In my previous post on this topic, I evaluated some of the necessary components for a successful mobile BI deployment. As with any project, planning is the most important step, so let's continue today with 3 more items to add to your mobile BI strategy checklist.
4. Platform strategy
When working out your platform strategy, you need to consider the kinds of devices you'll deploy your mobile business intelligence on and then what decisions will be affected by those devices. Ideally, your organization would have a standard mobile device rolled out to users, enabling centralized hardware, software, and data security. But this is the real world and that train has left the station. "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) is a trend for a reason. Before the term was coined, business users were using their own mobile devices to keep in touch with work while away from their desks, and they don't want to carry separate work and personal mobile devices. CIOs and CSOs (corporate security officers) are beginning to tentatively accept employees using their personal devices, if only for the cost savings to the organization (going back to the ROI discussion from Part I of this article). One of the implications of this platform strategy is, of course, security concerns, which I'll address in my next article.
5. Software strategy
This is an area that will be affected by your choice of mobile platforms. If you're lucky enough to have a standard mobile platform at your company, then native mobile BI apps will be an option for you. These are applications specifically designed to operate on a particular device, like an iPhone or iPad. They take advantage of the native gestures of the device, like pinching and zooming. However, if you might possibly switch device standards or have one set of mobile BI users on iPhones and another on iPads, consider Web apps, which are device-independent applications that can be rolled out on another platform in the future with little effort. They run through Web browsers on smartphones and tablets, eliminating the need to create separate apps for different devices.
However, the advent of HTML5 is putting the debate between native vs. Web apps to rest – in favor of Web apps. What HTML5 means for mobile BI is that browsers can utilize RIA (rich internet application) clients like .NET or Java and can integrate native gestures into a Web app environment (an old gripe of the native app camp). I expect the showdown between Web apps and native apps to end in the near future, but for now it's still a choice that your organization will have to make.
6. Mobile BI app design
Mobile device screen resolution necessitates BI application redesign – not always a full-scale redesign of an existing BI app, but at the very least adjustments to font sizes, charts, and buttons to accommodate a smaller screen size. As I mentioned last time, arcplan Mobile makes publishing desktop BI apps for mobile devices easy, but not every mobile BI product does this. You'll have to consider application design as part of your mobile BI strategy, as this element can make or break user adoption.
Apps for smartphones will have different requirements than apps for tablets. While a 9-inch tablet can display an entire dashboard at once, a smartphone BI app should limit users to a list of reports that lead to individual charts.
Deploying mobile business intelligence is not something organizations should do on a whim. Done right, mobile BI will not simply be "nice to have;" users will quickly see the benefits of increased productivity and the ability to make better decisions faster.
Next time, I'll tackle more fun stuff: the options you have for your mobile BI architecture and the security concerns you should evaluate before anything goes wrong (and it will).