save time in locating a BI plan that fits your business, there are also products such as Sisense that provide flexible BI solutions to businesses of all sizes. Sisense can manage a combination of structured and unstructured sets of data, which you can parse and analyze without the need for complex coding. Which brings us to the next point.

2. Business intelligence requires extensive training.

Another factor that has made SMEs turn away from BI is the perceived need for extensive training. In the past, an individual's competence with BI was measured through certifications and hands-on experience with data analysis. This, in turn, has called for additional training in data management applications.

SSBI, on the other hand, delivers insightful and actionable information without needing data scientists to collect, prepare and analyze complex data and process it into reports that management can understand. In fact, analysis has become so efficient that even large providers are pushing SSBI, such as Microsoft with its Power BI platform.

Related: Look for These 5 Business Intelligence Tool Attributes to Effectively Drill Into Big Data

With SSBI services, you can streamline all the critical processes within a single platform – from compiling data to presenting visual reports. A great SSBI platform usually has an organized and intuitive interface that doesn't require the user to become experts with specialized query languages like SQL.

Perhaps the only training you need is getting familiar with the visual interface after you choose the right BI platform. This should not be a problem, since better agile BI platforms offer an extremely usable, point-and-click interface. You can also refer to online guides and video tutorials available on YouTube or your BI platform's website resources.

3. Business intelligence is time consuming.

This may be true for the "traditional" implementation of business intelligence. In the stone ages of 2010, implementing a BI solution required the deployment of dedicated hardware and customization of specialized software. Add to that the time invested in personnel training, and these preparations used to take weeks -- if not months -- to complete.

However, consider this. What can be done by an entire IT department can now be done in a single office PC in less time. By eliminating the need to install additional software and hardware, you can have a BI tool up and running within minutes. This is what you can do with an SSBI platform.

Apart from rapid deployment, you can also save time by eliminating the need for IT experts to compile data and generate reports. Bear in mind that one of the biggest challenges of traditional BI is the overwhelming growth of data and their sources.

Related: What Self-Service Business Intelligence Is and How to Use It

This is where a simplified platform becomes useful. With a seamless and intuitive interface, you can quickly pull data from virtually unlimited sources and generate visual reports with a few clicks. There are even open-source solutions like those developed on top of Apache Hadoop that can handle this for you.

4. BI requires a huge infrastructure investment.

In the past, expensive enterprise BI solutions required huge hardware resources. In addition to bloating the price of deployment, these data warehouses and processors also increased the time needed for setting up.

However, with modern solutions, you can start implementing BI either with the hardware you already have or by running on virtualized infrastructure in the cloud.

The fact is that most SSBI platforms can efficiently employ the hardware resources of an office PC for all data processes. For example, Sisense's in-chip technology leverages the CPU memory to speed up the processing of data by up to 100 times.

You no longer need to purchase a SQL server or any additional hardware to start using BI to empower your decision-making.

Remember that modern BI is all about simplicity and efficiency. With the arrival of self-service platforms, even SMEs and startups now have access to actionable and fast business intelligence, despite lacking the buying power of larger corporations.

SSBI likewise helps overcome the biggest challenges of enterprise BI -- from data preparation all the way to visualization.

Pratik Dholakiya

Founder of Growfusely

Pratik Dholakiya is the founder of Growfusely, a content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO.

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