Strategic business intelligence for a mobile future
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In the first part of this podcast with SearchCIO Editorial Director Christina Torode, business intelligence authority Howard Dresner, chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services LLC, talked about the missteps businesses make when they take on mobile BI. Here, he provides specifics around building a mobile BI strategy.
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Assuming that companies have a mobile BI strategy in place -- they have the business buy-in, they have the devices they need, they have the application -- what would be the next step?
Howard Dresner: First of all, you have to look at who has the greatest need, where the demand is. Typically, it's within the executive suite, and that's not a bad thing. Because if you can automate or deliver business intelligence to the most senior levels of management, you have a much better shot of delivering it further down in the organization because once they see the value, they want everybody to have it. It really does change the way that organizations work because, all of a sudden, the information is right there when you need it. Of course, at the same time, there's never a reason to not know something, so that's sort of the downside. But you start with the folks that have the greatest need, that have the greatest mobility or are the most nomadic. The C-levels are among the most nomadic; salespeople are among the most nomadic.
Once you deliver it to those roles within an organization, ultimately you want to deliver it to anyone who ever leaves their desk to go to a meeting, too. I think that having mobile business intelligence in a conference room, where everybody can see the same information, is tremendously empowering. So, we're not scrambling for the information, we're not dealing with different perspectives on the business; we all have the same perspective on the business. Then we can start addressing how we're going to solve some of the problems, rather than bickering about what the problem is. Start with those most nomadic roles and then you expand outward.
Do you have an example of a client where mobile BI has gone beyond the nomadic or the C-suite -- where it's widespread?
Dresner: I have not seen organizations that have that depth of penetration. What I've seen is that it's been delivered to the executives, who are, like I said, extremely nomadic; or [it's] been delivered to certain key roles within the organization, primarily sales. I've also seen a great success within certain verticals, in particular, retail, where it has literally transformed the business and, in particular, delivering it to store managers, so that they don't have to leave the store floor to get the information they need and so that you can alert them when specific things are occurring in the business that they could, in fact, address at that moment. It might literally be down to the SKU level on a particular day in a particular store. So, I do know of retail organizations that have made significant investments in mobile business intelligence at the store level.
Others (and I've done case studies on this as well) have delivered it to field management, for doing things like performance appraisals. Where in the past, they would have to spend a tremendous amount of resources preparing the executive or the regional manager to go out and do an appraisal of a particular store and individuals. So, there was all that manpower preparing literally books of information to go on the road, and of course, as soon as that individual goes on the road to do that appraisal, the information's out of date. In addition, if they show up at the door and the manager of that store's not available -- they're out sick that day, or whatever the case may be -- what do they do? So, by delivering all of that information using mobile business intelligence, the information is fresh.
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In addition to that, if they run into some sort of happenstance, where they're in a particular geography, they could do an impromptu performance appraisal, by having mobile business intelligence at their disposal. So, in terms of delivering it broadly, I think that's a little further down the pike. However, delivering it to certain layers of management and certain functions? That makes a great deal of sense for just about every organization, and over time, it'll permeate through those other roles.
Of course, when [my firm] kicks off our fifth annual mobile computing and mobile BI study [details on the website soon], I expect we'll see some changes, too, in terms of the roles that are getting automated with mobile BI, as well as what sorts of things they're doing, because we've seen, over the last three or four years, a maturation in terms of how organizations are using mobile business intelligence as well.
What advice are you asked most often? And this can be in terms of mobile computing, or you can focus it in terms of mobile BI.
Dresner: Well, I get asked a lot of different questions. But I think what I would want to say to people that they should ask, and that they probably don't ask, has to do with infrastructure. Because what organizations sometimes don't anticipate is the success of a mobile business intelligence program. So, they use the existing infrastructure to support, in many cases, more users than they would have internally on desktops. What happens is, when you give somebody mobile business intelligence, it's kind of odd -- they actually use it. But they use it, once again, in a very different way.
So, they use it actually more intensively, for shorter, perhaps, periods of time, which strains the infrastructure. I've spoken to organizations that have, and some that have not, addressed that infrastructure, and the ones that have addressed the infrastructure have much happier users, which means that you have to anticipate much more regular and intensive use of the infrastructure and the back-end systems and the data, than you would ordinarily have in a client server system or an on-premises system.
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