Business users have many reasons for wanting BI to be mobile. Applications on the road are agile. Accessing data from anywhere sounds important. However, there is another secret to mobile BI - it is a lot of fun!
Devices today are highly visual. Charts and graphs can be beautiful. Touch interfaces with intuitive gestures are quick and interactive. In other words, the new mobile devices are effective but also cool tools for exploring and understanding data.
This is important, because it means that users are buying devices for themselves, and taking them to work. They may not even use them much on the road. Look around your office and you will see many mobile devices used at desks, or in meeting rooms. For technical issues, users find their own ways to connect them and user peer-to-peer knowledge to support them. If IT does not help, it happens anyway.
The trouble is that mobile BI done in this way can be badly planned and implemented. That's a worse situation than if IT took a more positive approach.
Now, do not think that IT must teach users everything about mobile BI in order to be helpful. In fact, IT should learn from early adopters. IT often cannot keep up with every new device. Early adopters have a lot to teach us. IT can set up wikis and blogs to help users help each other.
Who are these early adopters going mobile with business intelligence? You may be surprised. Is it the younger members of your workforce? After all, they are constantly connected to social networking and love their devices. For sure, these younger workers drive a demand for mobility in general. But it is executives who set policy. Also, it is executives who make decisions - and BI today is still about decision support.
So, rather than your younger workforce, take a look at the executive team. Those who adopt devices such as the iPad will rapidly demand not just mobile capabilities, but especially mobile BI. Also, executive early adopters can be more aware of security and compliance issues. You can use their guidance and experience to help develop the right management and security policies. You may also learn from their practices how to build a standard deployment plan that will be efficient for other users.
With these simple steps of learning from your users, you can start a mobile BI practice in your company that is innovative, efficient, and easy to improve. And once you have mobile BI, you will never look back. Decisions that once slowly spread out from the center can now be made quickly and effectively at the edges of your organization. Mobile BI is not just an incremental change: the long-term effects will be radical.
Donald Farmer is QlikView Product Advocate