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Why every IT shop should have a mobile BI strategy

When business intelligence meets mobility, it changes the way IT shops operate. This is why mobile BI is becoming a key cog in the enterprise machine.

Mobile business intelligence brings the power of BI to mobile platforms in a way that promises to enhance both technologies.

Just as mobile devices made waves in the enterprise, business intelligence (BI) has played a major role in analytics, predictive modeling and strategic decision making. Both movements transformed the way people communicate and do business.

It should come as no surprise that the two technologies would join forces to form mobile business intelligence (MBI). With more people than ever relying on mobile devices to conduct business, delivering the critical, up-to-date information they need, when they need it, has become essential to staying productive. Any business could benefit from implementing a mobile BI strategy.

When BI and mobility meet

BI allows users to easily visualize and analyze data coming from a wide range of sources. The mobile world raises the bar on BI by providing a means for delivering that information on smaller devices, enabling users to access critical data wherever, whenever. An MBI app can improve communication, collaboration, productivity, mobility and decision making.

Executives, for example, can refer to MBI apps when attending off-site meetings. Sales staff can spend more time in the field working with clients versus sitting at their desks crunching numbers. Website administrators can monitor traffic and respond to sudden shifts in usage patterns that could affect operations.

In each case, participants get the data they need to make informed, responsive decisions based on up-to-date information.

The mobility shuffle

The time is ripe for mobile business intelligence. Mobile devices have proliferated across the enterprise in astonishing numbers, to the point that few organizations would now consider doing business without them. The growing number of mobile workers also creates a demand for better and more powerful apps that offer user experiences comparable to consumer apps.

Data itself has also become more varied and unstructured, and it has grown into massive silos, with the BI industry steadily evolving to meet the demand. BI tools have morphed into comprehensive ecosystems that bring discoverability and analytics to virtually any type of user. No longer limited to a handful of data scientists, BI has become more accessible to anyone who needs it.

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IT shouldn't treat MBI as merely an add-on to legacy BI systems without giving thought to the mobile devices and the people who use them. BI apps could present some data as simple charts, graphs or key performance indicators that fit certain employees' computer monitor sizes; or, some situations might be best suited to event monitoring and alert notifications that call for quick responses.

One of MBI's biggest challenges involves the number of platforms IT must support, such as iOS, Android or other operating systems, as well as a variety of smartphones and tablets. And there are different types of mobile BI strategies IT can apply.

Self-service BI allows users to pull data from different sources and create their own dashboards, usually with simple drag-and-drop operations that don't require IT intervention. Other BI tools make it possible to capture user data -- in effect, turning consumers into potential data sources.

An MBI app might need to be able to collect data, as well as present it, or even serve as a collaboration tool for serivce participants. And the geospatial component, which takes location into account while presenting and collecting data, adds another layer of complexity.

Mobile BI is all about data

A mobile BI strategy can't succeed without reliable, accurate, high-quality information. Users must be able to access exactly the information they need wherever they need it, regardless of where the data originates, or whether it is structured or unstructured.

IT must treat security and privacy as top priorities, protecting data in motion and at rest, even when it's available on multiple mobile platforms. Safeguarding data when it remains entirely behind a firewall is one thing; protecting that data on devices that can travel halfway around the world takes security and privacy to a whole new level.

IT must treat security and privacy as top priorities, protecting data in motion and at rest, even when it's available on multiple mobile platforms.

Organizations already supporting mobile devices and apps have likely already implemented the mechanisms necessary to protect information. But when it comes to providing BI data to mobile devices, companies might also need to deliver different types of data to different types of users -- based on role, position or other factors, such as location.

Admins also need the proper systems in place to push and pull data, issue alerts, track exceptions and whatever other steps are necessary to collect and distribute data, as well as sync data to support offline operations and multiple devices.

All BI strategies begin and end with the data, and one that incorporates MBI is no different. The increase in mobile application development frameworks and platforms could help propel the mobile BI movement forward, but many organizations don't yet have a clear vision of how they can best apply a mobile BI strategy. It's still an abstract concept, but it's only a matter of time before MBI becomes yet another household acronym as common as the devices on which it runs.

Next Steps

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