According to Gartner, business intelligence (BI) has been the top action item for CIOs worldwide for the last year. Only recently displaced, BI remains a close second behind mobility. Since the largest driver for mobility remains BI, it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. 
Gartner predicts that up to 35% of BI reports will be accessed through mobile platforms over the next few years. According to Unison Holdings’ business development director, Keith Jones, this is only to be expected.
“All business has ever wanted is access to information. The BI market has been trying to keep up with its voracious demand, but the market continues to mobilise well ahead of the BI curve.”
Most BI requirements are driven by middle to upper management.
“Their information requirement is for a holistic view of their business area and aggregated data – or business intelligence,” explains Jones. “Executives and senior management are mobilising rapidly, are usually tech savvy, are often under time pressures and need access to information from wherever they are.”
The challenge is that BI has been promoting one version of the truth for a long time now, building the single enterprise view of the business with EDW (enterprise data warehouse), MDM (master and meta data management), OLAP cubes, Golden Records and all the cool TLAs required to be an educated user of BI.
Now, the user is demanding this information on the move. While these technologies support BI initiatives, they don’t necessarily accommodate mobility or BYOD (bring your own device). In the newly mobilised landscape, IT now has multiple devices and multiple operating systems to support. Meanwhile, end users are predictably demanding full functionality.
“What they are looking for is a fully mobile decision support platform.” says Jones.
“That’s us,” say the BI vendors. “We can mobilise you, all you need to do is put your data into our platform, repurpose some reports and we can mobilise you.”
The client’s response is less than enthusiastic and riddled with valid concerns. Most have spent millions on building a BI environment and man years developing and customising reports, only to have to now repurpose some of these reports in order to mobilise.
Clients are reluctant to introduce and then maintain yet another layer of abstraction to support the same end user community with little guarantee that the solution will work on the device and platform users have chosen.
Add to this the reality that every large corporate has multiple back-end and BI tools in its business.
“Many transactional vendors are offering packaged BI as part of their stack. A typical site will have SAP HR, Oracle financials, Microsoft data warehousing and then still use Cognos as a reporting tool on top of this. To offer truly mobile BI, the client has to mobilise each individual stack,” explains Jones.
“Most decision support still lies within Excel. Just conceptualising the layers of support this requires demands multiple complex permutations: how many devices and applications from how many vendors will be needed? How many reports will have to be repurposed and deployed; through how many mobile servers?
“The BI journey has always been about access to information and data democracy, but the mobile era and shifts in user behaviour have disrupted this significantly,” says Jones.
“When considering a mobile strategy the business needs to take all of the above factors into account. Elegant, simple and effective solutions are possible, but they need to be planned for, in detail, at an enterprise level.”