Mobile business intelligence is a necessity for executives, remote staff and sales people who need access to business-critical data at all times. Its benefits are numerous and go beyond return on investment. They're often intangible and hard to describe (and therefore it's sometimes hard to justify a mobile BI investment). There are many articles from the CIO or CEO's perspective, but we wanted to hear directly from business users. So we surveyed arcplan clients and compiled a list of priorities for an effective mobile BI solution from the users' perspective. Their priorities reflect what users around the world expect:
1. Value Beyond ROI
While management insists on concrete ROI for business intelligence expenditures, users are more concerned with the value of BI solutions in their lives. Mobile BI derives its value by delivering at-a-glance views of business-critical information at all hours of the day or night so whether users are traveling, in meetings, or in a different time zone, they can grab their smartphone or tablet PC and get information that helps them take action.
As BI (literally) moves into the hands of business users, it delivers another important benefit: freedom. Specifically, mobile BI gives users the freedom to view reports as needed, without help from IT and without the limitation of an office setting. Mobile BI users include account managers en route to client sites, supervisors on the plant floor, and store managers who never sit behind a desk – all of whom need data to make decisions at all hours of the day. With mobile BI, different work schedules no longer stand in the way and users become more self-sufficient with the freedom to access information anytime.
3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
The "BYOD phenomenon" refers to users who bring their personal devices into the workplace and connect to the corporate network. It allows users to mix business and personal applications on their own mobile devices rather than carrying separate phones and tablets for work and life. Many mobile BI strategies allow for BYOD so users who prefer Android can use those devices even if the company regularly issues Blackberry phones, for example. In order for this strategy to make sense, businesses must adopt mobile BI that is based on flexible Web apps – applications that run through mobile browsers on smartphones and tablet PCs, eliminating the need to create separate apps for different devices. Executives who carry both an iPad and an iPhone do not want to wait for IT to develop separate apps for each device. So along with the desire to choose their own device, mobile BI users want speedy implementations on those devices. In return the organization is spared the cost of purchasing more mobile devices or forcing standardization on one particular device.
4. Sensible Design
Mobile BI users prefer information delivered in a way that is tailored to their device, not simply ported from a traditional BI application with no design changes. In fact, BI application designers should have mobile devices in mind when creating any new report or dashboard. With over 1 billion mobile workers, mobile design must be a priority from the get-go, not an afterthought. Dashboards should be tailored to fit the screen size by breaking them into smaller segments for easy consumption. Simple touch commands to drill down and easily filter reports are must-haves for users. Mobile users also express a desire for an intuitive mobile BI experience with little to no training required because applications should mimic the device controls with which they are already familiar.
Security concerns abound when it comes to mobile devices. Mobile BI users want to ensure they are not jeopardizing company information and appreciate guidelines from IT to minimize the damage if there is a breach of security. Users prefer not to login every time they access a mobile BI app, but do like the idea of remote wiping and other security measures in case their device is lost or stolen.
On-the-go access to business information is an invaluable asset to mobile BI users. Addressing what users really want from their mobile BI should be paramount since solutions that ignore their needs will quickly lose relevance. Even though mobile BI is a relatively new tool in the business intelligence world, I suspect it will overtake traditional BI access by 2015 provided it delivers on users' top priorities.