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Mobile Business Intelligence

One of the final domains for BI is the mobile arena. Just how justified is it for BI to be extended to mobile devices. When one considers the nature of information provded by BI, it is not that likely that users will want to run analytical queries from their PDA.

However, receiving alert messages is another matter. Operational BI relies on fast reponse to alerts triggered by key event points along a process chain. This in turn relies on the availability of key personnel to receive these alerts in a timely manner. In spite of many operational managers being onsite - few remain sitting at their desks for any length of time. Mobile devices are not only valuable when used out of the office, but are also a discrete channel for communicating with key personnel during their attendance at meetings or walk arounds.


Real Need of Marketing Play

So is mobile BI 'the next big thing' - I don't think so. Mobile communication platforms already extend email alerts to mobile devices - hence the critical link to the alert receivers desktop/laptop is already in place. Any other BI functions are best run from desktop or laptop PC's - regardless to whether access into centrally hosted BI tools is via the corporate intranet, extranet or Internet.

In many cases, I would suggest that BI Vendors have been promoting mobile BI with little evidence of any real market demand. Mobile BI is more likley an attempt at product differentiation than real customer value contribution.


When Mobile BI Works

The next step in this debate is in determining the escalation hierarchy of the alerts and what information should and can be included in the alert message. Early attempts by MicroStrategy to squeeze summary alerts into tiny screens provided useful templates across every mobile device known at the time. For alerts to be effective, they should be used sparingly - otherwise they recede into a background of beep spam .

Beyond action alerts, Channel managers and Sales managers find it useful to receive mini KPI alerts during campaign periods and even for standard daily sales data. It is not difficult to send out small KPI databases with a simple UI to see small reports and charts on the move, even offline. This may also be supplemented with the abilty to execute short, simple queries on demand, to check key numbers. Beyond that - the tiny, low-res screens on mobile devices are just not suitable for serious analysis or dashboard display.

In technical terms, mobile BI would just be an extension of an existing in-house BI deployment, with a subset of users getting mobile access, in addition to their normal desktop/Web access. There is no need for any special architectures or cloud computing.


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