Mobile BI - Slope of Enlightenment?
About 6 years ago it was already the case. About the time when the Microsoft SQL Server 2005 hit the market and BI functionalities became broadly available, news about mobile BI solutions became more frequent in the newspapers-but the inflated expectations of some product houses ended up in the knowledge that the market was not yet ripe.
Following the Hype Cycle (Gartner) there was missing a not yet foreseeable technological trigger: the modern smartphone era that was started with the iPhone and iPad combined with the necessary foundation: broader wireless networks like the 3. generation UMTS.
This class of devices managed it for the first time in the combination of many features such as multi-touch screen, GPS- and orientation sensor, an "every time and everywhere"-availability and last but not least an intuitive usability that managed to penetrate the owners life completely. Even in the job. Consumeration of smartphones, also known as BYOD (Bring your own device) is now a big challenge for business it departments: Not only managers want to use "their" smartphone also in a business context; the number of iPads in business meetings today is also remarkable.
If you can do security critical online banking on your smartphone or check real-time weather conditions of your favorite spot in a scorecard presentation, so why not the companies key performance indicators?
The path to enlightenment began with this desire of the consumer. The panache of the current development has one origin in this user-driven need – which did lead to a broad variance of solution approaches filling the space between the new mobile usability - frontend paradigm of modern smart devices and evolved sophisticated business intelligence backend servers.
When some time ago you could be the hero in a stand-up meeting if you could evaluate dynamic Excel sheets, by now real-time access to the BI backend is state-of-the-art. Fancy playful user interfaces can also create some attention of colleagues but the real mission critical business advantage comes along when the new usability paradigm is used specifically for BI operations like drill-down or interactive charting.
The integration of analysis and reporting with mail, phone, text message or web-access as into a SharePoint can almost eliminate the need for a laptop or pc for some user groups. The possibility of including the current location of the user, associated with geo-information and address data from the BI backend, gives operative BI workers further business value. For example, if you find a point-of-sale in your sales hierarchy that is performing conspicuous, why not call the responsible person directly or if your call was not satisfying be routed to the point? Maybe for easier orientation have a preview of the point-of-sales location in a street view.
Nevertheless, disappointments are still possible to experience. The new user-friendly frontend concepts are not ends in themselves, only a modern BI backend accessible and the most seamless integration with respect to both data delivery and security policy will take account of current user demands. After those initial requirements companies who roll-out a mobile bi solution soon find out that mobile bi is more a process than a product.
Delivering BI information into the field, which is agile in its nature, demands an agile solution, not only in means of flexibility in ad-hoc analysis for the end-user, but also in maintainability. Adaptable solutions are highly configurable so that e.g. new key performance indicators that are to be made available in the mobile BI solution simply can be configured by the competent department rather than developed by a technical BI expert.
Companies taking care of those critical factors related to a mobile BI solution can already today reach the plateau of productivity.
In the following post I will explain how we at ORAYLIS developed BI.Mobile to meet those demands and enable our customers to go mobile based on their in-place Microsoft BI Backend without the need for the implementation of a second BI Infrastructure just for mobile delivery.