Mobile Business Intelligence

Mobile Business Intelligence is the ability to access BI-related data such as KPIs, business metrics, and dashboards on mobile devices. The concept of mobile BI dates back to the early 1990s when mobile phone use first began to become widespread. Early advocates of mobile BI immediately grasped the potential of mobile phones to simplify the distribution of business-critical data to mobile or remote workers. However, it wasn't until the advent of the smartphone that mobile BI began to generate widespread attention.[1]

Mobile BI or Mobile Intelligence is defined as a framework containing both specialized and authoritative components that present recorded and additionally ongoing data to its clients for investigation on cell phones, for example, cell phones and tablets (not tablets), to empower powerful basic leadership and administration bolster, for the general motivation behind expanding firm execution.” Business Intelligence (BI) alludes to PC based systems utilized as a part of spotting, uncovering, and examining business information, for example, deals income by items or potentially divisions or related expenses and earnings. Although the idea of versatile registering has been predominant for over 10 years, Mobile BI has demonstrated a force/development just as of late. This change has been somewhat supported by a change from the ‘wired world’ to a ‘remote world’ with the upside of cell phones which has prompted another period of versatile registering, particularly in the field of BI.[2]

Traditional BI Vs. App Centric BI
source: E-Zest

History od Mobile Business Intelligence[3]

Information delivery to mobile devices
The predominant method for accessing BI information is using proprietary software or a Web browser on a personal computer to connect to BI applications. These BI applications request data from databases. Starting in the late 1990s, BI systems offered alternatives for receiving data, including email and mobile devices.

Static data push
Initially, mobile devices such as pagers and mobile phones received pushed data using a short message service (SMS) or text messages. These applications were designed for specific mobile devices, contained minimal amounts of information, and provided no data interactivity. As a result, the early mobile BI applications were expensive to design and maintain while providing limited informational value, and garnered little interest.

Data access via a mobile browser
The mobile browser on a smartphone, a handheld computer integrated with a mobile phone, provided a means to read simple tables of data. The small screen space, immature mobile browsers, and slow data transmission could not provide a satisfactory BI experience. Accessibility and bandwidth may be perceived as issues when it comes to mobile technology, but BI solutions provide advanced functionality to predict and outperform such potential challenges. While Web-based mobile BI solutions provide little to no control over the processing of data in a network, managed BI solutions for mobile devices only utilize the server for specific operations. In addition, local reports are compressed both during transmission and on the device, permitting greater flexibility for storage and receipt of these reports. Within a mobile environment, users capitalize on easy access to information because the mobile application operates within a single authoring environment that permits access to all BI content (respecting existing security) regardless of language or locale. Furthermore, the user will not need to build and maintain a separate mobile BI deployment. In addition, mobile BI requires much less bandwidth for functionality. Mobile BI promises a small report footprint on memory, encryption during transmission as well as on the device, and compressed data storage for offline viewing and use.

Mobile client application
In 2002, Research in Motion released the first BlackBerry smartphone optimized for wireless email use. Wireless e-mail proved to be the “killer app” that accelerated the popularity of the smartphone market. By the mid-2000s, Research in Motion's BlackBerry had solidified its hold on the smartphone market with both corporate and governmental organizations. The BlackBerry smartphones eliminated the obstacles to mobile business intelligence. The BlackBerry offered a consistent treatment of data across its many models, provided a much larger screen for viewing data, and allowed user interactivity via the thumbwheel and keyboard. BI vendors re-entered the market with offerings spanning different mobile operating systems (BlackBerry, Windows, Symbian) and data access methods. The two most popular data access options were:

  • to use the mobile browser to access data, similar to desktop computer, and
  • to create a native application designed specifically for the mobile device.

Research in Motion is continuing to lose market share to Apple and Android smartphones. In the first three months of 2011 Google's Android OS gained 7 points of market share. During the same time period RIM's market share collapsed and dropped almost 5 points.

Purpose-built Mobile BI apps
Apple quickly set the standard for mobile devices with the introduction of the iPhone. In the first three years, Apple sold over 33.75 million units. Similarly, in 2010, Apple sold over 1 million iPads in just under three months. Both devices feature an interactive touchscreen display that is the de facto standard on many mobile phones and tablet computers. In 2008, Apple published the SDK for which developers can build applications that run natively on the iPhone and iPad instead of Safari-based applications. These native applications can give the user a robust, easier-to-read and easier-to-navigate experience. Others were quick to join in the success of mobile devices and app downloads. The Google Play Store now has over 700,000 apps available for the mobile devices running the Android operating system. More importantly, the advent of the mobile device has radically changed the way people use data on their mobile devices. This includes mobile BI. Business intelligence applications can be used to transform reports and data into mobile dashboards, and have them instantly delivered to any mobile device. Google Inc.’s Android has overtaken Apple Inc.’s iOS in the wildly growing arena of app downloads. In the second quarter of 2011, 44% of all apps downloaded from app marketplaces across the web were for Android devices while 31% were for Apple devices, according to new data from ABI Research. The remaining apps were for various other mobile operating systems, including BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. Mobile BI applications have evolved from being a client application for viewing data to a purpose-built application designed to provide information and workflows necessary to quickly make business decisions and take action.

Web Applications vs. Device-Specific Applications for Mobile BI
In early 2011, as the mobile BI software market started to mature and adoption started to grow at a significant pace in both small and large enterprises, most vendors adopted either a purpose-built, device-specific application strategy (e.g. iPhone or Android apps, downloaded from iTunes or the Google Play Store) or a web application strategy (browser-based, works on most devices without an application being installed on the device). This debate continues and there are benefits and drawbacks to both methods.[14] One potential solution will be the wider adoption of HTML5 on mobile devices which will give web applications many of the characteristics of dedicated applications while still allowing them to work on many devices without an installed application. Microsoft has announced their mobile BI strategy. Microsoft plans to support browser-based applications such as Reporting Services and PerformancePoint on iOS in the first half of 2012 and touch-based applications on iOS and Android by the second half of 2012. Despite popular perception that Microsoft only acknowledges its own existence, recent moves suggest the company is aware that it is not the only player in the technology ecosystem. Instead of attempting to squelch competition or suggesting new technology developments were ridiculous, the company has instead decided to make its technology accessible to a wider audience. There are many mobile devices and platforms available today. The list is constantly growing and so is the platform support. There are hundreds of models available today, with multiple hardware and software combinations. The enterprise must select a device very carefully. The target devices will impact the mobile BI design itself because the design for a smartphone will be different than for a tablet. The screen size, processor, memory, etc. all vary. The mobile BI program must account for lack of device standardization from the providers by constantly testing devices for the mobile BI apps. Some best practices can always be followed. For example, a smartphone is a good candidate for operational mobile BI. However, for analytics and what-if analysis, tablets are the best option. Hence, the selection or availability of the device plays a big role in the implementation

Desktop BI Vs. Mobile BI[4]
It’s important to know the differences in desktop and mobile application development. Since the mobile market is constantly changing in terms of devices, operating systems, and support for different types of content, the QA process can be tedious and time-consuming. Developing apps that comply with web standards like XML and HTML5and work across multiple user platforms can make or break a product. You’ll also want to utilize UI elements like responsive design so visualizations look great regardless of mobile device, as well as functionality native to those devices like clicking on an address to search for the location in Google Maps, or clicking on a phone number to start dialing. Even the inputs need to be mobile-friendly so users can easily access, type, and make changes to visualizations on a smaller screen. Finally, it’s important to differentiate the goals of your desktop applications vs. your (perhaps derivative) mobile applications. If the desktop application is meant to show summary reports with tons of drill-downs for manager types, while the mobile applications is meant to enable workers in the field to create orders and fire off automated emails and alerts, then the functionality as well as look & feel will be very different. Look for a BI tool that supports both types of applications so you can reuse as much content as possible without sacrificing functionality or ease of use.

Benefits and Challenges of Mobile Business Intelligence[5]

Benefits of Mobile BI

  • The first major benefit is the ability for end users to access information in their mobile BI system at any time and from any location. This enables them to get data and analytics in ‘real time’, which improves their daily operations and means they can react more quickly to a wider range of events.
  • The integration of mobile BI functions into operational business processes increases the penetration of BI within organizations and often brings benefits in the form of additional information.
  • This speeds up the decision-making process by extending information and reducing the time spent searching for relevant information. With this real-time access to data, operational efficiency is improved and organizational collaboration is enforced.
  • Overall, mobile BI brings about greater availability of information, faster reaction speed and more efficient working, as well as improving internal communication and shortening workflows.
  • Finally, with the provision of proper mobile applications to all mobile device users, information can be used by people who previously did not use BI systems. This in turn leads to a higher BI penetration rate within companies.

Challenges of Mobile Business Intelligence
Despite all the good things that mobile BI solutions bring, organizations are also exposed to a number of challenges when trying to achieve a successful platform adoption:

  • Regardless of the delivery option, customers must consider usability. Displaying familiar content in a mobile browser (even as HTML5) does not necessarily mean that it can be used intuitively. Companies and app developers should take great care in designing the user interface to ensure the app’s acceptance, especially in operational scenarios where workers may not be accustomed to using BI
  • When implementing a mobile BI solution, security and privacy may pose problems. Companies have to make sure they implement a strong security configuration in order to protect sensitive business and user data. Furthermore, the mobile strategy should be aligned with existing security procedures.
  • Mobile devices can easily be hacked, lost or stolen. Using mobile BI may consequently put sensitive or confidential information at greater risk of being breached.
  • Due to the limited screen size of mobile devices, the design of mobile BI applications presents new challenges to developers. Each device and browser works differently.

See Also


  1. Defining Mobile Business Intelligence Klipfolio
  2. What is Mobile Business Intelligence? NWWAN
  3. History od Mobile Business Intelligence Wikipedia
  4. Desktop BI and Mobile BI – What’s the Difference? Logi Analytics
  5. Benefits and Challenges of Mobile Business Intelligence BI-Survey