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Mobile BI Gets Interactive

by Anthony Deighton, SVP of Products and Strategy, http://www.qlikview.comWednesday, July 1, 2009

Most people have already formed their opinions of mobile business intelligence (BI).  Unfortunately, most of the opinions are not favorable and there’s a good reason for this: Early attempts at transforming useful business applications into a mobile environment have failed.  Some were quick to gain that first-mover advantage to the small screen by simply shrinking their application to accommodate the reduced real estate of the screen.  Other attempts pushed out static reports on a mobile screen which may have been marginally helpful but it typically created a tremendously frustrating user experience, leaving no opportunity to interact with the data.  These approaches may have given access to some information, but it certainly didn’t give the mobile user a positive experience.

Two things have happened since BI applications were first introduced to mobile devices.  First, the always-on connectivity of 3G wireless networks has improved to the point that a mobile device has become a reliable business tool.  Second, the iPhone has set a new standard for multi-touch interactivity with mobile devices that consumers, who are also business users, have become quickly accustomed to.

As the worlds of serious business applications and personal mobile devices merge, people want and expect their BI to always be within arm’s reach.  So, when thinking about BI for mobile users, one needs to consider what people really want from the application in this environment and what the mobile platform enables you to do.

Simply put, what people really need from mobile BI are answers to questions.  Shrinking down a top 10 customer report for a salesperson on the go is one answer to a single question.  But what if they have more questions and what if they need answers beyond the top 10 customers?  Enter the age of interactive business intelligence.

The mobile device in that salesperson’s hand knows where they are because of location-based services that are enabled on the mobile platform.  Why not leverage that capability to automatically deliver relevant information on those customers in the salesperson’s current vicinity?  Then, let’s consider the way we interact with the mobile device.  Assume the salesperson has eight records he/she wants to look through.  Each record should have its own screen for best readability and the user should be able to thumb through the records in coverflow mode just like flipping through music selections.  With the inevitable need to answer more questions from the delivered data, the user can pinch and swipe the screen to highlight a specific selection to drill into for more information.  To move on to the next answer, with one hand they can simply shake the device to erase.

This is the new world of mobile BI.  By trying this new experience, people’s opinions of how useful the mobile enterprise application will change dramatically.  Beyond static views, the ability to interact with data makes a significant difference in the usability and adoption of these applications.  We’ve found that beyond sales and service road warriors (and executives who need to check in on the business), interactive BI on a mobile device is especially useful in the healthcare industry where doctors can drill down to the records of the patient they are with at that moment without carrying around a laptop.

As with any maturing application, when the experience is useful, the applications will proliferate until people don’t remember how they ever survived without it.  That’s a long way away from the “fun” applications that have never been taken very seriously in the market.   But with the recent introduction of true mobile interactivity to gaining business answers, that time is now.

About the Author

Anthony Deighton is SVP of Products and Strategy at QlikTech where he is responsible for global product marketing and strategy for QlikView.  Prior to joining QlikTech, Anthony was the General Manager of Siebel System's Employee Relationship Management (ERM) business unit. 

You can read Anthony’s blog at http://community.qlikview.com/blogs/a-view-from-the-q/default.aspx

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