Accessing information from mobile devices is becoming second nature for business users and executives who need to be connected to performance data 24/7. We’ve seen predictions from Gartner heralding 2012 as the year of mobile BI explosion, where employees will bring their own smartphones and tablet PCs into the workplace. As the number of organizations that have implemented (or are planning to implement) mobile BI increases, there are mounting concerns about mobile security. Lack of control of downloaded applications, lack of centralized server management, and virus protection are some of the concerns that come to mind as business users tote their shiny new personal tablets to work.
Let’s examine more closely how your IT team can handle these issues:
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon. Understandably so, many of us (myself included) have begun taking our own devices to work. Tablets and smartphones can be remarkably efficient for business users on the go, and sometimes it’s just easier to have your personal and business information on the same device. Since the company doesn’t own the device, there is no legal way of controlling what apps an individual can download. However, exposure to malicious software (malware) can pose a tremendous threat to business information. One way to address this concern is to whitelist applications so users have a selection of applications to choose from that IT approves. Employees can still use their devices at work, but within IT-sanctioned limits. IT may also ask users to install a mobile security package to help detect and remove malicious applications.
Mobile device security. Data breaches are a very real threat to data stored on mobile devices. This risk may seem obvious, but accidents do happen. Employees may inadvertently leave their smartphone or tablet in a cab, or at a Mexican restaurant while on a business trip (the arcplanner responsible shall remain nameless), complete with company confidential information.
As both the battalion chief of my local ambulance and rescue squad and a business intelligence consultant, you can imagine that healthcare analytics are near and dear to me. Plus, living in the Philadelphia region, it’s impossible to escape the news of numerous hospital closures every year. So at arcplan, I love working with hospitals and healthcare organizations to build reports and dashboards that track the metrics critical to their survival. All the way back in 2001, Paul Mango and Louis Shapiro of McKinsey & Company argued that hospitals are essentially a commodity business and therefore need to compete on the basis of operational efficiency. This sentiment rings true more than 10 years later, with skyrocketing medical costs, declining insurance reimbursements, and increased utilization by an aging population. Giving hospital executives (and physicians!) access to real-time data has never been more critical to hospital operations.
Hospital executives often report on financial, operational and clinical system metrics which are crucial to ongoing operations and management. The hospitals we’ve worked with often have an overarching goal to provide efficient, quality care to patients, and they need access to their existing data to make sure they are achieving that goal. Important metrics that roll up to the goal of “efficiency” include the average wait time for a hospital bed, physician productivity, nurse turnover rates and the cost per discharge. Metrics that roll up to a “quality” goal include average length of stay, re-admission rates and patient satisfaction. The only way to improve the quality and efficiency of care is to analyze current performance and identify areas for improvement.
One of arcplan’s customers, the largest private operator of healthcare facilities in the world, came to us when they were focusing on efficiency. For more than 5 years, they have used an arcplan-powered business intelligence system (with data from Oracle Essbase and Teradata) to track key metrics and make decisions that improve efficiency of care – specifically in emergency rooms. All of their ERs needed to reduce wait times, shorten lengths of stay, and avoid people leaving the ER without care and treatment. The goal became to have every ER patient seen by a doctor within 45 minutes of arrival.
So what metrics do they track to achieve this goal? Here are a few examples:
2011 brought tons of news and speculation about the rise of mobile BI, which has given way to actual deployments in 2012 (an estimated 22% of companies using BI this year plan to implement mobile BI in 2012). 2012 will bring news of the next wave: Collaborative BI, with an estimated 15% of BI applications to include collaborative aspects by 2013, according to Gartner. I expect that number to be even higher as companies see the value of collaborative BI throughout this year and knowledge workers start clamoring for greater access to information to improve their decision making.
I’ve pondered the impact of Collaborative BI before, but lately I’ve noticed that one aspect often left out of the conversation – open access to all BI content within an organization. Many analysts have been talking about various vendors’ Collaborative BI platforms and accepting their silo’d approach, but I believe the silo story isn’t healthy. Restricting content to one vendor’s BI reports and dashboards goes against everything that collaboration is about. To make the best decisions possible, employees require access to any and all data that can help them, regardless of whether it’s housed in arcplan or a competitor’s BI product, or even unstructured content like an e-mail or a document on an internal SharePoint portal.
Going further, user-contributed content has to be part of the “openness” mix. This means that IT has to loosen the grip on what is considered relevant BI content and allow users themselves to enrich the collaboration database with reports from the Web – like a Salesforce.com lead dashboard for example.