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Is Apple's iPad Changing CRM and Business Intelligence?: Page 2

By Drew Robb     Feedback
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Betting on iPad Disruption

One company betting on the iPad's disruptive potential is MicroStrategy (NASDAQ: MSTR). It has 1,200 iPads deployed across many areas of the company — more than half of the total workforce. Salespeople use them to demonstrate MicroStrategy Mobile, for example, which enables companies to create mobile BI apps, as well as to access BI reports via iPhone and iPad.

"The iPad is especially useful for BI because of its portability, its large screen size and the ability to leverage Apple's multi-touch gestures, such as swipe, tap, flick and rotate, to augment data navigation for users," said Mark LaRow, senior vice president of MicroStrategy Products.

Internally, MicroStrategy has also developed numerous apps for sales team and executives. The 'Sales Kit' app, for instance, includes a library of presentations, podcasts, webinars, brochures, white papers and other documents that they can use during meetings to address questions and provide background on areas of interest. And of course, they use them for email, document creation and Web browsing.

Moving up the ladder, executives harness the iPad at MicroStrategy to view reports of performance and operations data during conferences. An app called the Corporate Request Center enables executives to approve travel expenses, new hires, purchase requests, raises and other administrative functions from an iPad or iPhone.

"Businesses are recognizing the value of empowering their executives, workforce, suppliers and business partners with actionable information at all times, not just while they are at their desks," said LaRow. "Mobile business intelligence, especially using tablet devices, will expand the business intelligence market significantly, with more people accessing more data more often."

He cautions, though, that the iPad is not for everyone.

"If your work requires heavy content creation, a laptop or desktop makes more sense than an iPad," said LaRow. "But if you're primarily a content consumer, it's a great device."

Actuate (NASDAQ: ACTU) takes a similarly optimistic stance on the iPad. Its ActuateOne BI platform already includes native mobile applications for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android. BIRT Mobile HD, which is exclusive to iPad, includes printing and email support, said Jeff Morris, vice president of product marketing at Actuate.

"BI brings business purpose to iPad, which currently carries strong executive cache as the 'in' gadget," said Morris. "iPad adoption of Actuate applications is 50 percent higher than with our iPhone apps, and in less than half the time."

He tells users to watch out for non-native applications that do not support the breadth of functionality found in the device.


Needed: Windows Support

Barry Cousins, an analyst with Info-Tech, advises users to not get carried away with the hype. The interface makes it appear to be a compelling device for BI, but he said, that's not the entire picture.

"Minute to minute, BI occurs when the technology gives suggestions for next product sold, sets tolerance for discretionary pricing, and alerts agents about possible customer dissatisfaction," said Cousins. "The context for those minute-to-minute issues is your CRM, Help Desk, ERP, etc., rather than a particular device."

What he's saying is that day to day, BI occurs as a checkpoint through performance dashboards and scorecards. The context for those every day issues is often email or an intranet portal, rather than a particular device.

"The iPad hasn't materially changed BI yet, but it has massively raised awareness of the tablet form factor as a business tool," said Cousins. "The iPad's most glaring weakness is the lack of interoperability with Windows. If a Windows-based tablet gains traction, many business users will find value in a seamless transition of Office documents and Windows apps between their various devices."

His view is that the iPad itself hasn't proven that it will have any more of a role in business than that of Apple in general. By their very nature, he said, the early adopters that gave iPad its initial profile are the low-loyalty market that will rush to adopt another tablet that offers a better fit in their business lives. It will take time to see how much real value it can harvest in the real world.


This article was originally published on November 22, 2010
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