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The State Of Mobile BI
Past, Present And Future

by Lyndsay WiseThursday, July 16, 2009

Blackberries, smartphones and iPhones have made the ability to bring work and play everywhere.  With a constant connection to people, the Internet and entertainment, business applications on mobile devices were a natural progression.  People can no longer afford to wait to get back to the office to access the information required to do their jobs.  Until recently, this information and interaction with technology came in the form of carrying a notebook computer or using a blackberry for email, calendar and simple task functions.  Now that people can access and edit documents through their phones - and with the easy user interfaces offered through the iPhone - the use of mobile devices for business is becoming second nature. 

This is the same when looking at the use of business intelligence applications.  As the role of mobile has increased in general and as BI becomes more broadly applied and valued, the two converge to enable organizations to access the information they require when they need it (and to share that information through collaboration).  Consequently, the role of mobile BI is becoming more important within the overall function of BI as a whole.  This article discusses how this occurred and how the use of mobile BI has evolved in relation to use and functionality.

The Beginning Of Mobile BI

Generally, the expansion of business intelligence for mobile use can be broken out into two separate categories: the ability to view and distribute information and the ability to interact within a business intelligence application.  These also relate directly to mobile BI use when it first became available and the expanded offerings that are being announced through the course of this year.

About three years ago, BI vendors started announcing the availability of BI for mobile devices.  The actual extent of use and availability depended upon the screen real estate and the supported devices.  In general, solutions available entailed email access to charts and graphs scaled down to fit a typical blackberry screen with the ability to scroll through information.  The benefits of this new delivery were that people could share information with colleagues and transport valuable analyses conveniently. 

Unfortunately, limited functionality and usability meant that the actual interoperability of mobile BI was lacking.  End users, in some cases, could change the way they viewed data, but in very few cases were they able to do much more or edit the information they were viewing.  In addition, because of the limited user interface, not much beyond a singular graph or report could be compared or viewed at a time. 

Although the ability to view BI tools via a mobile device added to the value of an organization’s overall applications, the reality is that this type of access to information was limiting.  Despite the advances in technology and the ability to email a new report or analytical insight to a colleague’s mobile device, little value regarding the application of BI through mobile existed.

How Organizations Are Using Mobile BI Now

The next phase of mobile BI relates to the current use of mobile BI.  Within the last year or so, solution providers have announced mobile BI solutions.  These solutions differ from their predecessors in two key ways: 1) mobile BI includes interaction with BI applications and functionality, and 2) attractive user interfaces make the use of BI possible and much easier.

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