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What Your Organization Needs to Know about Mobile Business Intelligence

By January 26, 2015Article

Editor’s note: Is the growth of mobile business intelligence flat, ready for takeoff or growing beyond expectations? What are the current business preferences for the various mobile apps and platforms? How is cloud computing impacting mobile BI? These and many other trends are revealed in the 2014 Mobile Computing / Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study recently published by Dresner Advisory Services. I spoke with Howard Dresner about the study’s findings and what’s really happening in mobile BI. 

You’ve surveyed BI user organizations annually for six years, and your reports show the number of surveyed respondents ranking mobile BI as a priority decreased consistently over the past few years. But your 2014 report shows a different picture. Has adoption of mobile in business intelligence cooled or is it heating up? 

Howard Dresner: I recently read an article in a trade publication suggesting that mobile BI is slowing down and interest is waning. But data from our six years of market studies on mobile BI reveals a different view. 

Each year we ask respondents to indicate which mobile applications have the highest priority in their organizations. 2014 is the first time they ranked mobile BI so high – it’s the #2 priority across the spectrum of mobile apps – it even ranked higher than mobile apps for CRM, personal information management and collaboration. Not only did the mobile BI ranking improve, but its overall weighted mean also increased. 

I believe the decreasing ranking of mobile BI as a priority in the past few years is because mobile BI has become more mainstream and commonplace. It’s a standard and expected now, rather than a new priority. It has become the norm. It’s amazing to see how quickly mobile BI has gone from a niche segment to expected functionality. 

As our report shows, another significant finding about the growth of mobile BI is that its use has now spread beyond executives to middle managers and line managers. That’s great news for the industry, as it shows mobile BI is filtering down in organizations and should result in broader BI provisioning. 

From a geographical perspective, Latin America and Asia Pacific place a higher priority on mobile BI than North America and EMEA. We believe that, like the leap-frog effect of cell phones in developing nations, those without traditional BI invest in mobile BI first.

Aside from the geographical perspective, what is driving the growth of mobile apps for business intelligence? 

Howard Dresner: Of course the use of mobile devices in the workplace has grown exponentially and many people now work remotely. But what’s really great about mobile BI is users have access to timely insights anywhere, anytime. And it allows more eyes on the data.

Mobile business intelligence introduces a different paradigm into the culture of users that can shift the ways they use BI to be successful.

Another factor is the increasing number of successes in BI initiatives. A lot of sales organizations that have experienced those successes, for instance, now are taking their BI to the next level with mobile enabling CRM and analytics apps.

What’s the #1 app for mobile computing? 

Howard Dresner: Email, and that has not changed since 2010. 

What types and sizes of organizations are the most prominent users of mobile BI? 

Howard Dresner: Organizations in customer-facing industries such as retail and wholesale, real estate and business services are more likely to place a high priority on mobile BI. It’s weaker in healthcare and other highly regulated organizations that are required to keep a tight leash on their data. 

Small organizations rank mobile BI higher than large organizations. Large businesses rank mobile BI #3 in priority rather than #2, placing a higher priority for mobile apps in personal information management. 

Does your 2014 study reveal trends changing in regard to business preferences for mobile platforms and devices?

Howard Dresner: It’s fascinating to see the rise and fall of various mobile platforms from 2010 to today. As Google Android’s market share expanded in the last two years, the use of iOS leveled off somewhat. And Microsoft looks like a dark horse with an improving picture over last year. 

In 2014 our data shows Apple remains the clear leader in mobile devices with Android in the #2 spot and Microsoft’s Windows 8 phones and Surface tablets not far behind Android. Although plans don’t always lead to action, data from our past studies shows that 40 percent of surveyed respondents indicated Microsoft has been in the thinking of their organizations as an addition or alternative, and our 2014 study shows Microsoft’s Surface tablet will continue seeing improved industry support and significant plans through 2016. 

Buyers’ demand for native apps on iOS and Android remains strong in spite of the vendors’ drive toward HTML5. Our study also found that a surprising number of respondents’ organizations are developing apps for two major mobile platforms even though it costs less to develop one HTML5 app across all devices. Moving forward, we expect to see more apps using a hybrid approach with a native code wrapper around standard HTML5. 

What about the other mobile device vendors beyond the top three?

Howard Dresner: Our study revealed a good number of BlackBerry phones remain in use, though more than half of the respondents report “no interest.” Beyond the top three and BlackBerry/RIM, the remaining mobile device vendors scuffle for attention. 

Without giving away all the insights in your report, can you share some information about which mobile features are of the highest priority for users? 

Howard Dresner: Capabilities for viewing charts and reports and monitoring KPIs are some of the top user priorities. Small organizations place a high priority on alerts and real-time data refresh. While viewing charts is paramount, the ability to select and drill down data has gathered importance.

Also there is a growing trend of requiring better interaction and fewer static presentations. I believe the trend toward more dynamic capabilities will result in traditional BI upgrades being recast for mobile devices. 

One of the important sections of your market studies shows where there is misalignment between user requirements and vendor support. What’s happening in this regard in mobile BI today?

Howard Dresner: One of the charts in the mobile BI report shows the areas of misalignment. Vendor support matches some of the top user requirements today, but there are some mismatches. As an example, users place a higher priority on alerting and dashboard assembly than the vendors currently support. And users are currently not focusing on social media analysis, but it’s a priority for the vendors. 

Are many organizations using the cloud for delivery of mobile apps? 

Howard Dresner: We’ve seen movement to cloud-based structures in the back-end systems support mobile BI over time, but it has not been significant. Except for small organizations, most organizations have chosen to stick with existing in-house enterprise applications and services for mobile BI. Where they are using the cloud today, our study also found that more organizations are using public cloud than private cloud structures. 

So your report clearly indicates growing adoption of mobile BI even though users have to deal with smaller screens and limited data volume today.   

Howard Dresner: That’s correct. In fact, only 20 percent report no mobile capabilities whatsoever. In our 2014 study, we asked the surveyed respondents to indicate their plans for mobile BI penetration for the remainder of 2014 through 2017. Their responses for future expectations through 2017 are undeniably high. 

Click here to purchase the report. The report includes rankings of 25 business intelligence vendors, mobile app and platform priorities and preferences, cultural preparedness for mobile BI, device integration requirements, targeted users, mobile BI adoption and features, benefits and limitations, capabilities and plans, use of consumer app stores vs. internal app stores or third-party stores, and more. 

Survey demographics: Fifty-five percent of respondents’ organizations are in North America (United States, Canada and Puerto Rico). Twenty-seven percent are in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Twelve percent are located in Asia Pacific, and six percent are in Latin America. Respondents represent 14 industry segments, including government. Breakout of respondents’ organization size is: 34 percent – 1 – 100 employees, 24 percent – 101 – 1,000 employees, 16 percent – 1,001 – 5,000 employees, and 24 percent – more than 5000 employees.  

Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and related areas having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.   

Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of 






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