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FYI Solutions Blog

Oct 23, 2012

The Emergence of Mobile Business Intelligence Solutions

While smart phones and tablets have become increasingly popular items that you cannot live without, the boundaries between work and home have blurred.  Executives and managers want to know what is happening when it is happening.  They want to see trends and be able to respond to them immediately, whether they are on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, or at Joe’s Deli down the street.  By extending the reach and usage of their existing BI infrastructure to mobile devices through the use of mobile data discovery tools, organizations can more effectively respond to market changes and customer needs.

So what should one be thinking about in order to make this happen?

The questions being asked include:

• What are the right areas to focus on first?
• What are the tools that can help me?
• What about all that information being exposed on a mobile device?

Do I need data architecture, or can I just start developing reports?

Mobile BI does not reduce the need for proper BI infrastructure.  The Mobile BI piece is the last inch of a one-mile journey.  All the things that make for “good” Business Intelligence in a traditional implementation don’t go away because the delivery platform is now a mobile device.  The stronger the foundation, the better the result.  This includes the areas of:

• Data Modeling
• Data Integration
• Data Quality
• Dimensional Modeling
• Metrics Definition
• Metadata
• Predictive Modeling
• Query Generation
• Report Writing

What about security?

By definition, mobile BI disseminates highly sensitive and confidential information a company’s performance to devices outside the confines of the business.  Mobile devices are vulnerable to loss or theft.  As a consequence, a mobile BI deployment shouldn’t be considered enterprise-ready until the security of the data on the device, data being transmitted, and data on any stored media is assured. Companies should have mobile device management (MDM) in place, a necessary first step in securing the mobile infrastructure.

What tools can I use?

The landscape of BI tools that are “mobile enabled” is growing every day.  Here is a small sampling of the tools that are positioned for mobile report rendering:

• IBM:  Cognos 10 Mobile
• MicroStrategy:  Mobile BI Suite
• QlikView:  Mobile BI
• SAP: BusinessObjects Mobile
• Tableau

IBM Cognos offers mobile solutions on both the enterprise and midmarket (i.e. Cognos Express) platforms. Reports or dashboards are rendered as an Active Report (MHT file) that includes the image layout and data. Consequently care should be taken when creating the Active Report to ensure that output file sizes are reasonable for the Mobile recipient. Reports and dashboards can be interactive by using prompts to filter data and using the tap, scroll, pinch, and swipe features of the mobile device.

What type of apps should I consider?

The business need will drive the types of applications and how information is utilized on the mobile devices.  Information can be “pulled” by the user to their mobile device:   the user requests a canned report; information is transmitted on demand; and the context-aware device pulls the report.  Alternatively, information can be “pushed” to the mobile device:  a user subscribes to a published report, and the server transmits an alert to the device.  Finally, there is “information collection”, where the user responds to a received report which triggers a back-office action; from there, decision making takes place on location.

The most powerful Mobile BI applications involve the convergence of three things:   the BI tool, the capabilities of the mobile device, and location transparency.

Where do I start?

The same discretion for investing in any type of technical project applies to Mobile BI as it does for more traditional Business Intelligence applications. As mobile business intelligence applications become more widespread, companies will need to become more discriminating in the projects they invest in. Measuring the ROI on existing projects and forecasting the expected ROI on future projects will help them achieve this successfully.

About FYI Solutions

FYI Solutions is an innovative, US-based IT consultancy that delivers better results through closer relationships with our clients and consultants. We specialize in business analytics solutions, software, and staff for the financial services, insurance, life sciences, media & publishing, and automotive industries.

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