As the traditional business intelligence tools and techniques get matured, innovations take place, firstly to retain competitive advantage, and then to push the bar further, bringing better capabilities and usefulness. A few offshoots of business intelligence in the past few years were business analytics, operational business intelligence, pervasive business intelligence, interactive dashboards and of course, as the title implies, mobile business intelligence.
Mobiles are recognized to be the future of computing. Today’s mobiles armed with processors with high computing powers and liberal amounts of both volatile and persistent memory, can definitely compete with other channels of interaction with computing infrastructures. Note that I am using generic terms, just to make sure that the statement is obsolete by the time the readers get to read this. The technological advancement in the mobile space is rapid, that every 3 months a new device is introduced that makes the previous one look archaic. Apple, Google and other vendors in this space are pushing the mobile innovations fast so that consumers can enjoy an optimized experience on mobile platforms.
‘More than all the innovations and technological advancements, the fundamental characters of the mobile technology is what makes it a client-side device in enterprise computing. It is an Always On, Always Connected platform. Secondly mobile devices are personal. Unlike laptops, mobile devices remain always connected and carried around almost everywhere. It might sound like an intrusion into personal space, but most executives remain always connected in this highly competitive global market. However, smart phones can remain offline and manage/filter the connections as well.
All these are pushing mobile phones and mobile devices (tablets like iPad) to be increasingly adopted into enterprises. Beyond the administrative and operational uses, it is now moving into decision support areas, such as business intelligence. Business Intelligence is also evolving, making itself available down the ranks, near real-time, and pervasive. Data visualization and trending is catching up, and so is corroboration of results through search results and peer-review (collaboration). New standards such as HTML5 (and Webkit implementations) are making it easier to create and integrate mobile applications in the near future.
Dashboards are one of the first candidates to reach the mobile platform. It provides the visual representation of the aggregate results, which can be ideal on the mobile interfaces, which are comparatively smaller in nature. Visually drilling-down through the dashboards can also help retrieve smaller sets of tabular data which can be used to quickly analyze the exceptional records -positive or negative.
Alerts are native to mobile technology. So long alerts have been associated with dashboards and performance management, and with mobile business intelligence alerts take a more practical shape. Alerts from business intelligence and performance management implementations reach out to the recipients natively. It need not be an email or SMS, alerts can occupy the notification areas in mobile devices.
Collaboration is the third aspect. With always-on connectivity, short messaging features (including enterprise short messaging services), voice recognition capabilities mobile devices enhances the collaboration features. The outputs of on-line analytical processes are not just canned reports. Those are actively reviewed, commented, searched and studied. Mobile devices helps the collaboration to be quicker and easier.
Cloud-based (SaaS) Business Intelligence is picking up. Mobile devices cannot be ignored by any cloud-based solutions. That itself, more than anything, is a huge factor for moving business intelligence into mobile devices.
As we implement mobile business intelligence solutions, we will certainly find more areas, more uses and more capabilities. All these remain a definite attraction to adopt and build mobile business intelligence solutions. However, there are many hurdles along the way. Mobile platforms are as diverse, if not more, as desktop/laptop operative systems. It certainly adds challenges to build multiple client applications to reach out to a large number of people. This is more so for cloud-base service providers.
It is not just the mobile operating systems, the size, shape, speed and many other characteristics of mobile devices vary widely. Additional layers such as J2ME, Flash are not very popular across mobile devices. HTML5 can provide some answers in the future. Opera browser has established as a standard across most platforms. Webkit engine is being enthusiastically adopted by all platforms – Apple, Android, Symbian and Blackberry. Native apps help alleviate the issues considerably; on the downside solution providers need to have different teams with different technologies working on the same solution.
Its time to start thinking, looking into the possibilities of mobile computing and representation. The future of mobile business intelligence is bright, and almost certain. What do you think?