Mobile business intelligence (BI) has accelerated following the launch of the iconic iPad by Apple visionary Steve Jobs little more than a year ago.
Despite widespread smartphone adoption, its small screen size prevented it from leading the charge for mobile BI. The arrival of the tablet PC changed all of that.
“Suddenly it became possible to make sense of bar charts and dashboards on the move,” says Michael de Andrade, CEO of information solutions specialist, EnterpriseWorx. “BI’s promise of instant access to critical, operational data for business managers was one step closer to reality.
“The tablet revolution sparked by the iPad makes it possible to serve up BI quickly and in a variety of settings, using a mobile device that is less socially intrusive than a notebook PC.
“Yes, it’s cool, but the feel-good factor alone will not endure, unless mobile BI delivers real benefits. “What’s important is that managers get up-to-date information at their fingertips to facilitate decision-making.
“This leads to greater efficiency, improvements in employee productivity and better customer service. Data is available instantly from anywhere, and the mobile device can access it via 3G or a wi-fi network. Intuitive tablet interfaces means managers can get up-and-running quickly with little training.
“Finally, we may see BI extending out of the IT department and into the hands of managers so that it becomes pervasive throughout the organisation.”
But it’s not just about the hardware. According to De Andrade, the software is equally important. Companies like QlikView and Microsoft have shown their commitment to incorporating the new features of HTML5 by adopting it in their latest applications, while applications for the Android platform provide another option.
Recent technological developments by QlikView, among others, are making BI more intuitive, faster, easier to use and more predictive. This paves the way for user-driven or self-service BI, with managers finding their own solutions, with no need to route a request for information via the IT department.
“However, the BI back-end in regard to data warehousing, data integration and data quality remains crucial,” says De Andrade. “A sound BI engine must be in place to ensure that the data delivered is reliable and credible. In that sense, mobile BI is simply an add-on. Mobile BI may be flashy, but the additional cost of devices and bandwidth represents only about 5% of the total investment in BI infrastructure.”
The Gartner research group positions mobile BI at the “technology trigger stage”, and believes that current adoption rates are likely to “generate a strong wave of mobile BI users”.
Gartner believes that the biggest value lies in operational BI, and that mobile delivery of BI is about practical, tactical information needed to make immediate decisions. If the organisation embraces tablets and disseminates BI in a highly accessible way, mobile BI will become a reality.
According to IDC’s 2011 Digital Universe survey, 49% of respondents regard delivering information to mobile devices as very or extremely important. But while 47% are happy to give full mobile access to e-mail, only around 15% are prepared to allow access to customer information and reports and dashboards.
“Security and compliance, along with data leakage, are concerns, particularly as companies introduce the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) concept,” says De Andrade. “To maintain high security standards, BI software platforms must make certain that mobile applications are secure, compliant, available and leak proof.
“BI on the move has arrived, and agile solutions are needed to ensure that mobile BI is tailored to business requirements. Companies that have a sound BI infrastructure in place are likely to reap the benefit.”