Mobile Business Intelligence
Mobile business intelligence (BI) is the ability to access BI-related data such as KPIs, business metrics, and dashboards on mobile devices
BI Application Access
Mobile access to BI applications is typically accomplished in one of two ways:
- Using a mobile-browser to access the application on the web
- Using a native application that is designed for a specific mobile OS (such as iOS or Android)
Each approach has its benefits and disadvantages and, in the end, it depends on the use-case and scenario to determine which is best for any given business. In either case, mobile BI is one of the hottest and quickly evolving spaces in the software industry. Its promise attracts users and is fast gaining buy-in from leading organizations and executives from around the world. The reason behind this is simple: in the rapid-fire business world of the 21st century businesses and teams rely on real-time, on-demand access to business critical information.
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
Purpose-built Mobile BI apps
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 BI software market, small and large enterprise adopted either a purpose-built, device-specific application strategy (e.g. iPhone or Android apps) or a web application strategy (browser-based, works on most devices without an application being installed on the device).
Mobile BI applications can be defined as follows:
- Mobile Browser Rendered App:Almost any mobile device enables Web-based, thin client, HTML-only BI applications. These apps are static and provide little data interactivity. Data is viewed just as it would be over a browser from a personal computer. Little additional effort is required to display data but mobile browsers can typically only support a small subset of the interactivity of a web browser.
- Customized App: A step up from this approach is to render each (or all) reports and dashboards in device-specific format. In other words provide information specific to the screen size, optimize usage of screen real estate, and enable device-specific navigation controls. Examples of these include thumb wheel or thumb button for BlackBerry, up/down/left/right arrows for Palm, gestural manipulation for iPhone. This approach requires more effort than the previous but no additional software.
- Mobile Client App: The most advanced, the client app provides full interactivity with the BI content viewed on the device. In addition, this approach provides periodic caching of data which can be viewed and analyzed even offline
Developing a native mobile BI app poses challenges, especially concerning data display rendering and user interactivity. Developing mobile bi app is time consuming and requires more effort .
- Custom-coded Mobile BI Apps
For example, the iPhone apps require coding in Objective C while Android apps require coding in Java. In addition to the user functionality of the app, the app must be coded to work with the supporting server infrastructure required to serve data to the mobile BI app. While custom-coded apps offer near limitless options, the specialized software coding expertise and infrastructure can be expensive to develop, modify, and maintain.
- Fixed-form Mobile BI Applications
Business data can be displayed in a mobile BI client (or web browser) that serves as a user interface to existing BI platforms or other data sources, eliminating the need for new master sources of data and specialized server infrastructure. This option offers fixed and configurable data visualizations such as charts, tables, KPIs, and links, and can usually be deployed quickly using existing data sources.
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