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Interview with InetSoft – Business Intelligence Software

The market research industry is booming as exampled by one of the top market research firms, Nielsen Company, taking in $5.1 billion in revenue last year. Much of the information gathered and turned into reports by market research firms is purchased by other industry-specific firms to help gain an advantage over the competition.

A large amount of data is generated by small businesses when they process transactions with customers, get visitors to their websites, and can even be found by a simple web search. Thanks to computer integration in the workplace, small businesses now have to opportunity to conduct their own market research by utilizing software that is customizable to each business’ specific needs.

One such firm that offers these insights is InetSoft whose business intelligence (BI) tools and Dashboard Software provide small businesses with performance metrics in an easy-to-understand format. Mark Flaherty, the Chief Marketing Officer at InetSoft, was kind enough to answer a few questions for about their software…

CreditCardProcessing: What are the main reasons for a small business to utilize business intelligence software?

Mark: To closely monitor performance of almost every business function. Sales, marketing, and finance are the most critical to monitor. They need to know each day how they are performing so they can better forecast the short-term future and spot problems quickly so they can be addressed quickly.

CCP: In your experience, how do most businesses conduct their business intelligence and data gathering before making the switch to more useful methods like those that InetSoft provides?

M: Almost universally, Microsoft Excel is the BI tool businesses of any size use before graduating to a proper BI software application like InetSoft’s. They copy and paste information from different systems they are using or even just manually enter numbers. Excel turns into the “data warehouse” and they create charts and graphs in it to make their own “dashboards.” Of course this is more tedious and error-prone as the manual processes must be repeated each day to update the dashboards. The other common software package used is something like QuickBooks which offers some reports and chart templates.

CCP: What types of businesses are most likely to use dashboard software?

M: Any product or service company that does more than a few dozen transactions each month has enough complexity in their operations that they need to be monitoring them closely by each of the major functions. Usually we find an employee count of 50 or higher is a good indicator for when they are ready to graduate to dashboard software.

CCP: In what ways can data be imported into the dashboard for analysis?

M: The most common and most reliable way is to configure the dashboard software to read data directly from a database. This way, once designed, the dashboard automatically updates with the latest data. The database can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, but is more commonly a relational database such as MS Access or MySQL all the way up to Oracle and data warehouses. Other automated ways include connecting to Web services and XML feeds. Manual methods, simply importing an xls file are also possible for occasional analysis, or if the data comes from an external source like a vendor or supplier.

CCP: How will the growing use of business intelligence software change the way we do business?

M: It further increases productivity, meaning business can get more done with less people, because less time is spent collecting and analyzing numbers. Especially with BI software becoming easier to use, it’s much more self-service, so again less IT support is needed for business people to take advantage of it. BI software is also helping businesses do better in the marketplace because they’re spotting problems or opportunities more quickly and responding more quickly.