Virtualization, the cloud, and big data are all buzzwords that been hot topics across nearly every enterprise. But the ultimate goal of these techniques is often business analytics of one form or another. Especially of late, for many businesses this refers not so much to specific data-crunching processes as to the variety of tools that are making analytics a feasible option for even small companies.

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What to Look for in Business Analytics Tools

Applications that make it easier to dig into data and identify patterns or make forecasts play a major part in business decisions. Depending on the software, industry, and the anticipated benefits, this could include mining huge volumes of shared or purchased data.

Analytics

Benefits of Analytics

There is a wide range of motivations why any company from local shops to international corporations begins to leverage business analytics. A fast food chain might employ data analysis to identify the most promising location for a new restaurant. A large retailer might use customer shopping patterns to devise the best floorplan for boosting sales of a certain product type. The HR team at a software company might seek to refine its methods for locating talented developers through social media.

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In fact, data analytics can be applied to the improvement of virtually any business operation where activities can be measured and recorded. Companies are beginning to understand the value of analytics, and the big tech companies have nearly all produced their own analytic tools. In some cases, there are both cloud and desktop versions, or hybrids of the two. This assortment of competitive software products is creating an era where increasingly robust, sophisticated, user-friendly tools are available at falling prices.

Analytics

Your Business Model

Before you even start looking for a business analytics tool, you should stop and think about what you want to achieve. Consider some scenarios from past experience or future goals where you feel confident that data analytics will provide some real value. Are you concerned primarily with internet marketing? Sales projections? Improving efficiency? While you want a tool that brings you closer to any of these objectives, don’t forget that you aren’t limited to just one application. Often budgets and priorities dictate which projects you want to tackle first.

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If you’re like most other companies, you’re trying to build up your internet presence. The right analytics tools can help you make the most of your web sites and marketing campaigns. You can monitor which links were clicked on, which pages were most visited, which pages visitors quickly left, the device used, and much more. Analytics on your social networks can tell you the demographics of your most loyal and least loyal followers. Since the world is gravitating to digital channels, web analytics tools are essential to improving your social reach and branding.

Analytics

Backwards Compatible

Depending on what kind of software you’re already using, you might want to find analytics tools that are compatible with your server OS, CRM, ERP, or other software that you’ve come to rely on. Otherwise, you face a greater challenge of not only integrating business intelligence into the mix, but upgrading, reconfiguring, or replacing other software systems. This could represent a significant disruption to normal business processes.

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What to Look for in Business Analytics Tools

Scalable

In nearly all cases, business growth is something you’re working hard to create. Any business analytics software you adopt should be scalable to future business needs. Limitations to memory capacity will soon become obsolete, as will dependence on fixed file types or a lack of customization. It’s important to select an application that’s flexible enough to accommodate constant changes in business needs and technology.

Training

Analytics

Ease of use is also important, otherwise you’ll have to implement employee training programs before you can even think about getting the maximum use out of your business analytics software. You may find tech vendors who offer both solutions and training as a package deal. There may also be different levels of skills necessary across the enterprise, such as dashboards for management, quick slice-and-dice tools for accounting, and specific development from your IT. All of the possible training needs, including time and expense, should be factored in.

Business analytics can help you improve productivity, lower costs, boost sales, and identify customer trends. It gives you the ability to track progress across multiple teams, departments, and locations. However, not all business analytics software is the same. Use these factors to narrow down your choices to what will work for you.