Mobile Business Intelligence – Fact or Fiction


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.

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Peter Evans

Peter Evans
Peter Evans
Peter Evans, a Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing Expert, Targit Certified Professional and industry recognized independent consultant specializing in delivery of applications utilizing primarily but not exclusively Microsoft technologies and in delivery of solutions to non standard cases. He enjoys explaining the methods e has employed in over sixteen years industry experience including work for major corporation and government clients.

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