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.
Mobile business intelligence is poised to skyrocket in 2012 and beyond. With up to 80% of users expected to access BI exclusively on their mobile device within 2 years*, mobile BI has become a critical part of many businesses’ IT strategy. As the desire for mobile BI grows, businesses are jumping rapidly into the pool – in some cases, without fully forming a long-term strategy or managing users’ expectations, which can lead to low adoption rates or ultimately project failure.
Businesses should avoid the following pitfalls as they dive into mobile BI deployments:
1) Expecting true feature parity. When users are introduced to mobile business intelligence, they may expect it to offer the feature richness they enjoy on their laptops or PCs. Unfortunately, mobile BI does not currently allow actions like “drag-and-drop,” so it will never be quite the same experience. To make up for this, mobile BI apps should leverage device-specific controls and gestures that allow for zooming in and out and should make use of large buttons and easy navigation to make the experience as user-friendly as possible. Preparing users to miss some features but embrace others is the way to ensure a smooth transition from desktop BI to mobile BI.
2) Ignoring mobile design standards. 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. In addition, an app for a smartphone will have different requirements than one for a tablet. 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. As mobile BI grows in popularity, we will undoubtedly see organizations design their dashboards and reports with mobile in mind, enabling even easier deployment.
In my last post on this subject, I talked about the benefits of cloud computing, especially when it comes to deploying BI in the cloud. The advantages are numerous, but there are also drawbacks that need to be considered before responsibly moving forward. Here are some of the arguments we hear about from our customers and how business intelligence providers have already thought of ways to curb them:
Data security. Security is a concern for IT and business professionals alike. Since your business performance data is stored externally in a cloud model, data management and protection is in the hands of the provider – not your IT department. For regulated environments such as the pharmaceutical, healthcare and financial services industries however, data security is paramount and their information may never be stored off-site. However, it’s still possible to deploy your BI in the cloud even if your data needs to be stored on the premises. It simply involves storing your data on-site behind firewalls and running your queries and reports over the web in a browser. Your data never leaves the premises so you maintain your own data security, but you still benefit from less hardware costs and time saved from not having to install the BI software on every machine or mobile device. It’s a win-win. You can learn more about this particular style of deploying cloud BI in our webinar, A Roadmap for BI Cloud Computing, which is available as a recording here.
Data backup. Though it’s a cost-saving measure to dump your backup servers, having your backup and storage off-site can keep you up at night. If your company is dependent on the cloud provider’s backup and redundancy services to preserve data if any issues arise, you better hope you chose your vendor wisely :-). No seriously, the method we just touched on where data is actually stored on the premises is a compromise that can alleviate this issue.