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Anyone Can Be Intelligent

Large companies use business intelligence (BI) and competitive intelligence (CI) tools to collect, maintain, and analyze knowledge about their industry and operations. Even though business intelligence is sometime used as a synonym for competitive intelligence, there is a difference between the two. While business intelligence focuses on gathering internal knowledge from the organization’s own data, competitive intelligence’s aim is to gather knowledge about specific competitors and the competitive environment. However, the two do have one mutual goal, and that is supporting the decision-making process of a business.

In the past, BI and CI were used only by large corporations. Small businesses did not have the funding to buy the hardware, software, and licensing those solutions required. They also, at most, did not have the in-house IT capabilities needed to get the most out of those complex systems. Today, thanks to cloud technology, BI Software as a Service solutions are available for smaller players as well. I recently came across three free BI and CI tools that I wanted to share with you.

Social CI from Closely: Social media is a great source for CI. Small-business owners who want to learn about how and what their competitors are doing can track their activity there. However, in order for it to be effective, they have to track competitors on multiple platforms regularly, and this can be very time consuming. Luckily for small-business owners, Closely, a technology company founded by an ex-MapQuest executive, developed an mobile application called Perch that allows small-business owners to easily track competitors on one unified platform. With Perch, SMB owners get real-time updates on deals, discounts, and information their competitors post online, and Perch users can also track user-generated review sites such as Yelp.

Size Up with CI: Size Up is a competitive intelligence tool that can help local businesses compare themselves to their local and national competitors on measures such as employee costs, operating margins, rent, advertising, and HR costs. Size Up also helps entrepreneurs decide where they should open their business. One of the best features of this service is that it helps businesses decide where and how to spend their advertising dollars.

Open Source BI through Jaspersoft: Jaspersoft is the most-downloaded open-source BI platform in the world. The service includes products such as production of reporting, operational reporting, dashboard-driven end-user inquiry and reporting, data analysis, and data integration for use with other stand-alone or embedded business-intelligence applications. The platform also has a mobile version. Jaspersoft offers both a free Community Edition and a Professional Edition that includes support and services.

Business and competitive intelligence is often perceived as this amorphous concept no one fully understands. I hope this post gave you some basic information on what it is and how you can incorporate it into your business, for free.

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