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Maneesh Sharma

"How SMEs Are Democratizing Access to Their Data "

Maneesh Sharma
Head - Business Analytics & Technology
SAP India
Maneesh Sharma is Head – Business Analytics & Technology, SAP India. He is responsible for driving the growth strategy and operations of SAP Business Analytics suite of products comprising of Business Intelligence, Enterprise Performance Management, Data warehousing, In-Memory Computing and Governance, Risk & Compliance solutions in India. He also leads the SAP NetWeaver technology platform group that helps customers accelerate business innovation and efficiency through strategic IT solutions.

With over 14 years of experience, Maneesh has an impressive track record of establishing, nurturing and growing the SAP NetWeaver Technology & Applications Business portfolio. In his previous role at SAP, he was also responsible for managing business relationship with premier strategic customers of SAP.

No matter the size of the enterprise, access to critical business information and integrated reporting is important to market success. Small to medium sized enterprises (SME) should not discount the importance of Business Intelligence (BI). Most SME business owners make decisions based on a best guess or on their perception of business stability, and even if the owner understands the value of a Business Intelligence (BI) system, he/she believes the value of such a system is not worth the investment expense. In truth, the SME does not have to empty its coffers to purchase a large, overwhelming system. Some new Business Intelligence (BI) products offer web based, and even hosted services without the expense of installation and maintenance, making sophisticated business.
SMEs face three key challenges that impede their ability to make good, data-driven decisions. The first challenge is ensuring the integrity of information. An Economist Intelligence Unit study revealed that more than 70% of companies say that accurate and timely data improves their customer relations and sales processes. In fact, the study found that data accuracy was reported as “very important,” garnering nearly twice as much interest as the level of detail within that data.
The second challenge is democratizing the availability of information; broader access to better information drives better decisions. And the third challenge is controlling the cost of ownership by reducing the IT resources required to successfully deploy and maintain BI solutions. Pre-integration with other business management systems, Customer Relationship Management and pre-packaging are great ways to control deployment and ongoing running costs.

Business Intelligence (BI) tools are just as valuable for small businesses as for large. Whilst most SME's cannot afford many of the core BI vendor solutions, there are many vendors who are now offering BI tools specifically designed for small businesses. To overcome these challenges, many BI vendors are providing solutions provide a comprehensive set of offerings specially packaged and priced for SMEs. The solutions provide capabilities that help companies ensure information integrity, transform decision making, and optimize business performance.

Although awareness levels still need to increase, a few SMBs that are currently deploying BI are using it for diverse applications within their organizations that go beyond traditional reporting and data warehousing. Best practices for successful BI implementations have now evolved significantly and most implementers and vendors provide considerable insight into these best practices. Right from information requirements survey, data readiness analysis, information flow analysis to more implementation specific details like data extraction and transform studies etc. SME should opt for BI solution that allows quick implementation using best practices.

BI applications for SME's may be either – In-house BI SME solutions, where the database and client application are implemented at the client premise or SaaS BI on-Demand solutions, which is hosted in a secure data center, with the customer using a standard web browser to access the BI tools via the Internet. BI SaaS solutions are becoming an extremely popular, lower cost option. These are also known as on-Demand BI solutions.

The main BI tools used in SMEs are the same as those used in large corporates: dashboards, scorecards, and business analysis tools. These provide a total BI solution with interactive, graphical capability that is effective for ad hoc business reporting as well as standard periodic reporting.

Implementation should be the simplest part of the process – if the upfront work on intelligence and tool selection has been successfully carried out. Creating or mapping the data store, dashboard design, report building, drill-down definition and software configuration are obvious steps in implementing a BI solution. The key step that is sometimes overlooked or sidestepped is the design and dissemination of a communications strategy.

An element frequently missing is the communication piece, explaining to the users what the analytics mean, how to interpret them, and what actions to take, for example when an indicator is red, yellow or green.
For the SME, communication is critically important, specifically in terms of documentation, because employees frequently wear multiple hats and when someone leaves the company, their replacement needs to know those same things. Those enterprises that focus on the "intelligence" in business intelligence will derive positive and measurable benefits by identifying opportunities and making better decisions, based on trustworthy information.

For the SME competing in an increasingly data-driven market, the ability to access and process information with speed and accuracy is critical. Whether in recessionary times or not, it is increasingly important for the SME to efficiently aggregate information from a wide variety of sources, including non-traditional ones such as emails and networking sites. Ultimately, making effective use of BI will be the hallmark of the well-managed SME, showing that it is an enterprise that can always answer crucial business questions, ensuring timely, accurate, information-based business decisions.