4 Reasons Why Your BI Solution is Stunting Your Startup’s Growth

Devon Tackels 

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Sigma

Inherent in the definition of a “startup” is growth. As Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, says, “A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup… The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.”

Many startups are turning to analytics and BI to help them grow faster (and smarter). BI can help startups forge new paths to focus on the right things and identify where to invest resources. When analytics informs strategy, you increase your chances of success.

But just because you’ve implemented a BI solution for your startup doesn’t mean you have a golden ticket to growth. Traditional BI software can actually hold your team back from achieving its potential.

In this post, we’ll explore why this happens and what you can do about it.

 You’re relying on outdated data, stale dashboards, and reports

Traditional BI solutions don’t integrate directly with cloud data warehouses because they were designed for on-prem systems. They’re retrofitted to connect to the CDW. These solutions rely on extracts or ping the warehouse periodically and store data within the application itself, resulting in data that isn’t real-time.

Further worsening the problem is that dashboards and reports don’t automatically refresh in many traditional tools. So the dashboards and reports your team is using to track KPIs, understand customer and product trends, follow spending flow, and keep an eye on lead and sales funnels are likely inaccurate when you’re looking at them.

To ensure your data, reports, and dashboards are real-time, you need a modern analytics tool that connects directly to your cloud data warehouse and automatically refreshes your dashboards. You also need the ability to drill down into dashboards to explore the underlying (real-time) data that’s causing important trends.

For startups that need to scale quickly, it’s not enough to know that a problem or opportunity exists or that a trend is happening — you need to understand the why and what is likely to occur if certain variables change. Without the ability to ask follow-up questions of the data, your reports won’t provide the deep and meaningful insights your team needs to make better decisions.


For more on why real-time data is such a big deal, check out What Real-Time Data Analytics Really Means and Why It’s So Important.

 People can’t access insights when they need them

Another significant problem with traditional BI tools is that users without technical skills (i.e., the majority of your company) can’t directly access the deeper-level insights they need to make the right decisions.

Instead, they must rely on your data expert or BI analyst to dive into the SQL and generate the report. This is a problem when you have multiple leaders across your marketing, sales, and finance teams who need timely data to move quickly. But they’re stuck waiting on the BI team to update the data model, combine tables/datasets, run a new report, or build a new dashboard.

Business users are making decisions without data

This problem is common among companies of all sizes — even those with large BI teams. According to Sigma’s recent research, 71% of survey respondents don’t feel their data needs adequately met by your data team/analyst. These business users wait for days or even weeks to get the answers that they need immediately. And 25% of these respondents shared that they’ve given up on getting an answer they needed because the data analysis took too long — instead, they acted without data.

There just aren’t enough data experts and analysts to go around. And it doesn’t make sense to spend money on data experts and analysts with expensive skill sets to run reports and build dashboards for simple requests. You’ll get more ROI from your BI investment if you allow these folks to focus on higher-level work like complex data analysis and data modeling.

A modern BI tool gives business users power

Support your startup’s growth goals and agility with data can prove challenging. You need an analytics and BI solution that centralizes all your data (using your CDW as the central source of truth)— and makes it easy for business users and data experts to find the answers they need. Everyone in your company should be able to build dashboards and reports and share insights widely to make data-driven decisions quickly. Ideally, business users will interact with a familiar interface, while SQL is written in the background, and data experts can dig into the SQL directly.

Sigma’s modern BI solution makes this possible with a spreadsheet-like interface, auto-generated SQL, easy-to-build interactive dashboards, and collaborative data modeling capabilities. And team workspaces that are accessible to everyone with permission-based access make working together simple.

Sigma has proved to be priceless in helping us make more informed decisions and empowering all employees to think like analysts.

Lucy Dana

Product Manager, Growth, Blue Bottle Coffee

 Your BI team is overwhelmed, overworked, and unfulfilled

Speaking of the BI team that’s busy running an increasing number of reports for your sales, marketing, and finance leaders. . . These team members are facing burnout at alarming levels. As the demand to be data-driven grows, the workload on BI teams is skyrocketing.

Even though data scientist was named “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century” and “The Best Job in America,65% of data scientists are unhappy in their current roles and looking for a way out. Half of them plan to leave their companies this year.

Why BI and data teams are struggling

Why the disconnect between perception and reality? Today’s data scientists are frantically trying to organize a massive amount of data streaming in from myriad sources at speed. As they’re working, they’re inundated with report requests, leaving them languishing in report factory hell. Their fellow employees in line-of-business teams are expressing frustration with them because they’re waiting on desperately-needed insights. It’s not a recipe for work satisfaction.

The right tool can free up time for more meaningful work and reduce stress

Typically, this situation stems from a traditional BI solution that doesn’t make it easy to organize and model data— and doesn’t allow business users to manage their own data needs. With the right analytics tool, you can eliminate the long ad hoc queue, get business people involved in modeling, organizing and combining data on their own, and free up time for data or BI teams to work on more fulfilling, valuable projects.

Startups using modern BI solutions built for the cloud are experiencing these benefits right now. Franklin Pfaller, Business Analyst on the Business Ops team at manufacturing startup Fictiv, says, “Thanks to Sigma, I’ve gotten back 50% of my time so I can tackle bigger data problems and move new initiatives forward. The ability for any user to rapidly answer questions without leaning on the data team has been transformative.”


Is your BI team struggling to keep up with non-stop data requests? Find out they can escape report factory hell in our free eBook

 You’re spending too much time reinventing the wheel

Traditional BI tools don’t focus on collaboration. For this reason, team members asking similar questions are doing redundant work to model data and build similar dashboards. Instead of collaborating and building upon one another’s work, they’re wasting time creating everything from scratch. All of the prep work isn’t made useful beyond the original analyst or across the ecosystem, resulting in significant inefficiencies.

With a modern analytics stack, data analysts can build curated datasets that can be used over and over again. And team members can use these relevant datasets across their applications. These datasets dramatically reduce the amount of time, technical requirements, and effort required to deliver insights. And the resources saved can be put to use elsewhere.

Chris Lambert, CTO of Payload, explains how they’re benefitting from a modern analytics solution: “Sigma is an order of magnitude less work than our old tool, which required us to learn a proprietary coding language, and prevented us from being agile.”

To discover more about how a modern analytics tool with collaborative capabilities can increase speed to insights, and allow your team to operate more efficiently, check out Exploring Community-driven Analytics.


See how Payload reduced reporting times while unlocking $8,000+ cost savings per report with Sigma. Read the case study. 

Grow faster and smarter with a modern BI solution

Don’t be held back by traditional BI tools that aren’t built for the cloud. To achieve the kind of growth required to be successful as a startup, you need a modern analytics stack that will allow everyone on your team to explore real-time data, generate and share insights, and collaborate to make the process more efficient. Success will flow from this pipeline of growth.

Wanna start asking more of your data?

Sigma can help: Schedule a demo or start a free trial today