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10 don’ts for delivering Mobile Business Intelligence
24 Apr, 2012 - Lachlan James

With all the major vendors and analyst firms espousing the growing importance of Mobile Business Intelligence (BI) and touting its potential benefits, it might seem like mobile reporting and analytics is the silver bullet that the BI industry has been waiting for – a cure to sluggish user adoption rates, elusive ROI and persistently poor decision-making.

Unfortunately, Mobile BI is not to analytics what Penicillin is to bacteria.

Like any other major project, a Mobile BI deployment has to be carefully planned and managed in order to yield desirable results.

So, to avoid disappointment and project derailment, remember these 10 Mobile BI no nos:


1. Treating Mobile BI like a traditional BI implementation

The value of Mobile BI rests on its ability to deliver critical pieces of information – Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – to decision-makers faster than desktop-only access would allow. Therefore, a Mobile BI project should focus on considering; delivering and measuring how, and which, types of reports, dashboards or alerts will improve the productivity and responsiveness of those using mobile devices. Conversely, a traditional BI implementation may be more concerned with meeting scheduled delivery objectives within a specified time and budget.


2. Dumping the desktop experience onto mobile devices

The mobile software client should optimize the delivery of content based on the size of the screen. Emphasis should be placed on ‘bite size’ reports such as KPI sparklines and bullet charts. Mobile reporting should be designed to highlight those strategic KPIs that are of the greatest concern, as well as drive action, through exception reporting.

2. a) Attempting to include all types of data for mobile delivery
Operational data is usually time-bound – so a logical candidate for mobile reporting and analytics. However, not all types of data will be appropriate, or useful, for mobile delivery. Mobile BI should help underpin short-term decision-making and planning. Being able to access additional information from a mobile device will only assist users to make better, faster decisions if it’s relevant and appropriate to the immediate nature of Mobile BI. Non time-bound, or infrequent reports – such as quarterly sales breakdowns – should not be delivered to a mobile device. Mobile BI should:
i. Track near real-time data
ii. Alert users to an abnormality
iii. Equip someone with the ability to take immediate event-based action




3. Being a test subject

Pick an innovative solution for your Mobile BI implementation – a solution and solution provider that understands and embraces the unique requirements of enterprise mobility; both in terms of application design and delivery. However, don’t risk turning your implementation into a lab test – select a solution with recognized third-party credibility to avoid becoming the Guineapig. You want the best of both worlds, a cutting-edge solution and a proven performer!


4. Being laxidasical about security

The prevalence of mobile computing and information sharing at the enterprise level brings with it a plethora of new security risks. Ensure your data is secure at the application and device level.
  • Application: Your BI application and its accompanying mobile platform should easily integrate with existing security protocols to support authorization and authentication.
  • Device: A password protection system on the device should guard against unauthorized access to sensitive business data. Additionally, an automatic lockout system should log users out from a dashboard or report after a significant period of inactivity.
  • Broadcast security: Establish and ensure a clear method and system for segmenting mobile user groups based on their specific job function and information needs.

5. Sacrificing usability

Many research firms within the analytics industry, predominantly TDWI, have noted that many organizations experience persistently poor levels of BI user adoption. At the same time, TDWI acknowledges in the presentation – How Pervasive BI is Good for Your Business and How to Get There – that the number of active users is one of the best performance indicators for any BI implementation. The report concludes that BI adoption and usage rates remain low because most BI products are still geared towards analysts and power users – they aren’t intuitive for non-technical users.



With that in mind, a recent Aberdeen Group report – Mobile BI: Actionable Intelligence for the Agile Enterprise – found that companies with best practice Mobile BI could make critical business decisions three times faster than organizations whose Mobile BI solution failed to observe best practice rules, and six times faster than organizations without a mobile platform for reporting and analytics. And one of the key criteria for best practice Mobile BI? Yep, you guessed it – usability! Further, the need for ease-of-use is intensified when consuming BI via mobile devices for a number of key reasons:
  • Failing to account for unpredictable working environments: By virtue of its very nature, users – especially field personnel – can consume Mobile BI anytime – in poor weather, cramped and rushed conditions. If recipients are unable to access, understand and act on important information at-a-glance, the technology will be abandoned.
  • Failing to cater for device form factors: Your solution provider must provide an application that embraces specific device parameters, such as small screen, no mouse or keyboard as well as limited connectivity.

6. Attempting a single phase rollout


A phased rollout enables any glitches encountered in phase one to be ironed out, and any user feedback to be incorporated, to ensure a more satisfying user experience in phases two and beyond. Even if initial project timelines are sacrificed, a phased rollout has a greater chance of ensuring customer satisfaction and adoption. Securing both these outcomes is vital for the ongoing success of the project and for delivering Return On Investment (ROI).


7. Attempting to rollout Mobile BI to all users

Identify the key user groups who will benefit most from the implementation of a Mobile BI initiative – those who will consistently use the new functionality to access and share corporate data to help identify emerging situations and make better business decisions. A failure to pinpoint core user groups will result in budget blowouts and manageability issues – you have to draw the line somewhere. But, where – or how – do you draw that line? Compile a list of criteria and compare each identified potential user group against that list. Consider:
  • How frequently does this potential user group need to access reports?
  • How often will they be away from their desk?
  • Will the ability to view and access information anywhere, anytime, affect their day-to-day decision-making?
  • Do they perform a business roll that is dependent upon regular access to near real-time information?
7. a) Neglecting to include field staff in the initial pilot program
They’re never in the office, so they’re easily missed. But, chances are, field service personnel – those employees actively engaged with client/prospective client sites, offsite infrastructure or throughout your supply chain – stand to benefit the most from a Mobile BI implementation. And, if they’re not selected as one of your primary user groups, they probably should be. Field service personnel, with their heavy dependence on the ability to access content remotely, will prove perfect test subjects for assessing the best data, report and device types to underpin your Mobile BI deployment.




8. Failing to properly outline a definable ROI for Mobile BI


Executive sponsors will demand a tangible ROI for a Mobile BI implementation – as they would any project. Whilst challenging, establishing a quantifiable ROI for Mobile BI is both possible and essential. Simply define the benefits of Mobile BI (improved employee productivity, faster sales cycles, etc) and the investment associated with Mobile BI (mobile devices, maintenance, services, hardware and software). Then, link and compare the investments with the benefits.


9. Expecting too much

The mere existence of a Mobile BI implementation wont automatically boost you’re BI ROI or guarantee enhanced productivity and faster, better decision-making. Like it’s father – desktop BI – the effectiveness of Mobile BI delivery is dependent upon the quality, accuracy, relevancy and veracity of the data fed into that system. If your BI system lacks suitable data management and quality controls, than the dissemination of that misinformation to a wider mobile audience will actually impair decision-making, not improve it. Further, the effectiveness and long-term success of a Mobile BI implementation also relies on delivering the right information, to the right people, at the right time. This end-goal will only be realized if:
  • The right people are selected in a phased implementation
  • The information selected to be sent is relevant to its audience and appropriate for the mobile platform (both in terms of immediacy and form)
  • The right schedules, alters and broadcasts are set-up
Even with all the right information at their fingertips, people can still make bad decisions – either because they do not interpret the data accurately, or because they choose to ignore the information and go with “gut feel”. The solution:
  • Supply appropriately detailed training and product learning opportunities
  • Foster an environment of fact-based decision-making among identified Mobile BI user groups and throughout the organization

10. Pinning a Mobile BI implementation to a specific device type or platform

Choose a vendor that offers browser-based and native mobile applications. With the continued adoption of HTML 5 to support device-based caching, the debate between delivering reporting and analytics remotely via a Web-browser or device-specific application will continue. Select a BI application that offers both to give you flexibility. Whatever the choice (and it must be a unified one), ensure that the needs of the information consumer (rather than the report writer) dictates your chosen approach. A flexible approach – one with the ability to support different device types and operating systems – is also vital because information and user types will change over time.


 
10. a) Not selecting a BI vendor that offers native applications that leverage smartphone AND tablet functionality
Different types of personnel will require different types of reports to be delivered via different types of mobile devices. Basic operational reports may be easily viewed on highly portable smartphones. Other users may require a dashboard of reports – best viewed via a tablet device. Selecting a BI vendor that offers native applications that leverage the native features and functionality of both smartphones and tablets is imperative. Implementers should consider their targeted user groups and how a smartphone or tablet device will best suit:
  • Their working conditions – where will the information be accessed most frequently?
  • The type and complexity of reports required by each identified user group

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