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The Truth about Mobile Business Intelligence

By Kevin Quinn, VP of Corporate Marketing, Information Builders

There are many misconceptions about mobile business intelligence (BI). Organizations mistakenly believe that it is expensive, hard to implement, complex, and lacking functionality. Although they see value in delivering information to smartphones and tablet PCs to help on-the-go users make sound business decisions, such misconceptions prevent companies from actually doing it. So what’s true and what’s not?

Users Don’t Have to Be on the Same Device

If companies had to standardize on one device, the widespread use of mobile BI would be unfeasible, given the variety of appliances in use today. And although most mobile BI platforms support different devices, it’s not easy or economical. It requires tremendous development effort, draining resources and increasing total cost of ownership (TCO).

But mobile browsers are powerful and full-featured, eliminating the need to install software on the device itself. Some of the more robust mobile BI solutions take advantage of that, enabling true device independence by delivering BI content directly to the browser.

Native Applications Aren’t Required for Each Device

Many mobile BI tools can’t exploit a device’s capabilities, so they require native applications for each device type. The array of devices employed at most organizations makes this time-consuming and cost-prohibitive. Furthermore, as devices evolve, developers must continuously enhance the environment to support new and improved models. Keeping pace with these changes and maintaining backward and forward compatibility becomes an insurmountable obstacle.

However, a few mobile BI platforms eliminate the effort and expense of creating and maintaining separate BI assets for each device. They dynamically detect the device being used and automatically transform BI content into the appropriate format.

BI Isn’t Consumed by Smartphones Alone

In the past, most mobile users had BlackBerry or Palm devices; then came iPhones and Android phones. While effective for viewing high-level indicators, these weren’t ideal for performing advanced data analysis. Small screens made it difficult to analyze reports with many variables, or view intricate charts or graphs. Most users leveraged mobile BI just to access basic information or track critical metrics.

The growing popularity of tablet computers is transforming mobile BI. Tablets eliminate the shortcomings of smartphones, such as small screens and awkward keyboards, so users can conduct in-depth analysis or generate ad hoc reports. Although most tools still provide only simple data access, a few cutting-edge mobile BI platforms include advanced analytics.

Mobile Users Aren’t Always Connected

Many vendors assume that users are always connected. Their solutions cannot access or analyze data when disconnected from the Internet or corporate networks. But when connections (particularly WiFi) are slow, users get frustrated and disconnect, rendering them unable to gather intelligence on their way to a meeting or customer visit.

This is why mobile BI must leverage each device’s native capabilities. But only forward-thinking vendors support disconnected users, allowing them to send reports as attachments for offline viewing, or by binding data and analytic capabilities into a self-contained HTML file, so information can be manipulated in disconnected mode.

Mobile Users Can Perform Advanced Analysis

Many companies avoid mobile BI because their users need to interact extensively with data from their smartphones and tablets. They assume that advanced mobile analytic functionality doesn’t exist.

A few state-of-the-art platforms can facilitate highly interactive mobile reporting and analysis—without specialized software. They leverage the native capabilities of mobile browsers to empower users with advanced analytic functionality that can be applied to any data in any source.


Contrary to popular belief, mobile BI doesn’t have to be challenging. Choosing the right solution, with the right capabilities, will lower TCO and accelerate value while empowering mobile users to access and interact with timely, complete information from any smartphone or tablet PC.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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