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Posted Aug 13, 2010

Mobile Business Intelligence - Fact or Fiction

By Peter Evans

Can corporate business intelligence be delivered to mobile devices? Are the current Mobile Business Intelligence solutions viable?  Learn which major business intelligence vendors are starting to supply either fully-fledged Mobile Business Intelligence tools or intermediate tools that allow companies to display their chosen BI solution on mobile devices.

Current State

With the introduction of the latest round of Apple, Android and Windows Mobile devices to the market, the major players in the Business Intelligence sector seem to at last to have grasped that there is a requirement to be able to display a set of metrics, which enables a company's executives to make informed decisions when away from their corporate desks or headquarters. For many years, I have worked to deliver business intelligence applications that allow my clients to understand where and how their company is performing and how improvements can be made. I have been asked to and succeeded in creating documents that could be displayed on a selection of mobile devices including smart phones, Psion 5, Palm and Windows Mobile devices including automated delivery of these documents via email. However, the major stumbling blocks to the success of mobile Business Intelligence have always been the delivery in real time of the report, due to bandwidth shortfalls and the complexity of building an application that would work with the myriad of devices in operation within the company.

The latest innovations in devices capable of supporting cross platform delivery and the improvements in both mobile bandwidth and support for wireless connectivity have at last led to the availability of real time delivery. These improvements along with the adoption of MDX and XMPP have ensured that the major vendors in the field, including Micro Strategy, IBM and SAP, have been quick to launch a major offensive on the mobile delivery of their desktop Business Intelligence tools. At the same time, many major software providers have risen to the challenge and either upgraded or released mobile BI applications.

Suppliers

Three of the major Business Intelligence suppliers have each chosen a different methodology for connection to mobile devices. SAP has introduced Business Objects mobile - this enables access to in house BO Enterprise data via a small J2ME application installed on the users device via the internet and your chosen mobile network provider. The Java Midlet application is downloaded to the user's mobile device; it enables the device to access BI content on the server and performs a number of selected server actions such as drill navigation. The application is still best served by reports, which are specifically written for the smaller mobile screen. This system is very easy to install and the reports are easy to configure for mobile delivery. It, however, does not currently support the I Phone or I Pad.

Micro Strategy 9 Mobile allows users of I Phone, I Pad and Blackberry devices to connect to a plethora of Data Warehouse systems including MDX, SAP and Oracle and obtain near instant access to the data in a various number of configurable reports. The team at Micro Strategy has expanded their platform to support native gesture support for the Apple devices, allowing the user to interact with a normal Micro Strategy report using the iPhones unique interface. My experience with the Blackberry version has left me frustrated at times due to the limitations of the display and I am assuming that this will be not the case with the Apple versions.

IBM Cognos 8 Go! Mobile offers the ability to connect without the requirement to build and maintain a separate mobile BI deployment. The reports are tailored for mobile devices with full support for mobile navigation such as touch screens and scrolling. Go! Mobile extends the existing Cognos 8 installation to allow the reports to be displayed on a number of mobile platforms including Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm and Symbian. The main component is the Mobile service, which is installed on the Cognos 8 server and transforms the reports and analysis for mobile consumption, compresses the reports for fast distribution over the air to mobile devices and access from these devices and translates SOAP messages into those that can be understood by the wireless device. Along with the mobile content store, this allows full access to all reports based on the enterprise server. This is a full featured and very extensive system, which once installed is very easy to maintain and support. It allows reports to be stored and reviewed in very quick time; however, again it does currently not support the Apple platform.

Other vendors who are supplying a mobile solution include Targit with iPhone and iPad support for their bespoke Targit BI Suite, MeLLmo with their Roambi App for iPhone, Qlik Tech for Android and Push BI, which is a web based service that allows delivery of your own companies BI Stack to various mobile solutions including Blackberry and iPhone.

Delivery

The dynamics of the delivery of business information have been changing for some time, however it is only within the last 18 months that the mobile devices that the executives are utilizing to access the BI data have been able to support the full range of real time data that is available on the corporate net. Delivery of this information should, if it is managed correctly, increase the demand for Business Intelligence and therefore the required capital investment to roll out these systems. To deliver BI on a mobile platform it is imperative to first ensure that the company's mobile platform is stable and supplied if possible by one wireless supplier, especially when considering overseas access. Security is paramount due to the ease of loss and theft of the mobile devices in question, encryption and authentication is a minimum standard. To ensure that each user is reading the same report it should be considered that a single point of origin for all reports and publishing be employed; this will ensure that the remote BI is more manageable. Using BI analysis, which has been produced collaboratively, will be important for the various departments but is must all flow through the single point if it is to be consumed correctly.

Conclusion

For a company or corporation to be fully agile it requires some form of Mobile BI to enable faster executive decision making, better customer service and increased productivity due to streamlined business processes. The emergence of Mobile BI has coincided with the adoption of a those mobile devices which are better equipped to support its delivery by the larger organizations. Is Mobile Business Intelligence Fact or Fiction? Business Intelligence is still a growing field and in some organizations still looked upon as just a corporate performance reporting tool to be used by human resources in deciding bonuses. If a company is already correctly utilizing Business Intelligence to provide business agility and the ability to make educated and dynamic business decisions, which are based on real time data, then Mobile Business Intelligence is likely to already be at the forefront of many of the executives who use the data in house. For this to become a reality requires meticulous planning in both the choice of mobile network and the mobile BI tool. However, I do believe that if care is taken that the future of Mobile Business Intelligence is more Fact than Fiction.

» See All Articles by Columnist Peter Evans



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