To date mobile devices have largely been excluded from the business intelligence world because of their limitations and because of security concerns. That, according to Forrester Research, is about to change and the extension of BI to mobile devices will in due course change the nature of BI, it suggests.
Business Intelligence tools – software that transforms raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes – have long been widely used by corporations to aid in competitor and market analysis and planning. The use of mobile devices to access business intelligence tools is the subject of a Forrester research paper Market Overview: Mobile Business Intelligence, based on interviews with more than 30 vendor and user companies.
According to Forrester, developments in mobile device management and security are playing a large part in enabling mobile devices to enter the world of BI. “There are signs that we are at an inflection point as far as the exploitation of mobile BI is concerned,” it says. “’Mobile capabilities’ now appears regularly on enterprise checklists when sending out requests for information or requests for proposal.”
Forrester identifies tablet-toting executives as a key driver of this trend, just as they drove the initial phases of BYOD. “Beyond using [their tablets] for email access, executives started bringing their iPads into board meetings as more and more organisations moved toward the electronic distribution of board papers. Many execs then started questioning why they shouldn’t also be able use their tablets to access key performance indicators (KPIs) and other business information.”
These pressures are creating a ‘virtuous circle’ of BI innovation, Forrester says. Established BI vendors have been working hard to enhance their mobile offerings, and the number of mobile BI solutions from both existing BI specialists and new market entrants has increased considerably. “Frequent updates and a continuous drip-feed of new features by a number of vendors are forcing a higher pace of innovation across the entire mobile BI landscape and are also giving enterprises greater confidence in finding a solution that meets their needs.”
The report lists some of the benefits of gaining mobile access to the current suite of BI tools, but then it envisages a paradigm shift in BI driven by this mobile access. “Forward-looking organisations are beginning to exploit the potential of mobile BI to transform the way in which they deliver products and services or to develop new ones,” it says.
Forrester lists initial mobile device functionality likely to be exploited as: the ability to interact with the data, the ability to collaborate on BI applications, and the use of mobile devices to interact with the BI software.
Beyond this it suggests that the ability to access business data on a mobile device, often at decision-making time, very quickly exposes any deficiencies in existing BI systems and supporting processes, such as missing data sources, data not being available in a timely manner, or conflicting data points.
“None of these issues are new; however, bringing them out into the open through the use of mobile BI, often in the hands of decision-makers or even budget holders, has the potential to open up the dialogue between business and technology executives — dialogue that’s needed to unlock the coffers for investments,” Forrester says.
It concludes: “Delivering BI capabilities to the mobile device opens up endless possibilities. While it’s early stages for the majority, a number of companies have realised the transformative potential of making BI data an integral part of a process delivered via the mobile device.”
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