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Mobile BI gains momentum in UK corporate IT

Brian McKenna, News and Site Editor

Mobile business intelligence efforts are on the rise in corporate organisations, according to a Corporate IT Forum survey conducted in February and March 2012.

Dani Briscoe, research services manager at the Forum, said that while the organisation’s 2011 BI survey disclosed a focus on cloud, 2012 is seeing a “move towards development for mobile.” Cloud computing enjoys a more general popularity among the blue-chip organisation’s members, 36 of whom responded to the BI survey. There were 56 individual responses.

The Business Intelligence and Management Information survey found that 15.2% of individual respondents were implementing mobile systems in 2012 versus 8.7% last year. The figures for cloud development were 6% (2011) and 4.2% (2012).

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Briscoe attributed the relative shift to mobile to the markedly increased consumerisation of corporate IT in the last year, adding that the popularity of the iPad among senior executives has been a catalyst.

As for the strategic goals of business intelligence, the survey revealed a turning inwards, she said. Eighty percent said “creating efficiencies” was the main object of their BI and management information strategies and 76.4% are bent on improving business processes. By contrast, 65.5% chose competitive advantage as a goal. There is “some interest in BI for competitive edge but it is more about internal efficiencies,” Briscoe said, speculating that this may be due to organisations moving on from cost cutting to process improvement for further effectiveness.

“Big data”,  the hot phrase of the day, failed to make an appearance in the free text fields of the survey, she said, though it did feature in the organisation’s 2012 IT strategy survey, carried out at the end of 2011. The survey also disclosed a movement against social media analytics and predictive analytics. The number using predictive analytics fell from 40.5% to 22.9%; the number using social media analytics fell from 24.3% to 18.8%.

“This is possibly linked to the increased internal focus -- the improvement of business processes in order to be more nimble,” Briscoe said.

“Delivering information in new ways to the business was one of the most commented-on objectives for 2012 in the Forum’s strategy survey. Trying to manage data sprawl and create digestible reports from the data is an objective at the top of many lists.”

One thing that has, however, remained constant is the popularity of Excel. This remains the most-recommended BI tool among this survey’s respondents. Briscoe explained Excel’s continued popularity: “People have already got it and internal expertise is to hand.” QlikTech made the top five of recommended suppliers for the first time this round, and mobile BI vendor Roambi drew plaudits: “Excellent dash boarding for the iPhone and Blackberry,” was one user’s comment.

Of the 56 individual respondents, three were CIOs and seven were enterprise architects, while the bulk were either heads of BI or BI managers, by title. The forum’s membership spends £6.7 billion on IT, according to the organisation.

Gartner analyst Andreas Bitterer also confirmed that the consumerisation of IT is putting BI professionals’ backs to the wall in terms of supporting reporting to senior executives’ handheld devices. The research firm’s prediction that by 2013 one-third of BI functionality will be consumed on hand-held devices is “right on track,” he said.

But, he added,  if organisations are thinking of their traditional BI users -- finance professionals, senior management -- as the ideal population for business intelligence delivered to tablets and smartphones, they are missing a trick. The new use cases for mobile content -- which will be more interactive apps than content to be passively consumed -- will be for health workers, bus drivers, flight gate attendants and managers on the supermarket shop floor. “Take a look around your organisation and find out who would benefit. Yes, it is convenient and cool for senior executives to have financial dashboards on their iPads, but how good can the business case for that be?”

Meanwhile, implementation challenges for mobile BI will be less on the technical side, he said, and more about calibrating the business case. “As long as the BI architecture is solid, implementing a mobile front end, while not a piece of cake, is not rocket science.”

There is a legion of mobile BI start ups for corporate organisations to choose from, but Bitterer cautioned that not many “will survive long term.” Moreover, “if you have a rubbish data warehouse your iPad will not fix that. It just makes your bad data look good. It is lipstick on a pig.”


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