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Regardless of their size or budget, growing product companies can now leverage data-driven insights in ways that are comparable to large enterprises. A Forrester Consulting study commissioned by SAP, How to Become an Insights-Driven Business: A Guide for Mid-Sized Companies, shows that nearly half of surveyed small and midsized firms are already using digital technology to drive data collection and analysis to improve their business.

Once just for large enterprises, “The Intelligent Enterprise” now applies to SMEs.

How SMEs Get Intelligent Quickly and Cost-efficiently

Forrester Consulting recommends that SMEs use a decentralized system that allows employees to look up information that's relevant to their work and supplemented with a core set of numbers or data points that everyone can use, such as parameters or KPIs coming from ERP, to give both contextual and actionable insights. (Put another way, they’re embedding analytics within transactional applications and processes.)

For example, running data warehousing in the cloud alongside in-memory computing capabilities is a very affordable digital innovation that allows SMEs to integrate analytics into process semantics and logic, delivering reliable insights from actual business operations in real time.

The Intelligent SME and Industry 4.0: Now It Gets Real

The internet of things (IoT) and integration with the digital sensors and devices in the world can quickly make your systems smarter and more responsive to data from both your own operations and third-parties.

In your operations, IoT-enabled machines have the intelligence to make warehouse picks based on the orders you receive. In manufacturing, IoT data provides front-line managers and technicians with analytics about machine health and status, network and infrastructure issues, and equipment location to enable proactive management at the local level. Over time, your analysis of this data allows you to plan more accurately.

Third-party data in the cloud means your business doesn't have to dig for insights. For example, consumer purchasing trends and patterns are accessible and specific to many goods and services, with the data prepared the way you want it. And with the prevalence of inexpensive analytics tools, you can easily manipulate the data further to arrive at the insights your business needs to make the right decisions about big data. When you think about manually aggregating and analyzing data by demographics, product type, brand, category, buyer type, etc., you quickly see the advantage of automating the collection and analyzation of such data.

Intelligence to Action

SMEs gain an advantage over larger competitors with data-driven intelligence because SMEs can respond faster and in a more targeted way; if a large-enterprise employee sees new trends that justify a change of plan, it could take days, weeks, or months to overcome big-company hurdles and inertia to apply the changes.

SMEs can leverage edge computing, intelligent communications, and ERP workflows to respond faster to data insights by, for example, establishing alerts that go to specific individuals when the data justifies a rapid change of operational plan. How? They often subscribe to edge computing and communications services through a cloud provider. When they do, the data from IoT devices and other information (e.g., third-party sources) are collected and analyzed. If certain thresholds or other indicators are reached, alerts are sent to key individuals’ smartphones, tablets, workstations, etc., enabling management to adjust operations on the fly.

Leveraging ERP as the Digital Core

Despite the significant growth in the use of business intelligence (BI) tools among SMEs, the majority of their digitalization (when coupled with BI) has surrounded IoT data and peripheral applications, not core enterprise applications found within ERP. However, modern ERP systems like SAP Business One are built with the flexibility to integrate BI tools and platforms so that ERP can serve as the core of your enterprise intelligence efforts. For example, it is quite easy these days to embed analytics directly into ERP’s various applications, such as CRM, SCM, Forecasting, MES, Warehouse Management, and Procurement. The wealth of data, interconnected processes, workflow enforcement, and alerting already incorporated into ERP make acting on BI analysis and ERP data simple.


Data-driven insights are the key to operational agility for companies of all sizes. Today, the affordability and ease of use surrounding big data and IoT data aggregation/analysis are leveling the playing field between large enterprise and SMEs. SMEs that integrate big data and IoT data with their analytics and ERP capabilities will quickly improve daily operations and gain a long-term advantage over competitors who fail to act on the benefits of digital transformation.

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