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Business intelligence going mobile

With mobile devices increasingly pervasive, more businesses now looking at data analysis to quicken decision-making and access to customer information, says pure-play market player.
Written by Tyler Thia, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Enterprise adoption of mobile devices is opening up a new front for business intelligence (BI), which is no longer a tool restricted to middle-management executives, according to Shankar Ganapathy, global vice president for MicroStrategy Asia-Pacific.

He told ZDNet Asia at a briefing here Thursday that as more executives and sales professionals use tablets for work and to access corporate data, an increasing number will request for additional tools compatible with the mobile platforms to help push decision-making.

The evolving trend in mobility has transformed the BI market, Ganapathy said. "One of the impact of mobile BI is that with the advent of the Apple iPad, in particular, many of our larger customers arm their senior executives with the device, which means they need to interact with the analytics that the departments are pushing."

Hence, upper or c-level management is now able to have BI visibility, which traditionally was provided by mid-level management, he explained.

Customer-facing executives are also looking at ways to collate data more quickly.

Ganapathy noted: "Take the insurance vertical, for example, where agents need to gather information about customer preferences and products before a customer meeting, and currently there is little opportunity for them to do so. Mobile solutions will enable this process."

In the long-term, BI tools will also be increasingly integrated with near-field communications (NFC), he said.

Ganapathy explained:"NFC-enabled mobile phones will be able to pick up information from a NFC chip, and this will allow us to capture real-time information on customer loyalty, item performance and so on, to benefit retail businesses."

This data can then be broken down and analyzed quickly, giving retailers a clearer picture on customer profiles and preferences, he added.

While NFC development is still moving at a snail's pace, Ganapathy believes the convergence of NFC and BI offers much opportunity that MicroStrategy can front. He added that the company is looking to work with "the very few [NFC] devices in the market" such as Google's Nexus.

The growing adoption of mobile devices has opened up enterprises to a slew of unstructured data which he said MicroStrategy's offerings are capable of analyzing. "With the advent of mobile technology, the source of unstructured data is going to be more significant," he said, noting that companies will be looking at best-of-breed products to filter and capture data from such platforms.

Advantages of pure-play BI
MicroStrategy is betting on its position as the "only pure-play provider of BI" left in the market as its competitive advantage.

Ganapathy said: "BI has gone from being a business-critical element to becoming mission-critical, as it's increasingly used to determine how a company looks at business outline, bottomline and revenue streams based on cost and efficiencies."

With these requirements from the enterprise community, he said it is important that a market player, which is still focused purely on the business of data analytics, is able to provide the right tools for enterprises. "That is why pure-play and best-of-breed for BI is very significant in the market today," he added.

MicroStrategy's competitors in today's BI market are formed through acquisitions, where IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP account for two-thirds of the US$6 billion industry.

Nasdaq-listed MicroStrategy's US$460 million business is built on direct and partner channels. Ganapathy revealed that at least 30 percent of their global business served through partners. In Singapore, the partners include SingTel's NCS (previously known as National Computer Systems).

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