By keeping records of transactions a business can learn and discover new information about the customers, such as their buying patterns or their tastes. Business Intelligence (BI) can be used to develop the competitiveness of the business. This is one of the motivations why there is a drive for SMEs to adopt ICT. BI tools are very expensive but using the same concept of “CIO-on-call services” as discussed by Perry (2007), sharing BI can make it affordable for SMEs.
The finding of this study is that many SMEs do not keep electronic records of their customers or their transactions, which means that they do not have databases. Most of the interviewed SMEs keep only manual records of their clients’ details and transactions. Manual records are difficult to analyse, especially when there are a lot of records. Those few records that are captured on the computer are isolated from the rest of the data in the manual record, so it is difficult to put them together to form a knowledge base. For example, the information which is captured on the point-of-sales (POS) devices is not combined with the rest of the customer information.
Even if an SME has a database, the information is not exploited in any way that could highlight opportunities for marketing or growth. The concepts of data warehousing, data mining, business intelligence, customer hubs or product hubs do not exist in the SME environment.
Recommendations SMEs should keep records of their customers’ details and capture all their transactions. They need to invest in databases, starting off with a simple access database and only moving on to more advanced databases as they mature, as databases like Oracle or Sysbase might be too expensive and too big for them in the beginning.
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