According to Franklin D Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”. But clearly, many organizations harbour other notable trepidations when it comes to Mobile Business Intelligence (BI).
A recent TechTarget report revealed that a mere 10 percent of organizations currently utilize Mobile BI. However, the same study predicated that figure to explode during 2012, reaching 48 percent by year’s end. Similarly, the Business Application Research Center’s (BARC) The BI Survey 10 – complete The BI Survey 11 now – reported comparable current Mobile BI penetration rates, but predicted that around 60 percent of organizations are likely to possess some form of mobile reporting and analytics within the next two years.
These figures reflect the fact that there is substantial interest in Mobile BI, which is being simultaneously tempered by considerable misgivings. This atmosphere is reflected in results from Dresner Advisory Services latest Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study, which found that sixty-eight percent of survey participants rated Mobile BI as "critical" or "very important".
So, why are many organizations holding back on actually implementing Mobile BI, and what are the main roadblocks fostering this climate of excitement and hesitation?
Many fear that Mobile BI will make data governance unmanageable
Data governance is an essential factor for any BI implementation. The addition of Mobile BI capabilities heightens that need. The introduction of Mobile BI means more – and different types of – users consuming more data with greater frequency. It also means a greater variety of report types being consumed on a larger number of devices.
To ensure the validity, accuracy, scalability and manageability of those reports and the reporting environment, all content creation should be managed via a centralized environment. To achieve this, an author once, consume anywhere content creation model is critical. That is, reports created by a central BI team, via the browser in a desktop environment, which are immediately accessible via mobile devices. Establishing and maintaining a BI deployment, as a single trustworthy source of data, is paramount. Additionally, eliminating the need to re-create content for the mobile platform, or repackage it for mobile distribution, saves time and money, allows resources to be repurposed, and significantly improves the overall manageability of a BI environment.
Many dread potential design complications
Successful Mobile BI demands adherence to stringent dashboard distribution and design principles – significantly more so than within the common desktop user environment of traditional BI implementations. When sending – and designing – data to potential users via handheld devices, the need for careful scrutiny is heightened. Considerations should include:
- The type of device used: Tablet vs smartphone, including screen size and native functionality. Also consider:
- The working environment of target user groups: The conditions in which data is consumed will also play a significant role in the type of device required and, to some extent, will also dictate the optimal type of reports for mobile delivery. For example, if the selected user group is highly mobile, a tablet may prove cumbersome and unrealistic. Conversely, if a full dashboard of reports were required, a tablet device – with its markedly larger screen – would better serve the needs of its user community.
- The type and complexity of reports required by each identified user group: If the selected user group only needs a small number of basic reports, smartphone delivery would satisfy user requirements, whilst simultaneously enhancing convenience.
- The type of reports needed: As a general rule, ‘bite size’ reports such as KPI sparklines and bullet charts are best.
- The User Interface: Does it promote intuitive navigation, interactivity, and prompt collaboration and information sharing? Also consider:
- The type of users accessing reports via mobile devices: This will affect the type, and therefore the complexity, of reports chosen for delivery.
- The frequency with which each user group would, in theory, access and benefit from the ability to view reports via mobile devices: This will enable the identification of core mobile user groups and appropriate report types for mobile delivery.
- Time-bound data: Focus on delivering time sensitive information that, when viewed via a mobile device, can directly affect important business outcomes. Mobile BI should assist end-users to track near real-time data, identify – or be alerted to – abnormalities, and ultimately enable them to take immediate event-based action.
Many have trouble overcoming security concerns
Security. Not a stimulating topic, and far from an original one, but inarguably the most important. Many analysts and industry research organizations suggest that the majority or enterprise apprehension surrounding Mobile BI stems from well-publicised data security concerns.
Deploying Mobile BI poses unique challenges. Security considerations are very important. Robust multi-tiered security – incorporating strong authentication, authorization, encryption capabilities and procedures – is a must in order to safeguard the transfer of sensitive corporate data to remote devices. Consider whether that information needs to be stored outside the company firewall at all, and if so, 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. A 100 percent Web-based BI service ensures that no data is stored on the individual mobile device.
But, the prevalence of mobile computing and information sharing at the enterprise level brings with it a plethora of security risks. Ensuring your data security at all levels – from the application to the device – is imperative.
- 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 timeout from a dashboard or report – or the application should ‘lock’ – after a significant period of inactivity. For mobile devices with offline mode capabilities – where data can be stored (cached) on the device itself – this is particularly important. Attempted reconnection should be guarded by username and password authentication.
- Centralized control: 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.
- Broadcast security: Establish and ensure a clear method and system for segmenting mobile user groups based on their specific job function and information needs. In-business confidentially is essential. 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.
- Encryption: Lastly, highly sensitive report data – transferred from the server to mobile devices – should be able to be encrypted.