Mobile BI applications have been around for the last few years. Solution providers have moved from simply providing a snapshot of data to giving business users access to interactive BI applications. The rate of application development and the ability for companies to integrate these offerings into their overall BI platforms has been partially dependent on the technology available to support these functions. Blackberries were the first wave, with iPhone interactivity and ease of use within mobile phone use being the push towards full interactive BI access.
Even with all of the availability of mobile solutions and the hype surrounding being able to take analytics “on the road,” the actual adoption rates and popularity of this type of BI are debatable. With organizations still stuck on traditional data warehousing and reporting solutions (that may not be giving them the full picture of what is happening within their companies or the complete value of BI), the leap to mobile BI can seem astronomical. In addition, the value of mobile BI provided to these types of organizations can be elusive as their current internal BI solutions may fall short.
This article is divided into two parts. Part one looks at how mobile BI has matured over the past few years and the differences between actual use and general marketing campaigns. The first part also discusses the way in which organizations looking to take advantage of mobile BI can do so through the identification of some practical applications. Part 2 explores actual adoption of mobile BI, whether the increasing use of the iPad and tablets will affect overall use, and how B2C organizations are starting to take advantage of mobile devices for their business use.
The evolution of offerings
The expansion of mobile BI offerings and the types of applications developed can be directly related to technological advancements and the way people use and interact with their mobile devices. For instance, when mobile solutions were first offered, many were focused on providing access to PDFs through blackberries. The goal was to let end users access reports irrespective of their location. For business travelers, this made sense as information became easier to access no matter where a person was located. However, because the full benefits of BI were impossible to realize – basically the ability to interact with valuable business information and gain additional insights – the actual use case of mobile BI was light.
As both mobile technology matured and BI usage broadened, the possibility to look at different ways of deploying and interacting with BI became a reality. Although many organizations are still stuck on traditional BI applications with data warehousing, OLAP and interactive reporting, business intelligence is slowly shifting away from a focus on strong BI infrastructures and super-user access. The goal of BI is moving towards what its main purpose has always been – providing business users with deeper insights into business and helping them make the right decisions. In addition, the increasing use of social media leads to the demand for higher levels of interoperability and greater ease of use. Based on these factors alone, mobile BI is now able to provide organizations with the necessary business benefits by giving instant access to information in the format and through the media desired, while providing one more way for end users to interact with their data.
Because of the popularity of iPhones and the ease of use of and interactivity of iPhone applications, the ability to offer BI applications is relatively simple in terms of people adding one more application to the long line of solutions they use. Consequently, many vendors have developed mobile offerings to be deployed on the iPhone and other smartphones. As people start to use phones more broadly, business and pleasure also starts to overlap. However, even with the expansion of use, mobile BI specifically hasn’t taken off or enjoyed wide-scale adoption.