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September 25, 2012

Useful Mobility Moves Business Intelligence

By Marie Lingblom

Gartner has predicted that by next year, one-third of all business intelligence functionality will be consumed through a mobile device. This makes sense when you consider the types of business intelligence tools now accessible to everyone. Dashboards and other visualization features, for instance, help shape data into more pleasing and useful formats.

Today’s tablets finally allow viewers the room to actually see the information. This more useful mobility has enterprises interested in adopting solutions that deliver critical business information more quickly from wherever workers may be.

Global communications giant Ogilvy & Mather, for instance, reports a positive response from its launch of IBM Cognos Mobile business intelligence software on iPads, a form factor large enough for BI. One Ogilvy executive cites a 20 percent overall increase in the number of projects being managed – in pure numbers, that’s 8,000 more projects globally, he said.

With Ogilvy executives now tapping and swiping from anywhere to access necessary business information, they are free to focus on solving problems for the business instead of debating the numbers, according to Ogilvy.

The analytics feature of the solution, meanwhile, has delivered a more granular view of the business, which is allowing them to better manage margins. That’s a business director checking numbers while on the train, or executives creating ad hoc reports from home, or sales leaders monitoring activity via dashboards while traveling.

Gartner notes that for most enterprises, mobile business intelligence is in early stages of consideration. One advantage when compared to other technology trends is that the ease of mobile devices has led to adoption at the executive level, says Gartner. The research firm notes early mobile growth in some vertical markets such as communications, health care and the travel industry, and predicts 20 percent growth in enterprise adoption over the next 18 months.

To get the most of mobile business intelligence, says Gartner, enterprises must first have a proper data model to populate mobile user information and allow access to accurate data. This includes data warehousing, data integrity, data models and data quality.

In essence, if your enterprise doesn’t have its business intelligence house in order, mobility doesn’t hold much meaning. Device tracking and security measures are also obvious considerations in terms of safety, privacy and ethics.

In a recent Forbes article on the topic, Gartner analysts Andreas Bitterer and Bhavish Sood note that sending potentially sensitive data to a mobile device halfway around the world will not become mainstream anytime soon. Most organizations, they say, will instead enable a small group to test the viability of mobile business intelligence applications and devices. But there are plenty of new applications and functionality being built aimed at the original purpose of business intelligence: turning insight into action.

The future of mobile business intelligence, say Bitterer and Sood, is found in its potential enhancements. Devices could, for instance, be enabled to include a database management system that stores a small extract of the server database for disconnected use.

Devices, they say, will turn into more than visualization gadgets and become transactional platforms. The inclusion of mobile versions of statistical or data-mining models for the execution of all sorts of algorithms will enable better planning and what-if scenarios directly on the tablet, without connection to a server, say Bitterer and Sood.

The challenge, they say, is for organizations to expand the scope of traditional business intelligence thinking because tomorrow’s business intelligence user won’t be sitting behind a desk.

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