You’ve probably been hearing a lot about Mobile BI. Over the past years we have seen a migration towards mobile in almost every aspect of our lives. Business Intelligence is not the exception to this shift. Nowadays we don’t just communicate through our mobile devices, we pretty much run our lives with them. Most of us check our emails on our mobiles, we do quick banking transactions, schedule appointments, even do grocery shopping online from our smartphones. Just as everyday activities shifted to mobile, so did our businesses.
Most business verticals are using mobile devices to be able to be connected everywhere and at any time. For example, healthcare providers carry tablets with them to quickly access patient records, data from previous consults, etc. Retail stores give tablets to their sales people so they can easily check inventory on other stores, place orders, and more. Executives at enterprises can review information on mobile devices while on their way to meetings. So, the trend is that mobile is everywhere. And most businesses nowadays are implementing or thinking of implementing a BI strategy. BI users want access to their data analytics platform on mobile devices. The benefits of mobile BI are great, if there is a correct implementation.
The Benefits of Mobile BI
Let’s talk first about some of the benefits of including mobile into your BI strategy.
- Mobile BI will push usage and adoption. Users will be able to access data and analytics to improve their daily operations at any place and any time.
- All users will be able to access and share a single version of the truth even when they are not in the office.
- Business users will be able to enjoy self-service capabilities on their mobile devices.
- You will know what happens in your business at any time and place, so you can tackle issues before they affect your business.
- Mobile BI can add value to your overall BI strategy as it pushes connection and ideally, should be easy to use for your users.
These are just a few of the benefits organizations can get by enabling mobile Business Intelligence. Now, there are a few things to consider when implementing mobile BI into your BI strategy. You should not take mobile lightly and cannot treat it the same as regular BI. If security is not handled correctly, for example, it can lead to data loss and breaches that could potentially threaten the enterprise.
Things to Consider
There are a couple things to consider to achieve a successful implementation of mobile BI. First, we need to consider that the devices are different. For example, the screen space of a desktop allows for more components in a dashboard than the space in a tablet. The way users interact with the device is also different. The tiny size of a computer cursor allows you click on smaller items, like small data cells, parts of a graph, etc. On a mobile device users use their fingers and touch to “click” on items, so items need to be bigger and easier to click by touch.
Also, users are on the go when using mobile. This means they don’t have time to do complicated queries. Mobile BI must be self-service BI at its finest, but off course with the centralized architecture where IT owns data permissions. Dashboards on mobile need to be very simple, easy to understand and must allow drill down so people can find the specific information they are looking for.
Another key thing to consider is the creation of dashboards. Users will want to use dashboards in slightly different ways when on their desktop and on mobile. But this does not mean that they need an entirely new dashboard for a different device. Dashboards should be easily adaptable to new devices. Users should be able to reuse and quickly adapt a dashboard to their specific needs by removing a component in a few clicks.
It is also important to consider collaboration. Your BI strategy should be fully collaborative. Users should be able to share their findings and insights with their colleagues to drive collective knowledge. When people work together, they add value to their findings. Mobile is a big enabler of collaboration. People use mobile devices to connect and share with others, so having their BI on their mobile devices will push collaboration in a very natural way. But security must become a priority for such collaboration to take place correctly.
Security: Your Top Priority with Mobile
In a centralized BI model, IT sets data permissions. Centralization allows the data to remain updated and in only one version of the truth. While the data is the same for everyone, users can only access what they are allowed to see, according to previously set permissions. The use of mobile devices should fully support the data security of the whole enterprise. There can be no exceptions. IT has to set the security protocols and data permissions. They define public and private folders. Team work is key here. IT owns the data security, while business users enjoy governed self-service.
On top of data permissions, there are other safety precautions you can take. The first is a double log in. Users should log into the mobile device and then into the device system with different log in permissions. The system should request password changes often. The BI system should never have data on the devices. This is critical, because mobile devices are easily lost or stolen. A web based solution, like Necto, is safe because users access data on the web through very high security standards. They open a dashboard through a link with a double log in and do not save it on their device. This is very helpful when allowing your users to use BI on their mobiles. Finally, exercise auto log out when the device is not connected and request another log in when the device reconnects.
If you keep security at the top of your BI priorities, you can use BI on any device. A centralized, web based solution will allow you to enjoy the benefits of BI everywhere. All your decisions will be data driven, and you will be able to apply data insights on your meetings, when seeing customers, partners, etc., regardless of where you are standing.
And just a quick note as an answer to a question we get a lot: The trend of mobile BI is to include it in your BI strategy, not to replace your current BI. Mobile BI is an aid for mobility and connection, but it cannot replace other forms of BI entirely. When choosing a BI solution, choose it for its architecture, for centralization to avoid data silos, or for state of the art analytics, not for mobile capabilities. If you only choose based on mobile, you could end up with a completely federated solution that puts your organization at the risk of data breaches. That being said, mobile is a trend we cannot ignore. So let’s enjoy the benefits of data analytics on the go!