How to make your Business Intelligence more mobile-intelligent

Traditionally, most Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics solutions have offered separate products for dashboards and discovery that are clearly aimed at specific audiences. Dashboards are typically used by 'information consumers,' those who monitor their business regularly.

Visual discovery is aimed at 'information producers,' those who use data to answer questions and deliver insights to the company. In fact, some vendors even license their software by 'viewers and builders.'

This attitude to BI and analytics makes assumptions about the way people work with data, resulting in rigid user roles: dashboards are meant for business executives, and visual discovery tools are for data analysts, but the reality of today’s modern mobile and data-savvy workforce is far from this old paradigm.

For example, the average working day starts with checking emails on a mobile device, out of the office. After arriving at the office, switching from a mobile device to a laptop, it’s time to monitor the business using a dashboard.

Looking at the dashboard on a laptop, there’s a question that can only be answered by using visual discovery tools. As the afternoon approaches, the off-site visit means no Internet access or office computer.

> See also: The pros and cons of shadow business intelligence

Now, the Head of Sales needs to make a business decision offline with only a mobile device. How does he/she make the right decision? Traditional approaches to BI and analytics solutions don’t take into account the modern working day.

The solution, however, lies in thinking differently about how people work with data today. By adapting to user’s needs and blurring the lines between discovery and dashboards, consumers of information can become producers of intelligence, dissolving the rigid data user roles and significantly increasing productivity throughout the organisation.

While a Head of Sales might rely on operational dashboards to analyse his or her quarterly pipeline, he or she may also need access to a visual discovery environment to ask follow-up questions that may not be answered in a pre-built dashboard.

Furthermore, the members of the sales team, working in an area with no high-speed connection, may need up to the minute insight about a specific customer’s buying patterns. While this may sound obvious, the reality is few Business Intelligence (BI) solutions support these scenarios.

Being able to access information from anywhere in the world at any time is increasingly taken for granted by anybody in possession of a smartphone. Naturally, it would be assumed that the same should apply in a business context. The right data at the right time can help finalise a deal, make a sale or deliver better customer service.

The modern business environment is continuously changing, with a focus on mobility and a massive shift to digital business, putting a value on data and information. BI must adapt and work in the same way, enabling people to easily transition between reporting, dashboards, discovery and devices, as part of a seamlessly integrated experience.

Access to data and information is no longer restricted to the office or a 4X4 grid on a dashboard, so BI and analytics solutions need to evolve at the same pace.

> See also: Breaking out: how BI is moving beyond the enterprise's four walls

Between 2012 and 2014, the percentage of technology decision-makers who utilise BI applications on mobile devices has nearly quadrupled, according to a survey by Forrester Research. 

Many companies are reaping the benefits of mobile BI, but the same report argues that there are just as many, if not more, companies that have yet to realise the potential of making data and analytics available via mobile.

The modern business landscape demands change. To ensure success with BI and analytics, it’s vital to understand and recognise that different people prefer different tools; BI solutions need to adapt to users needs and situations, to enable today’s mobile data-savvy workforce. 

Sourced from Southard Jones, VP of Product Strategy, Birst

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...