Mobile BI: A New Frontier?

Summary: Mobile BI isn’t so much a new technology as it as new platform for an existing technology.

For years, the idea was greater than the execution. Then a product came along that changed the game and unleashed a flurry of apps and development activity.

Yes, I’m talking about the effect of the iPad on mobile BI, a subject I broached on this very blog a few weeks ago. And I’m not the only one noticing this trend. Nicole Laskowski recently wrote an interesting TechTarget piece on the adoption of mobile BI in the enterprise. According to Laskowski, “mobile BI is enjoying a surge in popularity. According to Gartner, 33% of the 1,364 organizations using BI tools it surveyed are planning to deploy mobile BI this year. That’s in addition to the 8% already using the technology.”

No doubt that the iPad (and its apps) are collectively driving the mobilization of BI. While iPads are inherently cool, they aren’t cool enough by themselves to compel CIOs to write really big checks. Yes, directors and other senior managers still have to make the business case that mobile BI is actually needed. In Laskowski’s words:

The BICC (BI Competency Center) can help determine a company’s BI blueprint and how mobile fits into the overall strategy. [F]or a BICC to be effective, it will need executive sponsorship.

Mobile BI, alone, will still be a hard sell. Businesses should construct a plan that will eventually encompass more use cases and more functionality across the enterprise and beyond BI.

So, much like any other technology, it’s imperative to make the business case. To this end, mobile BI is no different than many other enterprise technologies, especially “non-critical” ones. After all, try CRM and ERP systems are probably higher up on the totem poll for many organizations.

Mobile: A New Platform, The Same Challenges

I’d bet you a Coke that most large organizations dipping their toes into the mobile BI pool have seen this movie before. That is, they’ve probably tried BI in the past–and probably more than once. As a result, mobile BI isn’t so much a new technology as it the deployment of an existing technology on new platform. And the sooner that most organizations understand that, the better.

To be sure, mobile BI deployment may be quicker an much easier than traditional, on-premise projects (especially if done via private app stores). However, don’t mistake easier for easy. The old rules still apply. Failure rates are typically high and ROI is often low or negative. My friend, IT project failure expert Michael Krigsman, believes that “BI is challenging because it really sits between business and IT. Of course, the technical deployment belongs to IT, however, without business engagement the likelihood is low that the deployment will be successful.”

Truer words have never been uttered.

Simon Says

Whether the processing is performed on a mainframe, server, or smartphone, BI is BI. For instance, the pernicious effects of incomplete or inaccurate data exist irrespective of platform. Ditto dysfunctional cultures, IT-business chasms, and other thorny organizational issues. Mobility and apps aren’t silver BI bullets.

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