Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
A Roadmap for Success
A White Paper
by Rado Kotorov, Ph.D.
Rado Kotorov Rado Kotorov, technical director of strategic product management for
Information Builders, is responsible for emerging reporting, analytic, and
visualization technologies. He is driving the adoption of RIA, AJAX, search, and
other Web 2.0 and mobile technologies to make BI and enterprise analytics
more accessible, intuitive, and collaborative. Active Reports, Magnify, and
Power Painter are just a few of the applications created through his efforts.
Prior to joining Information Builders he was chief financial officer with
responsibilities in IMS and IT at DeBacker Management LLC. He was also BI
Director at CMI Marketing, where he managed the implementation of BI and
financial reporting solutions, data warehouses, and custom applications.
Mr. Kotorov has developed analytic models and applications for the
pharmaceutical, retail, CPG, financial, and automotive industries. He has a Ph.D.
in decision and game theory, and economics from Bowling Green State
University and has published on business processes, emerging technologies,
CRM, KM, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Table of Contents
1 Executive Overview
2 Mobile Reporting – The Time Is Now
2 Multifunctional Mobile Devices
2 Consistent User Experience
3 Improvements in Productivity
4 No Barriers to Acceptance
4 Standard Development Technologies
4 Rapid End-User Adoption
5 The Right Technology
5 Thick-Client Deployments
6 Thin-Client Deployments
7 Secure, Accessible Content
9 Segments Promote Personalization
9 User Segments for Tailored Mobile BI
9 Customize Content
11 Design Considerations
12 Mobile Analytics
12 BI on the Fly
12 Dashboards for Everyone
How organizations deliver and disseminate information is on the cusp of a new era. Several
technological, sociological, and economic factors have converged to create a viral environment
primed for the rapid adoption of mobile computing. Among them are:
I Widespread adoption of multifunctional mobile devices, known as smartphones
I Interchangeable browser interfaces on mobile devices and laptop computers
I Improvements in productivity as workers make better use of their time
The analyst community – recognizing these factors – believes that all applications should now be
mobile-enabled by default.1 On the forefront of this trend are mobile business intelligence (BI)
solutions. Yet, like any emerging technology, delivering on the promise of mobile BI poses risks,
I Which technology will best suit an organization’s needs?
I Will the new technologies complement existing investments or render them obsolete?
I Will users flock to the new solution or flee from it?
I What is the total cost of ownership (TCO)?
Answering these questions requires a complete view of the technological landscape and an
understanding of mobile BI users. This paper helps by identifying key issues, highlighting
paramount considerations, and mapping the necessary steps to successfully implementing a
mobile BI reporting solution.
1 Gartner Symposium. October 2007.
1 Information Builders
Mobile Reporting – The Time Is Now
The stars have aligned for mobile reporting. Technological, sociological, and economic factors have
all come together to support the next phase of information delivery and dissemination.
Multifunctional Mobile Devices
On the technological front, mobile phones have evolved way beyond merely enabling voice
communications. People now use their mobile phones to send and receive e-mail, take pictures,
listen to music, watch movies, play games, and – most significantly for the topic of mobile
reporting – connect to the Internet.
As handheld devices become more powerful the list of supported applications increases. Assurance
of this trend’s staying power is demonstrated in the fact that voice-only phones are disappearing
from the market. A recent run down of the new cell phones being introduced by leading vendors –
including Nokia, Motorola, HP, and LG – shows that basic units with only voice-calling capabilities
are virtually nonexistent.2
Consistent User Experience
From a sociological perspective, users are becoming more comfortable with their phone’s
ergonomics and multitude of features, and are using them as full-functioning mobile computers.
Phones and laptops are becoming interchangeable. Initial evidence of this convergence is the large
volume of e-mails sent from BlackBerrys and other mobile Windows-enabled smartphones, as well
as the proliferation of CRM mobile applications. Also, phones have an advantage over laptops
because they can be carried anywhere and used anytime – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They
don’t require mobile hot spots or other Internet connections and with Bluetooth they can be easily
connected to printers and other peripherals making almost the entire office portable.
Figure 1: Mobile devices are way more then just phones – rapidly replacing laptops as tools for users
on the go.
Mobile browsers now provide the same functionality of desktop Web browsers so users get a
consistent experience regardless of device. More people are searching the Web, reading news,
watching streamed TV, accessing Web applications, and making transactions on their phone. As
2 Info-Tech Research Group. “Corporate Mobile Phones Purchasing Survey.” August 2006.
2 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
this trend continues business is driven to evolve. Google, for example, recognized the increased
use of mobile devices as a medium for Web browsing and made its search tool and productivity
applications (Google Apps) available on mobile phones, setting the benchmark for usability.
Smartphones are also forcing a shift in the paradigm of how information technology (IT) groups
work. There are currently 1.5 billion phones in use around the world. By 2011 half of the world’s
population will have mobile phones – 50 percent of which will be smartphones.3 This change
clearly indicates that enterprises have to embrace smartphones as a primary form of
communication. IT groups – for the first time in their history – have to adapt to consumer
requirements instead of dictating their own agenda. If consumers can now access their Gmail on
phones, why not access corporate apps too?
Improvements in Productivity
Economic gains from enabling mobile reporting are irrefutable. Currently one out of seven e-mail
users is also a mobile e-mail user, having a BlackBerry or another smartphone.4 Early adopters,
mainly executives, have seen measurable increases in productivity by being able to:
I Work during times otherwise wasted, such as while waiting at airports and before meetings
I Respond immediately to urgent messages
I Be available to and connected with other key decision-makers 24/7
Gains in productivity outweigh the expense of mobile devices and applications – an estimated
fixed cost of $2,500 per mobile user. A low-cost mobile BI solution that does not require additional
infrastructural investments such as WebFOCUS Mobile Favorites from Information Builders drives up
the per-user return on investment (ROI). Furthermore, as mobile computing spreads through the
ranks to all employees, the ROI increases exponentially.
Figure 2: For an increasingly mobile workforce, the value of instant access to information outweighs
other inconveniences such as screen and keyboard size.
3 Jones, Nick. “The Mobile Scenario.” Gartner Symposium. October 2007.
4 Wipro. “Mobile Device Platforms: TCO Comparison of Enterprise Mobile Solutions.” May 2007.
5 Jones, Nick. “The Mobile Scenario.” Gartner Symposium. October 2007.
3 Information Builders
No Barriers to Acceptance
The paradox of mobile computing is that business – motivated by the desire to increase productivity –
historically encouraged the adoption of new technologies. In the case of moving applications to
mobile phones, information consumers are driving the trend. Users are already accustomed to very
advanced phones, which means that a technology adoption barrier to mobile BI is practically nonexistent.
According to Gartner analysts Steve Kleynhans, “Most IT organizations are ill prepared to deal with
this new environment in which users drive technology.”6 IT groups are often (and in many cases
justifiably) leery of new technologies. Knowing the difficulties inherent in implementing unproven
solutions, many would prefer to wait for other companies to provide successful case studies with
clear user benefits. Yet, waiting until this technology becomes mainstream means missing out on
years of productivity gains.
WebFOCUS Mobile Favorites allow you to leverage existing report design and distribution tech-
nologies to jumpstart a mobile BI initiative. Using this approach, many organizations are surprised
to discover that implementing mobile BI may be easier than expected. With Mobile Favorites, for
example, you can rapidly create a pilot program simply by setting existing reports to be delivered
as mobile reports.
Standard Development Technologies
Reuse of existing report-design and development techniques – with no additional learning
required – is the easiest way for developers to accommodate mobile BI initiatives. Mobile Favorites,
for example, uses WebFOCUS Developer Studio for report development, the Business Intelligence
Dashboard for management, display, and security of mobile content, and WebFOCUS ReportCaster
for distribution of reports via e-mail. WebFOCUS shops already have these tools in place as part of
their existing BI strategy. Thus BI reporting is easy to migrate to mobile devices.
Rapid End-User Adoption
Early implementation of a new technology often fails because the novelty of the solution intimidates
users. Yet, if users are already familiar with both the device and the report format this is not a concern.
Also, early adopters of mobile technologies have become role models. The first mobile devices –
most notably BlackBerrys – were given to decision-makers in important managerial roles and have
become highly coveted, status-bolstering tools. Leveraging this perception guarantees an almost
instant acceptance of mobile reporting.
For an increasingly mobile workforce, the value of instant access to information outweighs other
inconveniences such as screen and keyboard size. Decision-makers know this and are inclined to
maximize use of the device and application. The frequency of business travel among executives
and other front-end users, for example, makes them appreciative of access to information and
more tolerant of device shortcomings. Mobile reporting is in users’ self-interest and they are willing
to make trade offs to get the information they need, when they need it.
6 Kleynhans, Steve. “Client Computing Scenario: Creating an Environment for Tomorrow’s Business Realities.” Gartner
Symposium. October 2007.
4 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
The Right Technology
As with non-mobile applications, there are currently two predominant architectures that support
mobile BI deployments: the thin-client and thick-client approaches. To determine which better
aligns with strategic and tactical goals, consider the following overviews.
This approach requires IT to install software on each mobile device and maintain separate servers
to manage the interactions with the device and/or the conversion of content. (See Figure 3.) The
diversity of operating systems (OS) – all of which require unique client-side software – makes this
approach difficult to maintain.
Mobile Application Mobile Reporting Mobile
Server Server Server Server
Figure 3: An architectural overview of thick- and thin-client deployments.
The benefit of this approach – used by Cognos and Business Objects – is that it gives IT control
over the content display,7 and is good for organizations that have standardized on a relatively small
number of mobile devices. But be forewarned, standardization mitigates some content-display
problems but doesn’t eliminate them. Newer devices generally have different operating systems.
Standardization is also difficult to achieve in far-flung global or national enterprises because every
region has different service providers.
7 Control over the display was needed for first generation mobile browsers since they were rudimentary. Today’s
browsers are much more advanced.
5 Information Builders
Thin-client – also known as pure browser-based – architectures rely entirely on Web technologies
to deliver mobile applications. No additional technology investment is required and there is no risk
of client-side software becoming obsolete. With a lower TCO, specific benefits include:
I No additional servers needed
I No client-side software upgrade costs
One solution, WebFOCUS Mobile Favorites (see Figure 4), also offers the benefit of being device
agnostic – any device with Web access can be used.
Figure 4: From any Web-enabled device users can access their Mobile Favorites folder and easily
navigate to BI content.
Remember though, all content cannot be delivered to all browsers. But differences are diminishing
rapidly. There is a race to deliver the greatest improvements in browser capabilities reminiscent of
the Internet Explorer/Netscape war in the mid-90s. As consumers change phones and service
providers they want a consistent user experience. With the release of the iPhone, Apple, Inc. – with
its proven record in identifying lasting consumer trends – has upped the ante by leveraging a Web-
based browser to deliver all applications.
For organizations averse to undue technology risks, conscious of costs, and sensitive to users’
preferences, a pure browser-based approach is more appropriate than a thick-client approach. Used
by Information Builders and consistent with the company’s overall strategy to deliver thin-client
applications and development tools – it offers the most extensible solution. Phones and mobile
browsers will continue to evolve. With a thin-client approach in place, organizations will be able to
deliver more and more applications and content without having to change their underlying
infrastructure. Proven to be low cost and extremely scalable, this approach makes content reusable
across all computers and devices. A significant benefit when you consider the trend of moving
away from one-use devices.
6 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
Secure, Accessible Content
Providing mobile access to enterprise applications on small, sometimes personal, devices poses
security challenges. IT can enhance security by controlling user options, standardizing on particular
devices, and locking applications and mobile phones. But this approach severely limits user
independence and increases management costs.
Security should not become a deterrent for enabling BI applications on mobile devices. A key
factor in the success of a mobile BI initiative is user adoption. If an application is too cumbersome
or time-consuming to access, users will find other ways to get the information they need. Usually
this means waiting until they are back in the office, which hurts productivity, or contacting someone
who can get the information they need. Mobile BI application security should not make it more
difficult for users to access reports than it would be to access information in e-mails received on
the mobile device.
Standard authentication methods achieve this level of security. From an architectural perspective,
this means placing mobile BI applications behind the firewall. Analogous to current Web-security
models, some devices automatically put the user behind the firewall while others require
connections via a virtual protocol network (VPN). In both cases it is important to provide an easy
Information Builders’ solution, for example, sends users an e-mail when content is in their My Mobile
Favorites folder. From a link in the e-mail, users launch the mobile login page to authenticate
themselves. (See Figure 4.) The authentication is stored on the device to identify returning users
thereby providing the same ease of use delivered in Web browsers. Users can now bookmark their
Mobile Favorites launch page to easily access it. On the back end, standard administrative
capabilities are in place to manage the authentication frequency and comply with security policies.
When the Web cookie expires, users are prompted to re-authenticate their credentials.
Figure 5: E-mails alert users of BI content and provide a link to a login page.
7 Information Builders
Sometimes more security is required. Since data can be stored on a device, if the device is stolen
the information can be compromised. Client-based mobile reporting accommodates this by
requiring users to log in each time they access the application. However, since the data is stored on
the device, if the authentication is broken the data can be fully accessed. Web-based applications,
on the other hand, do a better job at minimizing this risk. An administrator can change or deny
access to an application immediately upon notification that the device is missing. Since the data is
not stored on the device it cannot be compromised.
If there is a special requirement to store the data on the device, as will be the case with e-mail
attachments, Information Builders’ solutions offer an additional layer of security through encrypted
Active Reports. The user will be required to enter their credentials and, once authenticated, the
data will be decrypted within the browser. The browser-based decryption prevents unauthorized
access if the report is accidentally forwarded or the device is stolen.
Figure 6: Information Builders’ solutions offer an additional layer of security through encrypted
8 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
Segments Promote Personalization
Segmentation – breaking content into subsets relevant to different user groups – is absolutely
necessary for early adoption of emerging services and products. Most organizations have diverse
groups of users, multiple BI applications, and a multitude of BI content, including static reports,
interactive charts and graphs, and ad hoc capabilities. Getting the right information to the right
users is critical to bolstering user adoption. To do this, organizations must identify their user
segments and quickly enable the solution.
User Segments for Tailored Mobile BI
The first step in providing end users with information personalized to their needs is to break users
into segments based on their attitude toward and acceptance of mobile devices. Then the BI
reports and applications can be tailored to each segment. The type of personalized content each
segment wants can then be outlined based on familiarity and comfort using the devices (segment)
and how they access and interact with the content (BI skill).
Four main segments are:
I Nay-sayers, who will deny the benefits of mobile BI and resist its implementation – the screen
will be too small, the keyboard ergonomically inconvenient, and the whole application too slow;
their use of the mobile device is limited to e-mail and voice communication. Nay-sayers are most
likely to use BI content provided to them via e-mail text messages; WebFOCUS alert capabilities
and inline reporting, which puts data within a sentence in an e-mail, will meet their needs.
I Minimalists, who will use information delivered to mobile devices either as an attachment or as
a Web page but are not likely to navigate complex reports or interact with the data; Minimalists
want static reports that fit within their device’s screen and require minimal navigation; Mobile
Favorites gives access to this information and provides triggers to get reports via e-mail, which
are consumable even when the device is not in wireless mode.
I Personalizers, who want control over content and will choose which reports are delivered and
in what formats; to capture their interest, provide easy-to-use management capabilities.
Personalizers can control content from mobile-enabled business intelligence dashboards; here,
they also select preferred formats, including Excel and PDF (if their device supports it)
I Enthusiasts, who are likely to be both technically and analytically savvy will engage with BI
content as well as consume and manage it. Enthusiasts want the full power of BI on their mobile
device; with Developer Studio it is possible to offer parameterized reports, analytic reports,
analytic dashboards, interactive charts and graphs, and multiple navigation tabs
Information Builders has taken a consumer-oriented approach to content management – give the
advanced user full control over it but also allow administrators to manage it for the less savvy
segments. Our solution provides new functionality to support mobile BI and gives users freedom to
manage content while leveraging their existing knowledge. By extending our standard dashboard
environment users manage their mobile BI content through the My Mobile Favorites folder.
9 Information Builders
This feature works in the same way that the My Favorites folder works (which works as any Favorites
folder in any browser ) and allows users to customize what they see on their mobile device. Since
there is no difference between My Favorites and My Mobile Favorites in how reports are added or
the types of reports available no additional training is required.
Any report can be placed in to the My Mobile Favorites folder. While some reports cannot be
rendered on every mobile device, placing restrictions on what users can do may prevent them
from using supported reports. This approach allows users to grow their mobile folders as they
update and upgrade their devices, browsers, and applications.
While the full freedom is most beneficial to mobile enthusiasts, for Minimalists who may not
customize their My Mobile Favorites folders, content can be administratively managed on their
behalf. In a mixed push/pull approach an administrator pushes content to the folders but the user
retrieves it. This helps transition shy mobile users to the new technology and makes them more
active and self-sufficient.
Figure 7: From the Mobile Favorites launch page, users can run any report that is placed in their
dashboard’s Mobile Favorites folder.
10 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
Report design, always important, is even more significant for mobile devices. Small displays and
keyboards place significant constraints on the user’s ability to manipulate content. This shortfall can
be compensated for with better design, which is what has made the iPhone so successful.
Information Builders leverages all existing WebFOCUS development tools to deliver content to
mobile devices. While there are design considerations specific to the mobile devices, there are no
new development methodologies, templates, or tools to learn. WebFOCUS developers can design
and deliver mobile applications without any additional training.
The following consideration will help counter the small-form factor:
I Use Post-it Notes as a template – if the report fits on a Post-it, it will fit on any device (see
Figure 8); single-screen reports eliminate navigation
I Long is better than wide – vertical scrolling is easier for the end user since context is lost in
horizontal scrolling; for example if columns on the left contain categories and columns on the
right contain numbers, users will not be able to tell what the numbers refer to as the categories
move off the screen (this consideration is less important for browsers with an advanced zoom
function, such as Safari or Opera)
I If you are delivering wider reports to browsers with zooming capabilities, color-code distinct
I Drill-downs are better than surfing – present the information in small chunks instead of on large
pages that don’t display on a small screen
I Parameterize reports to deliver only the information that is needed – selecting a few parameters
is easier than navigating a large report
I Scorecard charts are loaded with information – packing a lot of information in a small space and
displaying beautifully color-coded symbols, they can present multiple variables on the same
chart and tell a full story that otherwise would require three or four charts (see Figure 9)
Figure 8: Small, concise reports fit best on Figure 9: Scorecard reports are ideal since they
mobile devices. pack a lot of information into a small space.
11 Information Builders
Making static reports, alerts, and other business indicators available on a mobile device is a giant step
forward in productivity, but decisions are rarely made based on this information alone. To realize the
full potential of a mobile business intelligence solution, users need to be able to perform analytics.
BI on the Fly
True analytics – the foundation of sound decision-making – takes place when users are able to
explore BI content to identify trends, uncover anomalies, and discover hidden truths. Actionable
reports, which include data and interactive capabilities bound together in a single file, enable this
type of analysis.
Information Builders enables portable analytics with WebFOCUS Active Reports (see Figure 8). This
solution delivers reports to mobile devices with supporting data and relevant content in a single,
self-contained HTML file that can be manipulated into diverse permutations. Users can perform
analysis and forward their findings without any network or device constraints. This paradigm
improves efficiency, facilitates collaborative decision-making, and positively impacts the entire
I Minimizing the number of report requests sent to IT – users have the ability to access and
manipulate the underlying data on their own
I Reducing network traffic – data can be transformed again and again, without repeated
connections and reports can be manipulated while in disconnected mode
I Simplifying distribution – sophisticated reports can be packaged and sent to anyone, including
people outside the firewall
I Expanding analysis – the easy to use interface encourages analysis by individuals not highly
skilled with spreadsheets
Dashboards for Everyone
The sheer volume of information available, however, means users risk information overload.
Dashboards have emerged as a concise way to visualize information. Instead of analyzing multiple
reports and the relationships between them, a dashboard offers an analytical perspective. All
relationships and associated measures are presented in a single, prepackaged view.
The key obstacle to mass use of mobile dashboards is the small screen on the device as well as
the requirement to be connected to the dashboard infrastructure. Two trends are changing this:
Better, larger screens with higher resolution are becoming popular, as on the iPhone, HP hybrid
devices, and Nokia business phones. And, better browsers with advanced zoom functions, touch
screen navigation, and interaction enhancers – such as zoom drop boxes for easier selection –
display content in a useful way similar to dashboard displays.
12 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
Figure 10: The iPhone’s large screen makes viewing dashboard content easier.
Active Dashboards can be distributed to anyone – on any device – either via e-mail, via the My
Mobile Favorites launch page or by posting them on the Web, and users can interact with them
online or offline. This robust and scale free distribution model benefits the entire enterprise by:
I Improving user experience and enhancing decision-making – intuitive and easy to use reports
are consolidated into a single interactive view and displayed in the format of their choice
I Guaranteeing a single version of the truth – updated versions of the dashboard are distributed
on a scheduled basis
I Scaling to unlimited numbers of users – interactions are self-contained so a virtually unlimited
number of concurrent users can analyze information in the portal environment, both inside and
outside the firewall
13 Information Builders
How an organization approaches mobile BI will inevitably impact the health of the entire
enterprise. With more and more employees traveling and working remotely they are driving the
trend and changing the face of business communications.
Information Builders offers a unique, extensible solution that is:
I Compliant with emerging mobile technology trends
I Low cost since additional hardware is not required
I Customizable to meet the BI reporting needs of all users
I Easy to deploy by leveraging existing development and deployment skills
I Robust enough to continue to meet mobile reporting needs even as devices and browsers
become more advanced
Organizations that meet the demand for mobile BI will benefit from maximized productivity by
enabling users to get the information they need wherever they are, both while connected to
enterprise resources and when wireless connections are unavailable. Organizations will also
experience an increased return on investments in mobile devices and BI applications.
14 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting