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10 Mobile BI Best Practices


Taking BI mobile is not simply about replicating your desktop BI to mobile devices. There are fundamental differences around data at your desk and data to go. However, your current desktop BI efforts can be leveraged, meaning deployment of business intelligence to mobile devices need not be a massive project. Using more advanced mobile BI applications such as Microstrategy Mobile BI mean that mobile BI can be deployed within a few days.

Key Learnings on Mobile BI

  1. Rapid Market Growth - The sales volume of mobile tablet devices is outpacing laptop sales. There were 147 million tablets expected to be shipped in 2015 - up from 16 million in 2010. Add to this that 31% of organizations believe that tablets will replace the PC as the main computing device; with 100% of Fortune 500 deploying iPad as their Tablet device.
  2. Use of Mobile Devices - mobile devices are being used to consume content, not create content. 75% of BI users access BI from multiple devices. Mobile BI needs to be seamlessly device independent, including smartphones. 66% BU users still prefer to use smartphone over a Tablet. This is still a viable device and must be considered. Of the smartphones, 50% prefer iPhone, however many organizations are keen to leverage their existing Blackberry devices.
  3. Mobile BI Experience - needs to be consistent; the same experience on the mobile device as the desktop, with the same navigation or core functionality, such as filters, drill through and alerts. Access must be rapid, fun and easy. Careful thought must be given to how to leverage the interactivity of mobile devices. Collaboration must be at the center of the experience - content is intended to share. Content on the mobile device must be able to be supplemented with comments and then shared through corporate intranets, social media sites etc. Tablets arebeing used more in meetings to share BI information during decision making.
  4. Mobile BI Content - need to reuse BI content across multiple devices. In terms of content development, this is not suitable for mobile devices - mobile BI content is best created on a laptop or desktop PC. However, content can be annotated on the mobile device - content with annotation and collaboration isof higher value. Users on tablets are used to a highly interactive experience - the content and functionality needs to support a consistent use - content is presented at the high level but users need to be able to drill anywhere [drill down, drill through] and use filtering and sectioning. In addition, features such as 'whiteboard' allow mobile users to draw or write directly on top of the dashboard view in addition to entering notes in any prescribed pop-up window form.
  5. Performance - whilst users may wait up to 10 seconds for a desktop or laptop browser to load a dashboard, expectations of load time on mobile devices is more loke 2-3 seconds. So keep pace with the latest benchmarks for load times decreases. High level reports need to load quickly, with lower level data taking secondary priority. With rapidly increasing mobile concurrent usage and higher levels of data interactivity in mobile BI, server, database and network performance are driving forces in user acceptance and engagement with BI. Developing use cases across multiple mobile scenarios helps to mitigate unexpected poor performance. Mobile dashboards need to be highly optimized, and caching of reports on the device is preferred. Purpose built databases best suited for rapid BI and entering the market and worth considering.
  6. Security - there is a dividing line in the user market as to whether mobile BI users should be able to store data on the mobile device, so that offline access is possible. Decisions around caching, login, data type availability, and userID based content access security are all key considerations. Security is best integrated with the BI platform, allowing for centralised administration. Sharing on BI content needs to be via the mobile BI app to maintain access and data sharing security. Often, running BI in the Cloud provides a faster accessibliity and tighter security than accessing many corporate environments, so this option is worth investigating.
  7. Offline Access - can conflict with security best practices; for example if you want to provide offline access then storing data and/or caching on the device is required.
  8. Easy to Deploy - mobile BI is consumable. It is not an environment where users create their own content, reports or dashboards. Aligning the mobile BI experience with desktop BI experience makes deployment and training easier. Caching allows reports to be deployed more quickly, however if you have a fast analytical database negates much of this requirement. Caching requires a higher level of prediction as to what users will want, whereas high speed databases allow users to be more adhoc in their queries. There is a wide diversity in capabilities for different mobile BI applications to deploy rapidly to mobile devices. Applications such as Yellowfin and Microstrategy lead the pack, whereas others may take a lot more work to get the underlying performance up to speed to deliver a standard report in a mobile environment. Its what's under the hood that makes the difference - not simply generating a mobile version of a report or dashboard.
  9. Consistency - the user interface standard needs to be considered - whilst we aim to create a consistent look and feel across multiple devices, the environment in which a user interacts with BI on a mobile device introduces new considerations around lighting - where very bright light can make viewing black on white much more difficult than viewing white on black. Not all users will access mobile BI in bright sunlight conditions, but if you have field service consultants operating in the outdoor environment, then testing mobile BI in that environment is imperative. Hence, rather ther than being rigid about one experience - one standard, it is worth considering how the user experience differs in using a mobile device.
  10. Collaboration - i have already mentioned this, but collaboration drives so much additional value into business intelligence that it deserves another mention. It is easy to get caught up in the technical side of delivering a great user experience in mobile BI, however the higher aim is to help business users make better decisions, faster through connecting with actionable insight. If insights cannot be shared in a rapid and easy manner, with additional insight layered on by individual users, then we fail our highest level goal for business intelligence.

In summary, best practices in mobile BI must focus on providing the best possible user experience.

A Great Experience = High User Adoption = Increased ROI

Next: 2012 Mobile BI Study Update

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