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Mobile Business Intelligence: Slow Start, Bright Future

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Posted November 8, 2011 By Ann All     Feedback

A new survey says mobile business intelligence use could soar in the next year. Will it?

There has been lots of buzz about mobile business intelligence, but actual adoption numbers have remained low. The 10th edition of the BI Survey, an annual research report produced by the Business Application Research Center that examines why customers buy business intelligence tools and what they use them for, found  just 8 percent of organizations are using mobile BI. Thirty percent of respondents plan to use it within 12 months, however. This year's edition is based on responses from 3,000 business intelligence users.

In this interview with IT Business Edge's Ann All, BI Survey author Barney Finucane discusses where he thinks mobile business intelligence is going and why. For additional insights from Finucane, including the slow adoption of social media analytics tools, read the second half of Ann's interview on ITBE. (IT Business Edge and Enterprise Apps Today are both owned by QuinStreet and are part of the company's B2B Technology Network.)

All: It seems like everyone is talking about mobile business intelligence. But your survey found less than 10 percent of organizations are already using mobile BI. Is it just the usual case of hype outpacing actual adoption? Or is there more to it than that?

Finucane: The hype factor is pretty big. We've done the survey for years. We ask how many people are using some tool or technology now and how many will be doing so in a year. It's always interesting to come back and compare. With new technologies, you find people tend to exaggerate or overestimate. This is the first year we've asked about mobile, so I cannot report that. That said, we did find 22 percent of organizations plan to use mobile in the next 12 months and 27 percent plan to use it in the long run.

I think there are two different groups: people who are already using BI and might use it on mobile devices, and also a whole new market. I'm doubtful that the first group will be all that quick to make the jump to mobile BI. These are largely people sitting at desks, looking at a lot of numbers and facing decisions that don't need to be made right away. It might be handy for them to have a look at some numbers on their mobile device while waiting for a plane, but it won't be a killer app for them. It won't really change the way they do their jobs. So I think the existing base may be pretty slow in making the move to mobile BI.

But mobile can change BI and offer new opportunities. That's where the second group comes in. You have guys walking around warehouses or factory floors who need to make fast decisions. There are lots of those kinds of opportunities. This is not from the survey but from our experience in the field: Every criteria list contains mobile. You can't get on the short list without it, so vendors are making sure they offer it so they can get on the short list.

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All: Aren't these kinds of new opportunities dependent on combining business intelligence with other technologies such as real-time analytics?

Finucane: That's absolutely right. There seems to be a strong correlation between mobile BI and real-time analytics. Both things are about immediacy. Real time analytics is about getting the data right now, and mobile is about seeing the data right now. So they complement each other. We've seen an interest in mobile before, but it never really took off. I think the interface just wasn't right before.

All: The tablet interface seems better suited to mobile BI than smartphones because of the larger screen size. Are tablets driving some of the interest in mobile BI?

Finucane: There's also the prestige factor. I think if mobile BI is going to succeed, it's going to have to be something that a manager wants to be seen using. Many of the decisions senior level managers are making are probably going to be pretty strategic, meaning long-term decisions that can wait until the decision maker is back in the office. So they probably don't have as much real need for mobile BI as those guys in the warehouse.

All: So organizations will need to find new uses for BI. Should they be exploring new ideas instead of just taking what they are already doing and putting it on mobile devices?

Finucane: Right. A lot of people are just taking their existing reports and making them available on mobile devices. I don't think that creates a compelling business case.

Read the rest of the interview at IT Business Edge.

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