Who really benefits from mobile BI?
There's no denying the cool factor of whipping out your iPad to show your client a demo when you're out for coffee. And there's no doubt that mobile devices also come in handy for managers who need to check KPIs and track expenses en route to their next meeting. A recent article by the Gartner Research Group acknowledges the growing prevalence of mobile BI in the corporate world, stating that by 2013, 33% of BI functionality will be consumed via handheld devices (Predicts 2011: New Relationships Will Change BI and Analytics). But when devising a mobile BI strategy for your company, consider this: will your users see real value from being able to take action on business data 24/7 or are you just providing a nice toy for individuals who can efficiently do their work behind a desk?
In all likelihood, your accounting manager and research analyst, who spend 95% of their working time behind a desk, do not need mobile BI. The task of a research analyst, for instance, may include reviewing large amounts of data and using data management techniques to analyze and report on results. A job like this requires a decent size monitor (maybe 2!) and a powerful computer with a good amount of RAM. The daily tasks of our researcher do not translate well to a mobile device; a tablet would just be a business toy for him or her. So in the interest of minimizing upfront expenses for company-wide mobile BI deployment, consider the way that people work and realize that mobile BI may not be necessary for every member of your staff.
As the term implies, mobile BI is most useful for folks who are, well, mobile: executives traveling to meetings, sales managers visiting clients, or production managers who need to review and update data while on the plant floor. These users will get the most value from mobile BI because the tasks they'll be using it for are quick (like reviewing a client's purchases last year on the way to a meeting with them) and likely time-sensitive. These are ideal tasks for mobile BI. Why?
Think about the way you use your smartphone in your personal life. If you're out to dinner and want to see a movie, you might Google movie times and skim one or two reviews. It's a quick task that’s time-sensitive. You're likely not going to read 15 reviews and be tethered to your phone for the rest of the night. The way we use smartphones and tablets in our business life is similar. Thinking about how mobile BI will be used will lead to you a streamlined list of users who actually need access to it. And it will streamline the list of reports that need to be accessed on mobile devices, which makes the idea of rolling out mobile BI a lot less daunting. Not every report your organization has ever created needs to be made available on mobile.
Mobile BI is about making operational, sales, and finance data available 24/7 to those who need it – those who will act on it, those who need immediate access to information to improve decision-making, and those who are often not doing their work behind a desk.
What percent of your organization needs mobile BI? I'd estimate ours at 10%.