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The new frontiers of data consumption

Although Mobile BI is still in its early phases, analyst firm Gartner predicts that by next year, a third of all business intelligence functionality will be consumed through a mobile device

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The information life cycle, from data to insight to action is moving rapidly to mobile devices as they overtake desktops and laptops as a preferred medium of data consumption. In the race to achieve competitive advantage, the need for organisations to have up to date information accessible on tablets and smartphones, has now become a core business requirement. 

Driven by demand across various business units, mobile business intelligence has become a key component in this race, enabling executives to access business data, and to make informed, real-time decisions from wherever they are; any new tools which can speed up decision making, during what continue to be challenging economic conditions, have to be welcomed. 

Although Mobile BI is still in its early phases, analyst firm Gartner predicts that by next year, a third of all business intelligence functionality will be consumed through a mobile device. Collaborative BI will also become an integral part of Mobile BI. 

It's another key indicator that we are on the brink of a fundamental shift in the way that data is consumed for business purposes. This is the new world in which business users can interact with customers, employees, and other businesses from any device, in real time, from any location.
Leveraging Mobile BI capability, opportunities & challenges 

This shift is, however, not without its challenges and some of these have distinct echoes from almost a decade ago, when operational business intelligence, and the ability to extract meaningful data, was hampered by isolated information silos between the various financial, sales and marketing functions. 

Poor communication between the departments meant that it was difficult to have a complete 360 degree view of customers. Implementing Operational BI on mobile devices faces much the same challenges, those of data integration and the quality of master data itself, both of which are now compounded by the need to adopt 'big data'. 

Mobilising BI creates the additional challenge of back-end integration as business processes need to be streamlined to adapt to the 'quick access' and small screen format of the mobile device. Further, any redundancies must be removed in order to make information and action as “real time” as possible. 

However, despite these challenges, demand for mobile BI solutions are gathering pace and, whether it is offered via a native application developed for a specific platform and device, browser-based access to data, or via a hybrid approach, requirements for features and functionalities are now moving beyond basic tasks to the more advanced features of business analytics and real time business intelligence.

These advanced capabilities can translate into greater business insight and a significant reduction in turnaround times for business processes. For example, senior executives can now access real time KPIs and performance metrics, while Financial Services companies are leveraging Mobile BI to analyse the market and business trends to introduce cross selling and up selling opportunities. 

Retailers, on the other hand, can run stores more effectively and provide superior customer service by keeping tabs on their store's most important operational and sales metrics using mobile apps and focus on key performance indicators across sales, margins, and labour, at required periods.

Security and governance 

Naturally, these benefits need to be balanced with more stringent security measures. The burgeoning demand for mobile BI means that users can share valuable and potentially sensitive data about customers, products and sales across the mobile network and to unsecured mobile devices, which throws up a whole host of security issues. 

Mobile users now connect to the public internet and corporate network whilst in cafes, travelling or sitting in the office, and organisations must also ensure there is effective governance and security in place to protect the data that is accessed or input. 

The greater the value of the data the more important it is to protect the devices though authentication policies, ensuring data is transmitted via VPNs rather than the public internet and having policies in place to remote wipe data for lost or stolen devices.  

Mobile BI: Supplier ecosystem

Mobile BI is the next logical step to help eliminate delays in decision-making across the enterprise, from Sales people who need customer and pipeline details, to operations personnel who need supply chain information instantly. 

Advances in mobile computing, as well as device and data security, means that mobile BI applications are a great enabler of achieving anytime, anywhere, operational BI and real-time, actionable business insight. 

While business intelligence product vendors are rapidly working on the Mobile BI product roadmap developing the right, optimised platform, offering the best functionality and security, System Integrators and service providers need to offer a comprehensive solution to customers that has a clear revenue- linked execution roadmap, and which is customised to their unique enterprise systems and business priorities.

Posted by Sarvesh Kumar, BI & IM Leader, Mahindra Satyam 

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