Why Mobile BI? Just ask anyone in Hollywood

According to Gartner, one-third of all Business Intelligence access will be through mobile devices in the next few years. Other than the sex-appeal, what practical benefits are driving enterprise to make the Mobile BI leap?
Written by Chris Warner, JackBe, Contributor on
Commentary - It’s tough to deny that most of us love our mobile phones (and iPads if you’re fortunate enough to have one). And within the office there is a huge rush to bring business applications to these mobile devices, with many organizations even adopting a ‘BYOD’ policy in an effort to get started as quickly as possible. And we’re not talking about basic apps like corporate email, we’re talking hardcore enterprise applications like Business Intelligence.

According to Gartner, one-third of Business Intelligence usage will be through mobile devices in just a few years. But other than cache and visual appeal, what are the practical benefits driving enterprises to put BI on tablets and smartphones? Plenty has been written about the risks and costs associated with Mobile BI. In spite of these concerns there seems to be a groundswell of demand. Why? What is driving organizations to make the plunge anyway?

The best way to understand the upside of a mobile-enabled BI strategy is to think like a Hollywood movie producer. You’ll see that Mobile BI has many of the things that make for a blockbuster movie: speed, power, money, special effects, and even super heroes. And each of these benefits apply to at least one of the major actors in the BI value chain: the ‘business’ end-users, the ‘tech savvy’ self-service users, the ‘black-belt’ specialists who really get deep into the details, the ‘support’ folks who keep it all running, and even the big-bucks budget-holding ‘producer’ who pays for it all.

Speed. End-users in particular are often focused on speed. The faster they can get access to their data, the happier they are. Mobile access can give them access to sales receipt trends while they are at the restaurant on Saturday night.

Power. There is a growing group of tech-savvy users, often ‘in the field’ or in the lower ranks, that prefer or even need a hands-on approach. Instead of relying on someone else to create their unique, specialized BI Apps and Dashboards, mobile access can give them intuitive, simplified tools to do it themselves.

Money. One CIO recently complained that ‘mobile access doesn’t displace ANY enterprise costs in the short term’ but he was missing the real ROI of mobile access. In the case of BI, mobile access adds to the reuse of existing data, security, monitoring, and network resources, giving the IT folks a better return on the software and hardware assets they worked so hard to help your organization acquire.

Special-Effects. Every BI champion wants his/her BI solution to be well-received. Even without the other benefits above, the rich visuals of mobile devices alone can greatly improve the value of BI data, which can lead to great reviews from the critics. And doesn’t every executive want a way to show off his/her new tablet and do it in a genuinely sexy-yet-business-centric way?

Super-Heroes. Many BI implementations have a team of super-hero-like ‘black belts’ that do the really arcane stuff. Mobile devices are another outlet for their work. As the BI audience grows through the Mobile channel, the needs for their services will grow as well. Without killing the metaphor too much, you are giving the black belts another target to throw kicks and punches at.

So, if you are trying to understand the real benefits of Mobile BI, think Hollywood, baby. Speed, power, money, special-effects and, yes, even super-heroes. See ya on the big screen!

Chris Warner is vice president of marketing at JackBe

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