The truth about mobile business intelligence 5 common myths debunked


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The truth about mobile business intelligence 5 common myths debunked

  1. 1. The Truth About Mobile BusinessIntelligenceFive Common Myths DebunkedA White Paper by Kevin Quinn
  2. 2. Kevin Quinn Bringing more than 27 years of software marketing and implementation experience to his role as vice president of Product Marketing for Information Builders, Kevin Quinn oversees the development of marketing for all prod- uct lines. Mr. Quinn has been credited with helping to define business intelligence (BI) end-user categories through his creation of guidelines for using business intelligence tools. He has helped companies worldwide develop information deployment strategies that accelerate decisions and improve corporate performance. His efforts in this position have helped propel Information Builders WebFOCUS and iWay Software solutions to category leadership in their respective areas. Mr. Quinn is also the founder of Statswizard.Com, an interactive sports statistics website that leverages business intelligence functionality. Mr. Quinn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Queens College in Flushing, New York.
  3. 3. Table of Contents 1 Executive Summary 2 Myth #1 – Mobile BI Requires All Users to Be on the Same Device 3 Myth #2 – A Native Application Is Required for Each Type of Mobile Device 4 Myth #3 – Mobile BI Is Only Consumed on Mobile Phones or Smartphones 5 Myth #4 – Mobile Users Are Always Connected 6 Myth #5 – Mobile BI Users Cannot Perform Ad Hoc or Deep Analysis 7 Conclusion
  4. 4. Executive Summary Mobile business intelligence (BI) is not a new concept. It was first introduced more than a decade ago. The reason that it is just now starting to take off, most industry experts agree, is because the combination of social and technical barriers that held it back are finally starting to crumble. The architectural frameworks of the most popular BI platforms are now robust enough to support the information needs of mobile users. Advances in mobile devices are also making it common for them to handle more than just the most basic data delivery. Although the underlying technology is now there, and companies are recognizing the importance of giving mobile users the ability to access and interact with information while they are out of the office, some still hesitate to embark on a related project. There are many unfounded myths that imply that mobile BI is too difficult to deploy, too cumbersome to use, too limited in functionality, or too expensive to provide value. Companies that buy in to these misconceptions are missing a crucial opportunity to significantly enhance their operations and gain a competitive advantage. In a May 2010 Aberdeen survey, 23 percent of respondents already had a mobile BI environment in place, while another 31 percent planned to deploy one within the next 12 months.1 Although this represents significant growth (in 2009 only 17 percent of companies were leveraging mobile BI) close to half of companies have yet to move forward with this critical initiative. In this white paper, we will examine the five common myths associated with mobile business intelligence and uncover the facts about cost, implementation, and capabilities. We will also explain why companies should move forward with their mobile business intelligence projects. 1 Borg, Andrew. “Enterprise-Grade Mobile Applications: Secure Information When and Where It’s Needed,” Aberdeen Group, Inc., November 2010. 1 Information Builders
  5. 5. Myth #1 – Mobile BI Requires All Users to Be on theSame Device The Facts If this were true, only the smallest companies, with only a handful of mobile users, would be able to deploy a mobile BI environment. Mid-sized and larger companies would find themselves hard pressed to move their entire mobile workforce onto the same device – making the successful widespread use of mobile BI nearly impossible. In the past, many companies deployed BI applications specifically for BlackBerry devices, simply because it was most popular among business users and provided the easiest way of accessing corporate information. Then, mobile users expressed a preference for iPhones and Android-based phones. According to Howard Dresner, founder of Dresner Advisory Services, the iPhone was the preferred device for mobile business intelligence in 2010, while this year the iPad has become predominant.2 This shift has rendered a BlackBerry-only approach antiquated and ineffective. Dresner also cites a “requirement to leverage existing investments in mobile devices.” In other words, companies already have a variety of mobile devices in use and likely won’t embrace the idea of spending more money to replace a large portion of them, just for the sake of mobile BI. Most mobile BI platforms do make reporting capabilities available via a wide array of different devices. However, just because they can do it, doesn’t necessarily mean they make it easy or economical. Many tools require companies to devote a tremendous amount of development effort to make reporting available on a variety of devices. This not only drains resources, but also drives up total cost of ownership (TCO). The web browsers in today’s mobile devices are quite powerful and full-featured, eliminating the need for any software to be installed on the device itself. There are a few world-class mobile BI solutions, such as Information Builders’ WebFOCUS BI platform, that take full advantage of these browsers. These platforms are truly device-independent, providing support for any type of mobile appliance by delivering BI content – in the form of reports, dashboards, and applications – directly to the device’s browser. WebFOCUS content can be developed once and deployed and viewed anywhere. 2 Dresner, Howard. “Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study,” Dresner Advisory Services, February 2011. 2 The Truth About Mobile Business Intelligence
  6. 6. Myth #2 – A Native Application Is Required for Each Type ofMobile Device The Facts For many mobile business intelligence tools on the market today, this statement is, in fact, true. Many offerings lack the ability to exploit each device’s native capabilities in a dynamic fashion, and therefore require companies to build custom reporting and analysis applications for each type of device in use. Given the wide range of mobile devices used in most organizations today, this can become extremely time-consuming and cumbersome – not to mention cost-prohibitive. With the pace that smartphones and tablets continue to evolve, developers will be continuously burdened with updating and enhancing the environment to support new and improved devices as they become available. In an enterprise with thousands of mobile users there could potentially be dozens of different versions of different devices in use at any given time. There will also always be users who are upgrading their existing appliance or moving to a new one altogether. With the wrong mobile BI platform in place, keeping pace with these constant changes could be an obstacle that IT simply cannot overcome. Not all mobile BI platforms are created equal. There are a few rare, advanced solutions designed to eliminate the time and effort associated with creating and maintaining multiple versions of various BI assets for each mobile platform. For example, mobile reports, dashboards, and web applications built with WebFOCUS have the ability to dynamically detect what device is being used and automatically transform BI content into the appropriate format. Unlike other mobile reporting and analysis solutions, this makes WebFOCUS truly device-independent. 3 Information Builders
  7. 7. Myth #3 – Mobile BI Is Only Consumed on Mobile Phonesor Smartphones The Facts This statement was true just a few short years ago when the majority of mobile BI consumers used BlackBerry and Palm devices. Then came the iPhone and Android-based phones. Smartphones such as these, while ideal for obtaining a high-level view of business operations, aren’t so great when it comes to conducting more advanced data analysis. The small screens make it difficult to analyze a report with dozens of different variables or view an intricate chart. As a result, most business users leveraged mobile BI applications for little more than the most basic corporate information, or to stay on top of critical key performance indicators and metrics. The recent emergence of tablet computers, and their growing popularity, is changing the face of mobile business intelligence. Tablets, such as the iPad, eliminate the shortcomings of smartphones making it easier for mobile users to conduct more in-depth analysis. These workers now have the means to generate ad hoc reports or manipulate data for great detail. Forrester Analyst Boris Evelson has stated that it is tablets – not phones – that are driving the trend toward wide-scale mobile BI adoption. In his blog, he wrote that, “Mobile tablet devices are a different story. Just like Baby Bear’s porridge in the Goldilocks and The Three Bears fairy tale, tablet PCs are ‘just right’ for mobile BI end users.”3 In a recent blog post, IDC’s Alys Woodward claims that the iPad will take BI to new heights due to its improved interactivity, compact size, and ability to make the benefits of mobile BI clearer to executives.4 Mobile BI platforms must evolve to meet these new and expanding end user requirements by providing not only shallow reporting and analysis capabilities, but also by allowing users to conduct deep, highly interactive analysis. Most tools available today have not yet incorporated these capabilities, and still provide only simple data access functionality. Some, such as WebFOCUS, already offer advanced analytics for mobile users. 3 Evelson, Boris. “Mobile Tablet PCs, Not Phones, Will Create Critical Mass for Enterprise BI Adoption,” Forrester Blogs, March 2011. 4 Woodward, Alys. “Will the iPad Take BI to a New Dimension,” IDC Insights Community, November 2010. 4 The Truth About Mobile Business Intelligence
  8. 8. Myth #4 – Mobile Users Are Always Connected The Facts Many mobile BI solution vendors mistakenly assume that users are always connected to the Internet or a corporate network. With this in mind, they design solutions that lack features to allow users to perform reporting and analysis even when they are disconnected. There are times when Internet connections – particularly Wi-Fi – may be rather slow. This can frustrate users, forcing them to disconnect from the web, but they may still need to gather important intelligence on their way to a meeting or a customer visit. That is why it is so important for a mobile BI solution to enhance the user experience by tapping in to each device’s native capabilities and empowering them to work in disconnected mode. A recent report issued by Aberdeen’s David White claims that, when it comes to mobile BI, the “top performers are over twice as likely to be able to use mobile BI when disconnected.”5 While this capability is not available in the majority of platforms on the market today, world-class solutions such as WebFOCUS do offer it. WebFOCUS Mobile Favorites allows users to trigger reports to be dynamically sent as attachments that can then be viewed and worked with offline. WebFOCUS Active Technologies makes advanced data analysis functionality accessible to mobile users working in disconnected mode. Data and interactive capabilities are bound together in a single, self-contained HTML file and delivered to mobile devices, allowing disconnected users to not only view content while in transit, but to manipulate it into diverse permutations by performing sorts, filters, calculations, rollups, visualizations, and more. WebFOCUS Active Technologies reports and dashboards can be saved on any mobile device. The built-in analytic engine allows users to interact with them while disconnected. 5 Borg, Andrew and White, David. “Mobile BI: Actionable Intelligence for the Actionable Enterprise,” Aberdeen Group, Inc., December 2010. 5 Information Builders
  9. 9. Myth #5 – Mobile BI Users Cannot Perform Ad Hoc orDeep Analysis The Facts Many companies shy away from mobile business intelligence because their users need the ability to interact extensively with data from their smartphones and tablets. These companies have been mistakenly led to believe that mobile BI solutions simply don’t offer that kind of functionality, so they choose not to invest in something they believe won’t meet their needs. For many of the mobile BI tools currently on the market, this myth is true. The majority of available solutions only offer access to static data and basic reports. Users have little or no ability to analyze information in great detail. For more advanced mobile BI platforms, this statement is completely false. WebFOCUS Active Technologies allows organizations to deliver completely interactive reporting and analysis to any mobile device – without the need for specialized software. It leverages the native capabilities of any mobile browser to empower mobile workers with analytic functionality that can be applied to virtually any data from any enterprise source. This device-independent solution works by combining data and interactive capabilities into a single document – such as a list, report, or dashboard – that can be distributed to mobile devices. From there users can perform advanced manipulations, such as filtering, sorting, calculating, charting, and more. WebFOCUS Mobile Favorites offers a fully device-agnostic environment that enables instant report generation and dissemination across devices. Users have the ability to customize BI content on demand by running parameterized reports and drilling down for further details. Reports can then be immediately distributed via e-mail to other users, allowing for unhindered information sharing, regardless of device, platform, or browser. 6 The Truth About Mobile Business Intelligence
  10. 10. Conclusion WebFOCUS debunks all the myths highlighted in this paper. In spite of the abounding myths, mobile business intelligence doesn’t have to be expensive, hard to implement, or difficult to use. In fact, companies that choose the right solution, with the right capabilities, will realize low TCO and rapid ROI, while empowering their mobile users with the ability to access and interact with timely, complete corporate information – anytime, anywhere – from any smartphone or tablet. Unlike mobile BI tools that offer little more than simple data access, WebFOCUS makes powerful capabilities – guided ad hoc reporting, advanced analytics, write-back and transaction processing, and real-time BI – readily available to virtually any mobile device, including smartphones (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android-based phones) and tablet computers (iPad). With a pure browser- based (thin-client) architecture that relies entirely on web technologies to deliver mobile applications, organizations can rapidly expand the number of applications and the content available on mobile devices without changing their underlying architecture. 7 Information Builders
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