Have you been considering a Mobile Business Intelligence (BI) deployment, but aren’t sure where to begin? Well, here are six tips to help get you off the bench and into the game:
1. Establish the need
With the almost overwhelming eagerness of the vendor, media and analyst communities, it’s possible that many organizations will be reeled into the Mobile BI trap like mesmerized fish on a lure. Why can Mobile BI be a trap? Well, given the current climate of hyper-excitement surrounding mobile reporting and analytics, many organizations run the risk of deploying mobile initiatives without properly considering the primary user groups and benefits. Whilst many organizations have the potential to benefit immensely from the ability to deliver BI to mobile devices, ill-conceived deployment plans can lead to limited, or virtually no, business value.
a. Secure executive sponsorship
Like a BI implementation itself, a Mobile BI rollout is a process – a process that will experience inevitable hiccups along the way. Without proper financial and political support, the project runs the risk of stumbling and collapsing in a tangled mess at the first hurdle.
b. Link Mobile BI to clearly defined business goals and objectives
Link Mobile BI to clearly defined business goals and objectives. Openly articulate these objectives throughout the organization to deliver Mobile BI in a way that supports those demands – Mobile BI isn’t a flashy coat pocket accessory. It should increase productivity and improve operational efficiencies.
c. Select primary user groups
Carefully establish which user groups – be it sales staff, line managers or the executive team – will utilize the ability to receive Mobile BI content most consistently to improve decision-making and task execution.
2. Interactivity is a must
The whole premise of Mobile BI rests on its ability to deliver the right information to decision-makers and empower them to act, anytime, anywhere. The mobile solution chosen to underpin an organizations’ mobile program must support the appropriate level of interactivity – the ability to search for information, drill, filter, sort and share reports, collaborate and initiate action – to allow users to find and utilize the information required.
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.
For example, delivering an analytical dashboard of ten reports to a phone would result in a terrible user experience.
3. Ensure you have the appropriate infrastructure
The advantage of Mobile BI is the ability to deliver information to users when required. If back-end issues hamper the delivery speed of mobile reporting and analytics, then what’s the point?
“If I’m going into a customer meeting or a supplier meeting or a prospect meeting, I need the information right now – not five minutes from now.” – Howard Dresner: Mobile BI thought-leader, former Gartner Research Fellow and President and Founder of Dresner Advisory Services
4. Security is paramount
Deploying Mobile BI poses unique challenges. Security considerations are very important. Companies must consider what type of information travels outside their firewall and how it will be protected.
The most effective security strategy is to ensure Mobile BI users connect, authenticate and access organizational data from their BI server via the Web in real-time. Too often, news stories and headlines tell a horror tale of executives whose laptops or mobile devices are lost or stolen. The stories inevitably reveal the extent of the damage to customers and stakeholders as the details about sensitive data on the device become known. A 100 percent Web-based BI service means that no data is stored on the mobile device.
For mobile devices with offline mode capabilities – where data can be stored (cached) on the device itself – it is imperative that application access be safeguarded. A users’ session should timeout, or the application should ‘lock’, after a period of significant inactivity.
Attempted reconnection should be guarded by username and password authentication. Secondly, it is critical that authentication (such as password management) is managed centrally, preferably through a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory, so that a lost device does not result in unauthorized access to the BI server. A single simple change to the centralized authentication system ensures access to reports from a lost or stolen device is disabled.
In-business confidentiality must also be guaranteed. Delivery of data to mobile devices must be able to be personalized to suit the needs, skills, roles and responsibilities of individuals from different departments.
Finally, highly sensitive report data – transferred from the server to mobile devices – should be able to be encrypted.
5. Choose a vendor with native support for Apple devices
Dresner’s latest Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study also strongly suggests that selecting a BI vendor that offers native applications for Apple’s iPhone and iPad is important. The report revealed a strong and continuing preference for native applications and Apple’s prolific mobile devices.
Thirty-two percent of respondents to the October 2011 survey cited the Apple smartphone as their first choice platform for Mobile BI. The iPad was a close second, with 30 percent listing the Apple tablet as their preferred platform.
Sixty-one percent of survey respondents disclosed that the iPad is now in use within their organizations’ Mobile BI program. A further 21 percent plan on adopting the iPad for mobile reporting and analytics in 2012 and beyond.
Likewise, 70 percent of respondents said that the iPhone had been incorporated into their current mobile analytics initiative, with a further 18 percent planning to deploy iPhone-based Mobile BI initiatives during 2012.
6. Author once, consume anywhere
A single authoring environment is vital, allowing information to be delivered to mobile users without having to create a separate set of BI views, reports and dashboards. This way, users can gain the benefits of Mobile BI immediately and experience the power of true device independence.
Having to recreate content for the mobile platform, or repackage existing reports for mobile distribution, wastes significant time and drastically increases maintenance and support requirements.