The iPad is the catalyst for the democratization of Business Intelligence

November 29, 2011

Aberdeen has reported that employees are twice as likely to use business intelligence data if, and only if, it is available in a mobile accessible format.

In and of itself, this is a significant finding. But here’s the kicker: Business leaders and employees who have greater mobile agility and access to operational data have a far greater chance of observing important trends that will lift organizational performance. And whether sanctioned by the enterprise or not, iPad and other tablets are being put into service with more dependence on real-time information.

This should not come as unexpected news. The iPad is the first 3G, always-connected mobile computing platform. Unlike iPhone, the screen real estate on tablets offers just the right degree of functionality necessary to be used as a window into business data. And because it is relatively inexpensive, many employees are willing to self-provision them. (Which is, granted, a whole other can of worms.)

This seemingly subtle collection of advantages are driving the opportunity for greater dependence on BI far deeper than anyone, especially IT, ever imagined.

The iPad has opened the door to new opportunities for managers to plan, monitor, and maintain strategic goals and targets in the natural topology of their business surroundings. The result? A more favorable and advantageous opportunity for workers to observe, capture and share operational data in real-time.

Furthermore, iPad’s agility and always-available window into historical data  make it an ideal strategic dashboard for monitoring and updating business plans. As the app-market model seeps into the enterprise, these benefits are rapidly becoming accessible to more than just managers and at [low] costs unprecedented in enterprise computing history.

iPad is widening the scope of BI benefits by making it relatively inexpensive to include workers from deeper levels of the organization. This is made possible because mobile apps such as Balanced Scorecard, Peak Meetings, and QlikView are affordable and simple enough to use by almost everyone in an organization.

Apps, mobile devices, and always-on connectivity conspire to create a new framework for simplicity in business intelligence

Trends show that there's a new definition of "BI participants" within the organization, and rightly so.

A mobile business intelligence study by analyst Howard Dresner solidifies the conclusions from mid-2010. In the original study, it was determined that Apple's iPhone dominated mobile BI. However, less than eight months later, iPad took the lead, with "significant deployments," followed by RIM's BlackBerry according to Dresner’s second study. The same study reported that interest in BlackBerry and Windows Phone was declining, while Android devices were finding some additional interest, particularly for Android tablets.

The democratization of BI is sweeping through organizations, not so much through proactive IT projects, but because the mobile revolution, backed by a tsunami of consumerization, has provided opportunities to see and interact with operational data whenever and wherever it is contextually important.

This trend is driven by some obvious and some not-so-obvious causes. It's almost impossible for many workers to gain any benefit from a BI dashboard designed for a desktop PC because they simply don't have a desk, or a PC or even intermittent or convenient access to PCs. Inexpensive mobile computing devices with a 10-hour battery changes the game. Pervasive connectivity, light form-factors, and simplified apps have largely eliminated constraints on sizable segments of the workforce who were previously not considered information workers.

It's now possible to place strategic and tactical plans and—perhaps more importantly—the results that will allow workers to navigate towards these plans and goals into the hands of everyone who can benefit from them, regardless of location or context.

Business leaders must now recognize that workers do not need to be mobile to benefit from mobility.


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