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BI Everywhere – The Expansion Of On-the-Go Business Intelligence

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsMonday, January 31, 2011

Mobile BI is not new.  For the past couple of years vendors have pushed the concept of going mobile while developing limited BI applications or read-only availability of PDFs on selected mobile devices.  The first mobile BI applications involved the ability to share and to consume reports.  As an extension, the next set of solutions involved providing limited availability of interactive charts, graphs, and reports.  Based on the increased interactivity and general access to analytical information, demand for more interactivity and full applications within a mobile environment became the central goal of many BI vendors. 

Business Man On-the-GOAlthough actual mobile BI adoption doesn’t match the levels of vendor focus on solution development, organizations are increasingly looking at ways to expand their BI access via mobile devices.  Add to this the use of tablets and other mobile devices and the ability to interact with computer applications with the potential for mobile BI becomes a general trend that might actually take off in 2011.

This article looks at the goal of expanding overall BI use throughout the organization and the implications of doing so.  This article also examines mobile BI and the opportunities that exist due to the availability of the iPad and other tablets. Additionally, the future of mobile BI and vendor focus will be discussed to determine the likelihood of continued focus and expansion within this area of BI adoption.

BI’s Expanding Reach within the Organization

In terms of adoption and maturity the business intelligence market can be broken out into two main categories.  Obviously these categories do not encompass all company use of BI.  However, to a large degree they do reflect how BI is being used within businesses today.  On the one hand, many larger organizations seem to have mature BI environments with traditional data warehouse environments and are ready to expand their use among end users internally as well as increase the availability and general interactivity of their current BI solutions.  On the other hand, new adopters of BI are looking at dynamic analytics to take their companies to the next level in regards to operations, data visibility, and increased competitive advantage.

What both of these groups have in common is the desire to take advantage of newer BI offerings and technologies to create easy-to-use analytics for both business and technical users.  Part of this includes the ability to interact with BI the way the user wants and where they want. With dashboards and mobility being the two areas that provide the most visibility in relation to dynamic and simple analytics, these areas combined produce one of the ways in which BI adoption will continue to increase.  As people start to take their business applications with them, the use of mobile BI will actually begin to match the efforts vendors are putting into developing dynamic mobile applications.

Aside from the ability to expand use, the value of analytics becomes more prominent within an organization when its adoption extends towards multiple types of users with limited training and upkeep required.  Autonomous use leads to broader decision making ability providing end users the know how to properly interpret information and analytical insights.  With the overall goal of BI being to help gain better perspectives on business performance, mobile BI, dashboards, and high interactivity lead to this and add value to the organization’s overall BI architecture.

A Look at Mobile BI

2010 saw a large expenditure on the part of many vendors to develop and to deliver full applications via mobile devices.  The key in 2010 was the iPad, with more diverse offerings to come over the next year or so. As the tablet market diversifies, mobile BI applications will gain more diversity. Although actual adoption rates within the market are not easy to ascertain, business users who are on the road (i.e. sales operations) are beginning to adopt mobile technologies in conjunction with their business applications.  Mobile BI is no different.

Many BI solutions targeted at the mobile market are focused on providing dashboard-like applications to the masses.  This means that most mobile BI resembles dashboard solutions in terms of the features and functions offered.  Because dashboards are the most user friendly of BI tools available (due to the high levels of interactivity and visually pleasing interactions) it stands to reason that the mobile BI development would follow the same premise, leading to applications built primarily for business users who like their technical toys.

What issues organizations should consider:

With all BI expansions or initial implementations, organizations should consider the following as part of their evaluation criteria:

  1. Is going mobile the right step? Organizations with more mature BI infrastructures may be better poised for mobile BI adoption because they are more familiar with their needs due to their previous and current use.  For first time implementations, mobile BI might be a positive second step as an expansion to an initial successful implementation depending on the overall business goals.  After all, mobile BI does not provide value in itself unless it meets an actual business requirement.
  2. Identify the business need: With any implementation identifying business requirements and the actual need is the most important first step in any solution choice.  With mobile BI, accessibility and broader access to information any time provides a strong argument to adopt its use.  However, unless end users actually require the ability to take BI with them, implementing mobile BI may not provide long-term value.
  3. Overall viability: Current business needs lead to looking at the overall viability and value of mobile BI adoption in relation to future use.  Each organization’s answer to this question and eventual adoption will be different. For instance, outside sales staff that are away from the office, executives on the road, or line of business managers traveling between offices or manufacturing plants.

 BI Moving Forward

Mobile BI provides much promise to organizations looking to expand their BI availability to employees required to take their jobs on the road. In addition, part of the promise of mobile BI remains the increased diversity of BI access and autonomy of use.  Because traditional BI lacks flexibility, new types of deployment options – including mobile access to business intelligence – help increase the overall value of current and future BI applications.

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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