BI Hits the Road

Just when we thought that business intelligence (BI) systems were headed straight for the cloud, new BI applications are already being developed for another change in the way traditional BI tools used to work.

Mobile technology is reaching every corner of organizational business process, from the ability to register and review transactions in an operational system, to the ability to provide C-level executives with information about the state of the business at any physical location.

Mobile devices have reached the point where they are no longer used only to share personal information and establish social media interactions. Currently, many BI providers are offering options to deliver analysis services over mobile devices. In other words, BI tools are going virtual and mobile.

Mobile computing methods are not new, but the confluence of mobile technology and BI has really only started to gain interest in the last few years. Nowadays, mobility is a mainstream business characteristic, and BI vendors are seeking to address the challenge of providing customers with the necessary mobile tools.

Growing adoption of mobile BI technology is partly explained by the adoption of Web technologies that enable both mobile providers and BI vendors to meet at a point where it’s possible to offer data visualization and analysis tools for use in mobile devices.

But Is It all about Seeing the Results?
Well, the answer to this question is both yes and no. The first goal of mobile BI was to allow users to view the results of data analysis. This in itself is a big challenge, considering the display, memory, and other initial limitations of mobile technology, particularly since some BI processes require respectable amounts of memory, as well as ample room to show results.

But with new technologies arising like Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and the widespread use of Blackberry mobiles, it make sense that mobile BI tools are no longer be limited to visual boards, and that they will enable users to run data analysis both online and offline--which is a capability that software vendors will need to exploit and develop in upcoming years, as a real source of value for users.

To be completely honest, I had doubts about the effectiveness of mobile BI tools. That said, I’m not the earliest of adopters of new technology. In any case, I recently checked out a few interesting products that are really changing my view about the potential of mobile BI applications and their impact on organizations. Here are some examples:

  • MicroStrategy provides a complete and robust mobile solution platform along with their existing BI infrastructure.

  • QlikTech (with its new version 10), provides innovative in-memory analysis features and an application for the iPad.

  • Specific mobile BI technologies such as RoamBI from Mellmo, and its BI solution for Apple (iPhone and iPad) provide connection features to pre-existing BI solutions.

  • Visual KPI from Transpara offers a multiplatform mobile solution for visualizing KPI in real time.

  • Cognos 8 Go! From IBM is a mobile solution for organizations that already have a Cognos BI solution in place. It can interact with many Cognos native BI capabilities, as well as front-office tools.

This is just a sample of different types of providers and different mobile BI flavors, and this post is the first in a series of posts reviewing available mobile BI options, including features and differentiators. I hope it helps you understand and decide which option is the best fit for you.

Let’s end with a brief poll—please take a second to answer it, or leave a comment below.

Does your organization already have a mobile BI solution in place?


I welcome your thoughts—leave a comment below, and I’ll respond as soon as I can.
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