The speed with which highly competitive markets now change and the proliferation of mobility devices such as smartphones and tablets are main factors driving the rise of mobile business intelligence, according to Dane Anderson, VP, research director & region manager, Forrester Research.
"Speed-to-market and speed-to-decision is now more critical than ever, and yesterday's model where business intelligence and analytics took place in the back-office to be fed to the field no longer works," said Anderson.
IDC predicts that worldwide IT spending will grow 6.9 per cent year-over-year to US$1.8 trillion in 2012. As much as 20 per cent of this total spending will be driven by smartphones, media tablets, mobile networks, social networking and Big Data analytics.
2012 will also be the year of what IDC called "mobile ascendency" as mobile devices surpass PCs in both shipments and spending and mobile apps, with 85 billion downloads, generate more revenue than the mainframe market.
The influx of tablets over the last few years is also helping to push the demand for mobile business intelligence, said Jane Farquhar, manager, BI product marketing - mobile and self-service, business analytics, IBM. "The large real estate of the screen and portability make tablets ideal for delivering a rich, interactive experience," said Farquhar.
In Singapore, an IBM customer from the pharmaceutical industry realised its 700-plus mobile sales force was spending too much time waiting for information and calling colleagues to perform research. The company then introduced IBM Cognos Mobile on iPads with the aim of providing the most current territory information at the sales worker's fingertips. The result is "uninterrupted productivity with quick and easy access to analytics," said Farquhar.
"Analytics is 80-90 percent about consumption of information," said Scott Turnbridge, APAC EPM/BI program director, Oracle Asia Pacific. The ability to capture and modify content for mobile devices, and deliver full spectrum of business intelligence functionality will change the face of analytics, he said. Estimates from Gartner indicate that 33 percent of business intelligence functionality will be consumed via handheld devices by 2013.
Organisations with extensive field operations or a large mobile workforce will benefit from a mobile applications strategy, according to Turnbridge. Currently, Oracle's offerings in this area include device-friendly version of its Hyperion, and an app called Business Intelligence Mobile that can be downloaded from the Apple App store.
For SAP, Singapore customers deploying mobile analytics include those operating in the real estate, transportation, logistics, banking and telecommunications vertical, said Shyam Prasad, vice president for business analytics and line of business solutions for SAP South East Asia. SAP's offerings in the analytics space include industry specific apps covering banking, retail and utilities.
Besides the sales workforce, management executives are clamouring for mobile business intelligence tools. "We see line-of-business heads and C-level executives increasingly demand dashboards and analytics views. These executives are often on the road or in meetings, so they find desk-bound content of limited utility," said Forrester Research's Anderson.
According to IBM's Farquhar, a Singapore client operating in the financial services vertical installed the same platform for its executives and senior management to have real-time updates on processes such as unsecured lending, mortgages, liabilities and campaigns on the go. Previously, the CFO of the company felt that static information from pdf, excel and ppt formats does not provide timely updates on the business.
"We expect almost all C-level executives using tablets as the means to access business intelligence and analytics applications. In the near future, most enterprise users will also accessing and entering information using these devices, and desktops will be restricted to very limited number of high transaction operational users," said SAP's Prasad.
Meanwhile, the best use of mobile business intelligence is the ability to make use of features in the device, delivering meaningful and context aware insights to users according to John Brand, VP, Principal Analyst, CIO Group, Forrester Research.
"For example, they are using the location-based services of the devices to determine filters and slicers for the applications. Or they use proximity sensors to determine the most important information based on what's around the user," said Brand.
However, with new products, users and vendors finding their feet in maximising the use of mobile business intelligence, this area can be "more an art than a science today".
"It is important to get the right architecture in place and then make sure you deliver really impactful features, rather than just interesting reports that can be read on the road," said Brand.
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