Woman talking on head set
Business intelligence and CRM software can both greatly benefit businesses and aid in decision making, but they focus on different sets of data. — Getty Images

For some businesses to keep up with competition, it can be beneficial to invest in a computer program that organizes essential data. Depending on the needs of your business, a business intelligence system or CRM system may be beneficial in the advancement of your company.

What is business intelligence?

Business intelligence (BI) is a software application that gathers a business’s data and analytics. This collection of data then allows businesses to further analyze the information presented, run queries, and create reports.

After reviewing and analyzing the data, companies can make appropriate decisions that will benefit the business, such as cutting costs.

Benefits of business intelligence

  • Increase in productivity. With the help of an online BI system, companies can easily put together reports and gather data. This grants businesses time to focus on other productive tasks that would otherwise be used to manually manage and collect data.
  • Greater accountability. Most business intelligence systems assign accountability, which allows companies to track down employees or teams that have accessed particular data.
  • Simplification of business processes. BI systems assist in streamlining business processes, which in turn saves businesses time and money.

Challenges of business intelligence

  • Time-consuming implementation. Although these systems can help to save time in the long run, a data warehousing system can initially take up to a year and a half to fully implement.
  • Multiple BI applications. To ensure your BI system is fully integrated, some businesses may have to invest in multiple BI applications. This is another way in which business intelligence systems can become costly and time-consuming for certain companies.
  • Costly investment. Although there are many upsides to BI systems, they can be pricey for businesses to implement and even more expensive to build from scratch if you can’t find a solution that works for your needs.

[Read more: How Data Is Helping Brands Recover Millions Lost to Product Returns]

What is a CRM?

CRM, or customer relationship management systems, are tools that can gather and store information about customers, such as phone numbers, email addresses, and communication history, from a variety of sources. The information is then compiled into a singular place for employees to easily access and use to increase sales.

CRM systems differ from BI systems in that they are more consumer-centric.

Benefits of using a CRM

  • Efficient data collection and organization. Most CRMs allow employees the ability to collect and organize data in an efficient manner, so sales reps in any location can easily access the most relevant information.
  • Increase in revenue. While CRM systems initially cost businesses money to implement, they eventually provide these companies with an increase in revenue due to pipeline engagement.
  • Sales and marketing collaboration. With the help of CRM systems, customer data is centralized in one location. This allows sales and marketing teams to easily access the information they need and collaborate on the most effective ways to increase sales.

Challenges of a CRM

  • Some manual data entry for initial setup. While some CRM systems automate data import, others do not. This forces sales teams to have to manually migrate certain data from their old systems to get it all in one place, which can take away valuable time upfront.
  • Costly investment. CRMs often have a high subscription cost, which may be an issue for some businesses.
  • Strategic planning required. Although CRMs can help gather and organize customer data, you won’t get much use out of them if you don’t have a plan to leverage that data.

[Read more: 6 Free or Low-Cost CRM Options for Small Business]

Business intelligence vs. CRM: How does each help your business?

When you’re deciding whether to leverage BI, CRM, or a combination of both, it’s important to understand the function each of these tools can serve for your business.

Business intelligence helps companies formulate strategic business decisions based on insight and knowledge. As media and customer power began to evolve, large volumes of data became difficult for teams to organize and interpret. BI systems assist in the organization of this data, while also providing businesses with the proper insight. The use of BI systems allows businesses to prepare and make future predictions that could be beneficial for the business as a whole.

CRM systems differ from BI systems in that they are more consumer-centric. These systems help businesses focus on optimizing the customer experience. For businesses to keep up with competitors, a customer’s experience must be exceptional. CRMs help compile data so businesses can increase sales and focus on customer retention.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners’ stories.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Get recognized. Get rewarded. Get $25K.

Is your small business one of the best in America? Apply for our premier awards program for small businesses, the CO—100, today to get recognized and rewarded. One hundred businesses will be honored and one business will be awarded $25,000.

Connect with vendors who can meet your needs

Answer a few questions to tell us more about what you're looking for, and we'll help you reach vendors who can provide you with more information, pricing, and products.