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How to Make Mobile Business Intelligence Work Now: Page 2

By Wayne Kernochan     Feedback
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<h1>The State of the Mobile Business Intelligence Market</h1>
The flood of innovation that has characterized Web apps in general continues to fuel rapid build-out of Mobile business intelligence. In the smartphone area, BI capabilities are beginning to move beyond generation of reports from corporate sales databases to more sophisticated analytics (alerts and simple dashboards), industry-specific apps in verticals such as healthcare (mobile physical therapy), and access to cloud BI. In the laptop area, extensions of BI to new users via user interfaces such as Excel are flowing to existing corporate mobile-workforce implementations. Specialized devices are now typically tapping into cellphone communications such as WiFi as well as PC connectivity, and therefore are beginning to share some of the smartphone and laptop features.<p>
However, the strong focus of the industry on the smartphone has left some major blind spots. Despite the fact that smartphones now have large amounts of storage available for data stores and "offline" apps, new features focus on "storing everything on the Web." It is a rare mobile worker who spends much time analyzing personal data such as contact lists when not operating on a corporate PC, or placing locally-stored customer feedback in the context of corporate data via an iPhone. Moreover, mass deployment of almost continuously connected laptops (that <i>do</i> have the ability to perform sophisticated analytics and combine personal and corporate data) via 4G is still probably a couple of years away &mdash; and 4G's 100Mbps "high mobility" speeds are probably a minimum for laptop BI effectiveness equivalent to that of the corporate PC.<p>
Moreover, the industry's sharp distinction between the smartphone and the laptop means that the focus in near-future smartphone and specialized-device products is on somehow providing more sophisticated operations on existing corporate database connections, while the focus in near-future laptop products is on keeping pace with PC technology rather than on becoming an alternative continuously connected form factor to the cellphone.<p>
A likely result is that over the next few years, none of the three mobile technologies will result in mass deployment of the optimal BI combination of continuous connectivity, personal data support, and ability to do ad-hoc analysis of personal, corporate and Web data.<p>
<h2>Mobile BI for Today That Boosts CRM</h2>
As I noted in the introduction to this piece, mobile BI is quite similar to, say, mobile <a href=http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/E/ERP.html>ERP</a> or mobile SFA (<a href=http://ecrmguide.webopedia.com/TERM/S/Sales_Force_Automation.html>sales force automation</a>); there are no major surprises in implementing yet another enterprise app on the existing corporate mobile infrastructure. And yet, considering that BI is not your typical enterprise app, it is surprising that BI does not yet spread more sophisticated analytics to the average mobile worker. To get full value from mobile BI, IT buyers should start figuring out how to do so. Vendors don't have shrink-wrapped solutions for you, so you will need to see what you can do until they finally come through.<p>
Here are a few counterintuitive suggestions:<p>
<ol><li>Make the target platform a more powerful netbook with 4G. As it is going to take some time for smartphone technology to catch up, and as some mobile workplace end users have taken to netbooks as a customer-facing mobile technology, implement a platform that will provide "good enough" until the smartphone can provide what you need.<p>
<li>Look for infrastructure software that includes local data management and application development &mdash; on the cellphone. It's time to dust off and take another look at solutions like Sybase's SQL Anywhere.<p>
<li>While trying to keep pace with mobile apps, keep an eye not so much on iPhone or iPad apps as on cloud mobile BI apps. These should provide a better combination of consumer attractiveness/ease-of-use and ability to customize for corporate needs. In other words, they should have done some of your work for you.</li></ol><p>
The key value-add from this effort is not so much lower device costs, new capabilities for a device that the worker already has, or faster decisions, although these do often follow from mobile BI in general, but more responsive, more personalized, more agile customer-facing <a href=http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/C/CRM.html>CRM</a> (customer relationship management). The most valuable customer relationships are those that are ongoing, and the best way to achieve ongoing customer relationships is full understanding of, and instant adaptability to, changing customer needs. Today's new mobile BI just gives you reports and alerts on your cellphone; full mobile BI potentially can let you understand, and change your product recommendations for, today's Web-savvy customer immediately. Isn't that worth the effort?<p>

This article was originally published on December 10, 2010
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