Driving BI mobility

Lyndsay Wise, president and founder, WiseAnalytics
Lyndsay Wise, president and founder, WiseAnalytics

Mobile BI (business intelligence) adoption has attracted increased attention over the past few years as mobile applications have matured and as more organizations have come to view mobile BI as essential to their business intelligence strategy. But even with more focus on mobile applications and must-have capabilities, many solution providers admit that actual customer adoption of mobile BI is low. This means that while many organizations are including mobility as an essential service, few companies are adopting the frameworks that can drive better information access throughout the organization via mobile devices. To enable this, companies need to understand how to take advantage of mobile applications and how their adoption can help propel the broader use of BI generally. The reality is that if organizations are starting to make sense of mobile BI, they aren’t yet taking as full advantage of mobility as they could.

The question is “how can the value proposition of mobile BI access be transformed into broader adoption?” In use of other productivity applications, organizations now look to greater mobility as a way to empower their workforces. With business intelligence, the uptake seems a bit slower, and there appear to be specific challenges for the analytics market that differ from deployment of other mobile applications. This may be due to screen real estate issues, the amount of analysis that can take place through a smartphone or tablet, or offline data access requirements. Either way, there seems to be a disconnection between the perceived value of mobility during the customer’s software selection phase and the way in which organizations are applying mobile delivery internally as part of a broader business intelligence strategy.

Understanding the value proposition of BI mobility

Whether it’s due to issues with solution deployment or adoption, businesses struggle with lack of access to information. Data centralization, data integrity, and data quality are all challenges that can make it difficult for companies to find business value in data. Although mobility on its own does not solve these problems, what it does enable is business users’ ability to access more data, when they need it, and in the way they require. Since workforces are in constant movement and people take work with them wherever they go, the ability to make decisions while in motion and to gain insights into business questions through limitless access to relevant data assets helps business decision makers become more efficient. Giving BI end users autonomy over the way they access information and carry out their daily tasks also helps increase BI use and supports broader adoption.

What organizations need to know about making mobile BI stick

Identifying how to make mobile BI a part of broader mobile deployment entails addressing the following questions so that organizations understand whether their workforce is prepared to adopt BI mobility or whether internal processes need to change to support its deployment.

  1. Do business users already leverage mobile for other business applications? Some organizations rely on mobile access as a means of inputting information or to manage operational or transactional data. For organizations comfortable with mobile applications more generally, the use of BI may be a natural expansion to what is already applied within the organization. Organizations new to mobility, however, may not be familiar with use of mobile devices to interact with business applications, making mobile BI access seem futile.
  2.  What types of analytics are required by users? As noted above, screen real estate can challenge BI access on mobile devices. Many analytics solution providers take into account the size of the screen when identifying the level of detail required and possible in mobile applications. The reality is that for most general insight, mobile BI access can be ideal. For in depth analytics and very detailed analysis, having access to more screen real estate is probably better. However, only a subset of users accessing BI typically need this level of detail. For most users, simple reporting or dashboards provide the level of insight required, making mobile BI access a good way to access the data when and as needed.
  3. What is the best way to deliver and interact with information? Just because mobile is available and becoming more popular does not mean that it will be the most efficient way to provide access to information for every user. Giving users the option to access data in a way that works best for them is the most effective way to ensure BI adoption. Self-service capabilities are increasingly attractive and widespread because many different types of users require access to wide variety and volume of information and want to be able to interact with analytics in a way that works best for them. Mobile BI access is the same with respect to how information is delivered.
  4. What types of security parameters are required? For instance, does the organization support Bring Your Own Device? Is there sensitive data that shouldn’t be accessed outside of the firewall? Although information is constantly being accessed via email and outside the firewall, some organizations are not comfortable with BI access from outside of the organization or with allowing a user to log in to an application on a device that is not controlled internally. In cases where strong security parameters exist, an organization has to be open to broader access if mobile BI is to become successful, otherwise too many restrictions inhibit adoption.

The questions above represent a subset of considerations that should be taken into account when businesses are considering mobile BI deployments. These factors can help determine whether users are ready for mobile adoption and whether the benefits of mobile BI deployments will be realized. Organizations generally have come to understand the value proposition of mobility, as evidenced by the more common deployment of mobile applications, and increasingly, are looking at mobility as a must have in their adoption of BI software. The next step is to introduce more flexibility in order to provide a mobile workforce with broader information access.

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