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Mobile Business Intelligence & Analytics

by Catriona McGauchie, YellowfinWednesday, January 20, 2010


With the advent of the mobile phone a fundamental shift occurred in telecommunications. You no longer called a place but you called a person. The internet provides an even greater degree of interconnectivity, and it is these changes which are having a profound impact on businesses and the way in which they manage their people mobile or otherwise and the access that they provide to their data assets. This white paper addresses these changes and discusses the impact it is having on business information delivery.

The convergence of Business Intelligence and mobility, resulting in the capability to deliver data anytime anywhere, has been well underway for some time. Professionals are fast becoming comfortable with the use of smart phones not only for communication purposes but also as a means of keeping up to date on business information. The result of this is that your company’s work force will soon see mobility as the norm rather than a specialised set of applications when they happen to be on the road. The dispersed work force and the end of the commuting to a cubicle era will soon be upon us, and you should build out the IT plan to accommodate mobility as the rule rather than the exception.

This paper looks at who the audience for mobile BI applications is. Senior management and executives, key sales people and field service personnel. What are the key influencers driving the need for mobile BI, and the benefits that are in store for an organization that embraces mobile analytics.

Beyond that, this paper analyses the requirements, both technical and organisational that are required to ensure a successful rollout of a mobile BI platform. One that will have a direct impact on improving an organisaton’s bottom line, by increasing its competitive advantage, its employee productivity and the level of customer satisfaction.

Mobile Business Intelligence what is it?

In the context of this paper we define mobility in a much broader sense than just simply the use of a mobile device. This definition defines mobility as device independence. It is critical difference, as it has a fundamental impact on how you should think about your mobile BI strategy.

To illustrate this lets use two examples: On the one hand there is the mobile worker who is physically mobile and requires remote access to information assets. This is the traditional definition of mobile BI. However, there is a fast emerging group who are device mobile. These users switch between laptop, desktop and smart phone in the course of a day, week or month but are not necessarily out in the field.

What both sets of users have in common is an expectation of flexibility in access to data, and of most importance is consistency in content - through all available channels. In simple terms, no matter how the user accesses their corporate data what they see should be the same.

Mobile business intelligence is the capability by the organization to deliver relevant and timely data to anyone, whenever they need it, wherever they are and regardless of the device used to access that data.

The scope of Mobile BI also spans three distinct usage models:

Exception & Alerts Users receive proactive alerts about events that fall outside predefined norms. For example, a purchasing agent could be alerted when the inventory of a critical part fell to a level that threatened to interrupt manufacturing; a sales executive would be alerted about a delayed shipment, so he or she could intervene to expedite the process or proactively contact the customer about the delay.
Push Reporting Role specific predifined reports, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), are pushed to executives (regardless of their location or their device) on a regular schedule. For example, each Monday morning, a report on last week's sales could be distributed to sales and marketing executives, while the CFO might receive a report on critical financial metrics.
Pull Reporting Workers specify the information they want, using whatever input method is appropriate for the avaialble device. The user could access almost any type of information available from a centralised server-based system. A salesperson, for example, could ask the application to identify the current top 5 customers, or to provide detailed background about a specific customer. This model supports advanced data visualization, including interactive charts, graphs, and maps.

Figure 1. Mobile BI delivery

Who is it for?

Three major professional groups stand to benefit from a mobile BI implementation. These are: executives, key sales people and field service personnel.

The executive team and senior management have become proficient at absorbing information delivered to them via their smart phones. Adding analytics and reporting is not a huge leap for this end user group. For time poor executives who spend little time directly in front of their desktop the ability to quickly tap into their KPI’s, focus on variance and act on that whilst on the move between meetings is a key benefit of Mobile BI. It is this group of users who display the highest propensity to switch between devices, and as such can be considered the device mobile.

As executives begin to use mobile phones and laptops almost interchangeably, and as those phones become capable of displaying rich Web content, business leaders are seeking more extensive access to corporate data. The requirement for Executives to have access to real time KPI data is a key factor also. Business time frames are being compressed and if a company is going to have a competitive advantage then its decision makers need to have access to the to the information they need - wherever they are, whenever they need it and then make important decisions on-the-go.

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