The advent of desktop database management and development software has provided business with a wide variety of options for storing, maintaining and evaluating the information that helps them drive their business. Even if all other applications besides accounting and tax preparation were excluded, specialized database software would still represent a multi-billion dollar advantage for more than 21 million small businesses.

Given the power and the potential impact of such a capable tool, it is vitally important that small business owners take the time to understand the why’s and how’s of both database development and data analysis applications, and how they can be best integrated into workflow, bookkeeping and sales.

Analytics vs. Reporting

Data analytics software represents the next step in understanding large data sets. The term “big data” is often used to describe the scope of this software, which can sometimes include specialized features that are more useful with very large numbers of records.

Where reporting software generally gives the user an understanding of the “what” questions, analytics software is designed to also provide insights to the “why” questions. When large data sets are at issue, it can be very difficult to draw intuitive conclusions. The larger the records total, the more likely it is a large data set will contain seemingly contradictory information. A report will simply highlight these confusing details. Analytics software will help the user draw a conclusion.

Evaluating Enterprise Software

Making a decision as to which data software is right for your company is just as complex a decision as interpreting the analytics themselves. However, there are some basic principles to keep in mind while you make your decision.

First and foremost, you should consider your future needs. Does your chosen application have an upgrade path? If so, how does that compare with your projections for future needs? Second, you should be doubly and triply aware of the cost structure involved, and be particularly interested in the support costs. You have every reason to believe you will need the manufacturer’s help if you plan to expand a business and a trained employee base.

Third and likely most important, take some time to evaluate your hardware situation. As every experienced CIO knows, all software problems are inherently hardware problems. This is why you should always start evaluating your software needs by making absolutely sure you have the right hardware first.

Narrow Your Focus

It can be beneficial for you to take the time to look at each enterprise application platform and try to determine its specialty. Some developers and software companies have spent enormous sums and long periods of time adjusting their software to be very good at some things and just average at others, including features like extra documentation or a or a spark programming guide. This improvement most often happens as a result of long-term collaborations with their clients.

Talking to some of those clients might be the best place to start. If your industry has a trade publication, professional association or some other kind of gathering, attending with relevant questions at the ready could be a great way to find out who is doing what and why. At the very least, this process will give you tremendous head start when it comes time to talk to the software company’s representatives.

Long-term decisions are often costly to unravel if you make the wrong move. It is for this reason that business executives need the most relevant data as early as possible in the decision-making progress, and also need time to iterate, compare and continue collecting opinions and options from others in their field. The good news is many of the options for big data analysis are under continuous development, and will likely offer even more valuable capabilities in the future.

 

by: Sia Hasan