Leveraging Mobile in the BI Space

Mobile business intelligence tools are on the rise, but analysts and others caution that developing a strategy for mobile BI remains a work in progress for many companies.

Forrester Research analyst Martha Bennett writes that a survey found the percentage of IT decision-makers who make some BI applications available on mobile devices has quadrupled and those that provide such apps exclusively on smartphones rose from 1 percent to 7 percent.

Industry watchers differ on what those numbers mean.


Limited Traction in Some Corners

HomePageBottomSliderCarsten Bange, CEO of BARC and co-author of its BI Survey 14, saw usage of mobile BI stalling last year. He told Enterprise Apps Today last month that companies are realizing that mobile BI is more than simply porting BI software to mobile devices or purchasing mobile BI apps. “For example, they need a strong mobile policy and mobile device management before they deploy apps with sensitive data.”

Of course, Web-based BI apps can be seen on a smartphone. Many companies may find the cost of implementing something more sophisticated may outweigh the benefits, he said.

Interviewed for the same article, Howard Dresner takes a different view. The CEO of Dresner Advisory Services suggests a stronger interest in mobile BI. Dresner’s 2014 survey found BI second only to email in respondents’ priorities for mobile.

“I think they understand [mobile BI] better now, so they are taking a more balanced approach,” Dresner told Enterprise Apps Today.

Understanding What Is Needed

Regarding the rollout of mobile BI, Forrester’s Bennett writes: “Clearly, the right technology helps. But it’s a misconception that you need advanced capabilities like collaboration features, or being able to make use of the device’s GPS or camera. And while some leading adopters have indeed changed entire processes based on what mobile BI makes possible, it’s not a prerequisite for mobile BI success.”

Bennett adds that “mobilizing” data has the potential “to facilitate new business models and disrupt entire industries.” “Whether it’s a stand-alone mobile BI app or BI embedded into another application (e.g. mobile CRM) – the key is understanding what data is needed, and how it needs to be delivered,” she writes.

Best Practices a Must

Fellow Forrester analysts Boris Evelson and Michael Facemire said “hewing to mobile best practices in developing and deploying apps is a must for BI teams.” In a podcast interview with SearchBusinessAnalytics, they said companies should “start with a real use case. Technology for the sake of technology never works.”

The analysts said the business case for mobile BI helps point the way on app development. A mobile user who wants ad-hoc data analysis may have far different needs than an executive or sales rep looking up answers to basic business questions.

One of the biggest challenges to developing a mobile BI program, Evelson said, is that many large organizations have multiple BI systems in place. Resolving that issue, he said, is a must in mapping out a successful mobile BI strategy.

Evelson recommends a “design once, publish multiple times” approach for BI apps to run on various devices. BI teams should never create, maintain and update separate applications “for every device, every platform and every mobile browser version,” he said.

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