Are security concerns hampering Mobile BI adoption?

Mobile Business Intelligence (BI) adoption is strong. Research suggests that it will remain strong over the ensuing 36 months. But, given the enormous proven benefits of Mobile BI – centered on the ability to make faster fact-based decisions – why haven’t enterprises embraced Mobile BI like a longneck on a Friday afternoon?

For more on the benefits of Mobile BI, check out our two-part blog: Benefits of Mobile Business Intelligence.

Predicted Mobile BI implementation rates

There’s no debating that planned and actual implementations have been, and are, on the rise. Figures from various analyst organizations over the past few years have suggested that around 20 percent of organizations are currently delivering BI via mobile devices. A recent TechTarget survey predicts that almost 50 percent of companies will have a Mobile BI solution by the end of 2012. If this prediction comes to fruition, that’s some serious growth.

Gartner’s 2012 BI Magic Quadrant survey has a similar forecast: “More than 20% of survey respondents report that they are already using mobile BI or are piloting it. A whopping 33% plan to deploy mobile BI in 2012. By the end of 2012, a majority of organizations should have some mobility solutions in place”.

Some organizations holding back on Mobile BI

A recent study by research firm Vanson Bourne found that around 30 percent of organizations allow users to access business data from smartphones, and 19 percent via tablets. These figures confirm that despite the explosion of interest in tablet PCs for the workplace, companies seem content to continue leveraging existing smartphone devices to underpin Mobile BI deployments for practical and financial reasons. For more, see our blog Mobile Business Intelligence: Don’t forget the smartphone.

Further, thirty-seven percent of respondents to Dresner Advisory Services’ (DAS) October 2011 Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study stated that 21 – 81 percent of BI users within their organization would consume reporting and analytics exclusively via mobile devices by 2013. Gartner’s official predications regarding mobile analytics are a little more conservative; with the enterprise IT research giant expecting that 33 percent of all BI functionality will be disseminated and accessed via mobile devices within two years.

However, despite the current and predicted importance of Mobile BI - catering to dispersed workforces and shrinking business timelines - the Vanson Bourne report revealed a reluctance amongst survey respondents to invest in “accessible business intelligence”.

So what’s holding organizations back? There must be a strong reason, as author of DAS’s Mobile BI market study, Howard Dresner, has stated that Mobile BI represents a fundamental shift in, and the future of, enterprise information dissemination, interaction and collaboration: “We believe that we’re in the midst of a profound shift toward Mobile BI (and mobile computing). We believe this paradigm shift will affect everyone and have as much impact as the Internet did, over time.

“The impact of Mobile BI… will change the way that we work, our ability to respond more quickly and to align towards common purpose. This notion of pervasiveness has always been the mission of BI, which may now finally be realized with the catalyst of mobile computing.”

What’s holding Mobile BI back?

Answer: Data storage and security.

DAS’ latest Mobile BI study underlines the security concern, with the majority (60%) of the 200-strong respondents stating that 20 percent of employees or fewer would receive BI exclusively via mobile devices within the next two years. Thirty-five percent said that less than ten percent of users would receive mobile analytics exclusively over the same time period.

Underpinning this reluctance to embrace what Dresner has flagged as the future of BI – “I do believe that this [Mobile BI] becomes fundamentally the new platform for Business Intelligence” – are data security fears.

A hefty 40 percent of DAS survey participants stated that they would only implement mobile analytics initiatives that stored data on secured servers exclusively. Significantly, notwithstanding the marked uptick in Mobile BI adoption and interest over the past 12 – 18 months, the percentage of organizations unwilling to implement Mobile BI programs that would store information on individual devices actually rose two percent, up from 38 percent in the inaugural 2010 study.

Solution? Robust security settings

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 becomes 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 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.