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Best Practices in Mobile Business Intelligence

With the right management sponsorship, implementation plan, and infrastructure, mobile BI can be a powerful extension for the analytical capabilities of any organization.

by Christian Screen

July 2014

 

Enterprise-wide integration of mobile business intelligence has many benefits for organizations, including increased workforce productivity, the ability to collaborate anytime and anywhere, and improved customer satisfaction. However, there are a number of hurdles to overcome: convincing your organization to deploy the infrastructure that is necessary for mobile security, understanding mobile versus desktop report development, incorporating the concept of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and garnering support for utilizing a mobile device to analyze critical decision-making data.

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The good news is that there are solutions to each of these problems when mobile BI is implemented in the enterprise with a strategic plan, and with best practices in mind.

Mobile BI security

Deploying a mobile BI solution in an isolated sandbox environment to a handful of users behind a firewall on an intranet is about secure as mobile BI gets. But what happens when real-world use cases for mobile BI are required? The answer to this question is something that is typically outside of the BI solution itself and requires a different security software solution. Privacy of data is a major concern, and allowing a corporation’s critical analytical data to exit the premises via mobile device is a risk that raises more questions. What happens if the mobile device is lost or stolen? How can IT remotely provision or wipe data stored on the mobile device in a precarious situation?

Answers to these questions are handled by using mobile device management (MDM) software, which secures and manages mobile devices in an enterprise. As an example of the importance of an MDM solution for mobile BI, we can look at Oracle’s recent acquisition of the MDM software solution company BitzerMobile.

Plan your mobile BI implementation strategy with a focus on security, collaboration, and user engagement, and you’ll reap the rewards of mobilizing your analytics.”
Mobile devices and their people

Business leaders typically determine who should have access to mobile BI within the organization by starting small, with focus groups or departmentally, and slowly releasing access to a larger audience. But from which devices should the users access mobile BI data? Should there be a standard?

These questions are answered by BYOD. Users leverage their own mobile devices to gain access to corporate mobile applications including the mobile BI solution. The benefit here is that a corporation no longer needs to supply volumes of users with a corporate mobile device. This creates corporate savings but also creates an issue in delineating personal vs. company space on the mobile device. Another concern that arises from BYOD is that if a user is provided access to corporate applications such as the mobile BI solution as part of their job duties, then who pays for the data plan usage when the user is outside of the corporate Wi-Fi network? Should a stipend be given for these users? One way companies are handling these concerns is to provide contracts for each employee stating the recognition that a mobile device can be wiped of all data and all applications at any time regardless of device ownership. As for who pays for the data plan, most companies provide Wi-Fi access around the corporate campus, so the cost of mobile broadband is not a concern except when out of this range. Also, some MDM tools have the ability to restrict application usage if not being accessed through a Wi-Fi-enabled network.

Mobile BI design

There is an ongoing debate on whether it is better to have mobile BI merely render the existing dashboards on the mobile device “as-is,” re-render a desktop layout of a dashboard to fit a mobile device, or to develop content specifically for the mobile device. This conversation evolved to a concept referred to as “mobile first” design. Unfortunately, this deliberation on approach can slow down the process of achieving mobile BI in an organization.

Most BI tools today provide some level of compromise. Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) provides a designer tool called the Mobile Application Designer, which enables custom mobile applications to be purpose-built. Using small proof-of-concepts to determine how best to render the same results to the end user regardless of device is a good practice and will ultimately eliminate double work.

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Christian Screen is director of the Oracle Business Intelligence Practice at Sierra-Cedar, Inc. and an Oracle ACE.

Collaboration and engagement

One of the evolving concepts around encouraging user interaction and engagement in the use of mobile BI is called “collaborative BI.” This is the idea of giving end users the means to add feedback to the BI system. In its simplified form, this is creating comments on a report or dashboard. Art of BI Software, an Oracle Partner, develops the software plug-in for Oracle BI called BITeamwork (http://www.biteamwork.com), which provides the capability for Oracle mobile BI users to author comments on Oracle BI Mobile and desktop versions.

Ultimately, mobile BI is an extension of the BI solution within an organization. The focus should always be first on building a solid foundation for the organization’s enterprise analytics and its “one source of the truth” system. Most users have access to a desktop for accessing BI-related information. Deploying a mobile BI solution should be seen as a standalone project from deploying your core BI solution. Plan your mobile BI implementation strategy with a focus on security, collaboration, and user engagement, and you’ll reap the rewards of mobilizing your analytics.

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