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Why Business Intelligence is the Answer for SMBs Struggling with Spreadsheets



There’s an almost inconceivable amount of information out in the world. If you think about your typical day, nearly everything you do triggers data collection—whether it’s tapping to pay for your morning coffee, checking traffic conditions on your smartphone, searching for the answer to a question online, or rating your favorite show on a streaming service.

All of that data influences how cities, companies, and more plan for the future. Even sports teams are finding unique ways to predict outcomes. For instance, my favorite US football and car racing teams use hundreds of data points to optimize athlete performance and overall fan experience.

But these are enormous operations we’re talking about. And even they can get overwhelmed by the sheer scale of their data sometimes.

If major enterprises can find it challenging to extract value from their data, how are small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) supposed to cope? When you’re an SMB, having more data than ever before can be both a blessing and a challenge.

If you can’t measure data, you can’t manage it

Storing, navigating processing, creating insights, and just seeing what’s possible with massive amounts of data, can be a huge challenge.

Imagine a typical, hectic small business. The two or three finance staff members are constantly fielding deep, challenging data-related requests such as:

  • “I need to better understand my profit margins better.”
  • “I want to understand how well a particular product is selling.”
  • “Which metrics should determine future investment or divestment?”

Meanwhile, sellers and line of business managers want to know how customers are using and reacting to the company’s new digital services and products.

If you’re fortunate enough to have an IT staff member or contractor, they’re getting bombarded with questions about measurement, too.

Producing the data to answer these questions is a huge burden for these teams, who only have standard spreadsheets with a cheat sheet of formulas.

Don’t let spreadsheets hold your business back from analyzing data at scale

As good as spreadsheets are for simple data analysis, they’re not designed to manage the amount of data smaller teams process today. I speak to a lot of SMB leaders, and when I ask them how they manage their data, the answer is all too often, “load-bearing spreadsheets.”

If you’ve ever remodeled a home, you might be familiar with how specific beams provide structural support. In the SMB world, these specific spreadsheets serve as the lumber that carry the weight of the entire business across multiple departments.

Some SMBs continue using spreadsheets for their data, either because it’s always worked for them in the past, they assume anything else would be too complicated, or they’re just not aware of the powerful data tools that are out there. Ultimately, if you’re not a technical expert, you can’t be expected to know what IT services could make your business more efficient.

However, there are alternatives out there which can transform the process of gathering and interpreting data.


Read the full blog post on the AWS Smart Business Blog.

Author Spotlight:

Jonathan LaCour

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