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…
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.
We thought we’d close out the year with a round-up of the best articles of 2011 from arcplan’s Business Intelligence Blog. Catch up on stories you missed or look back on highlights from the year in BI.
BI Dashboards. We covered this topic a lot, from dashboard design tips to best practices. Remember these articles?
Mobile BI. Since we launched arcplan Mobile in 2011, we had mobile business intelligence on the brain.
Cloud BI. 2011 was the year that cloud emerged as a massive IT trend. Check out our thoughts.