As a social media enthusiast, I am more than happy to use mobile applications which make our everyday life easier, without the need of sitting in front of a computer. In our everyday life, we are almost always on the move, so we need portability: our mobile devices, be it smartphones or tablets, have the same purpose - to make our life easier.
Smartphones and tablets are as performant as PC’s nowadays, but they weren’t a solution for the people working in the Business Intelligence industry until now. Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android OS and the brand new Windows 8 from Microsoft, offer stable platforms for developing BI solutions targeted for mobile devices. Microsoft has already claimed to be developing SQL Server 2013 for Windows 8, which will allow employees to benefit from all the features of the Windows interface when using tablets.
There are three main components at play that make the new wave of decision making so interesting:
- Good old BI — it is the baseline for what we already know for a long time. It builds reports on transactional data, typically targeting finance, sales and marketing sectors. Modern BI infrastructures also monitor events and send alerts to users.
- The world of location intelligence is almost a parallel world of decision making. Users in this domain or sector don’t look at transactions, but at maps, distances, and other geospatial artifacts. Enriching BI through location information enables the user to have much better insight.
- Mobile devices now deliver information to virtually any user wherever they are. At the same time, the context awareness of the device (for example, cell tower and GPS) increases the quality of decision making. In the future, mobile devices will grow beyond information consumption and also will become a vehicle for data collection.
- Choosing a mobile BI solution
There are a few requirements to consider when choosing a mobile BI solution to extend your enterprise BI platform to your tablet users:
- Omnipresent dashboard: Mobile BI solution that has to offer a dashboard that performs the same way on tablets as it does on Personal Computers.
- Flexible reports: Mobile BI solution that lets your tablet users build new reports or dashboards on a spontaneous basis to meet customer meeting requirements or other reporting scenarios.
- Compatibility to a range of devices: In these days, it is a requirement that the BI data can be rendered on multiple device types. Look for a solution with iOS and Android clients or that uses HTML 5 for its web interface.
- Tablet-level security: Mobile BI solution that doesn’t store corporate data on the device and backs that up with a mobile device management (MDM) tool that lets your IT staff wipe any corporate tablets that access BI platforms in case the tablet is lost or stolen. Additional security measurements include device encryption, pin codes, and email encryption.
- Secured communications: The transmission of corporate BI data requires data transmission security like a VPN connection security with another layer of security like DES with an encrypted SSL tunnel over Wi-Fi or 3G/4G.
- Network security: Another level of security that needs to be present is network security to control access rights to BI data. This extends to an enterprise BI platform for tablets that require security like LDAP or Active Directory to ensure the proper authentication of tablet users seeking to access the enterprise BI platform.
Promise vs. limitations
First of all, you should also take a walk through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store to see what major BI vendors are already at work on mobile BI apps. While the promise of instantaneous access to corporate data is opening many corporate eyes to mobile. However, BI has it’s own limitations, including:
- Most of the mobile BI apps allow users to only view data, not edit it
- Mobile BI applications are tools of consumption, not analytics
- Lack of interactivity in mobile BI applications in general restrict users from looking further down into data, such as sales figures by product or region
- Companies often have more than one BI platform in house, requiring mobile users to have multiple applications — and mobile access is sometimes a fee-based add-on to an existing BI platform
With the newest iPad and next-gen high-end Android tablets, mobile BI vendors have the opportunity to take advantage of large screens and hardware specifications.
In our company, we have a special event called Qubiz Connect which is attended from time to time and is aimed towards healthcare and mobile applications.
Mobile BI so far is at the beginning of it’s lifecycle but early adopters of the new capabilities have demonstrated some very interesting use cases which are beyond the rather simplistic “convenience factor.” The challenge for organizations will be to expand the scope of traditional BI thinking. Tomorrow’s BI user does not sit at a desk anymore.
If you have any ideas, suggestions regarding this topic, please share them, i’d be happy to read and to reply on them. If you'd like to hear more about and share ideas regarding Mobile Business Intelligence, don't forget to sign up for our Qubiz Connect Event.