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Rich Interactive Applications And The Use Of Interactive Technology

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsMonday, March 15, 2010

New technology constantly emerges that changes the way people work, play and interact with each other.  Now that computers and cell phones have become second nature to many people, the fact that small advancements still shape the way people go about their day sometimes gets overlooked.  In the same way many people could never see their lives without television or radio, organizations are tied to computers and people to their BlackBerries and iPhones.  The need to constantly be in contact through email, voice mail, text messages and general collaboration is on the rise as organizations are pressured to make sure that information is constantly up to date and that employees are always connected. 

Within business intelligence, the same holds true.  As businesses expand their BI usage and the types of data they are analyzing, the ability to interact with that data, share it and gain collective insight grows.  People are expected to be more connected and to add their insights constantly.  No longer is the LinkedIn model where users log in periodically good enough.  Now Twitter-type interactivity with constant comments and consistent updates throughout the day is what is becoming expected as businesses strive to get ahead of their competitors and develop continued competitive advantage.

As companies start to use technology to drive competitive edge and to enhance their BI use and interactivity, devices such as iPhones, the iPad and others will become a common method of BI interactivity.  This article looks at interactive technology and how it will drive BI use in the future.  The present state of the BI for mobile market will be discussed with a special emphasis on Apple’s recent iPad announcement and musings of how the iPad will influence the general use of BI.

The expansion of interactive BI

Some current trends within the business intelligence industry include increased dashboard interactivity, a single platform for data management initiatives, higher open source adoption, and a continual shift towards business-driven applications.  The main overarching link between each of these trends is the increase in general interactivity and ease of use.  No longer do BI implementations need to be complicated and time consuming.  Organizations can implement easy-to-use and low-time-to-value solutions quickly and broadly across the organization.  In addition, the demand for collaboration and cohesion between technology, business applications and the ability to get critical information to multiple decision makers within the organization increases the requirement for general BI application use.  How companies choose to deploy these solutions will continue to evolve as interactive technologies and the diversity of platforms increase.

Cell phones, smartphones and the iPhone

When looking at mobile offerings specifically, solution providers have offered mobile BI for many years.  Over that time they have evolved from pushing out PDF reports to providing interactive applications that can be updated in real-time.  Consequently, it would stand to reason that as businesses move towards the adoption of collaborative technologies, mobile BI would be a natural first step.  This has not been the case.  Although advancements are constantly made within the BI mobile market and more solution providers are offering mobile solutions, the reality is that actual adoption has remained low.  If looked at more broadly, although organizations are looking at constant BI expansion, the number of companies doing so is quite small. 

The market breakdown in relation to BI adoption and expansion continues to be companies with mature traditional BI infrastructures or those looking at BI as a newer initiative.  What this means for businesses is that only a small percentage of employees are poised to take advantage of mobile BI applications.  Outside of mobile workers focused on sales performance, the adoption of mobile BI is slim.  However, newer technologies, such as the recent iPad announcement may change the way mobile BI applications are adopted and the general use of BI.

Enter the iPad

Before continuing and moving on to the implications of the iPad, it makes sense to start by admitting my bias.  I converted to Mac just over two years ago after being a PC user for many years (and don’t think I’ll ever go back).  Even though I had the unfortunate experience of having a lemon MacBook, my new iMac has made up for it.  After all, what more could an analyst want from a computer than tons of storage, excellent performance and the ability to multitask without having to move documents around on the screen.  Add to this built-in podcasting and incomparable ease of use and I am probably sold for life.  When looking at Apple gear in general, the company provides products that are easy to use, simple to interact with and they offer appeal to many different types of users - plus they are generally ahead of the curve.  For future BI use, their products may help push out BI to the masses.

Even so, mobile BI (including through the iPhone) has not been widely adopted.   Whether the general availability of the iPad will change, that remains to be seen.  What the iPad will provide, however, is the ability for companies to interact with BI the same way they would at their desks.  The iPad has the potential to become what mobile BI hasn’t: the go-to and take along BI access point.  Whether screen size has been the issue or whether the impracticality in terms of the ability to interact with BI (including design and customization) has led to the low adoption, the use of the iPad or like device changes the playing field.

Because the iPad will enable people to bring along their videos, books, publications, applications and the like - in a device easier to carry around than a laptop - it becomes more likely that decision makers who travel as part of their jobs will integrate their BI use into their portable devices.  In addition, because the iPad will closely resemble current desktop and laptop use, business applications on the go will be easier to sell with decision makers being more likely to adopt business intelligence while out of the office.

BI and increased adoption

Overall, BI adoption is on the rise.  With Web 2.0 and the integration of social networking and collaboration within organizations, the ability to take BI on the road in a way that closely resembles internal BI use, will be what helps push widespread BI adoption into the mobile sphere.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.


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