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Expanding your business intelligence architecture to mobile devices

Get tips on expanding a business intelligence architecture to support mobile devices and mobile BI software. Find out about the BI capabilities, strengths and weaknesses of mobile devices.

My company is looking to expand our business intelligence (BI) architecture to support mobile devices. What are some of the potential stumbling blocks we should be aware of? And can you give us some tips on how to avoid them?

When designing a BI architecture for mobile devices, you need to determine:

  • Does the data need to be real time or would you be better off with conformed, cleansed and comprehensive information -- i.e., from an enterprise data warehouse?
  • Will the business users analyzing information be examining a limited set of data and just trying to get answers to quick queries, or are they interested in broader data access and capabilities such as data visualization?
  • Are you planning to support smartphones and tablet PCs?
  • If tablets are part of the plan, will you support iPads, Androids and others?

In terms of stumbling blocks, the biggest mistake people make is trying to “port” their existing BI applications onto mobile devices. This is the same mistake made for the transition to client/server and then later to Web applications. Redeploying your old apps is basically implementing the worst of both worlds for the business. People can’t see a usable view of a dashboard on their smartphones, so you need to represent the data differently. On the other hand, tablets are great graphically, but if you just port what you have now, you won’t fully leverage their capabilities.

Design and deploy your mobile BI capabilities with the strengths of mobile devices in mind:

  • Smartphones are highly mobile and can receive data via 3G/4G or Wi-Fi in real time, but they won’t support data-rich visualizations -- not in a user-friendly way, at least. Leverage the mobile accessibility of these devices by providing real-time data access or data alerts to workers who can effectively use the information. Potential users range from a doctor treating a patient in the ICU, a retail salesperson helping a customer, a field sales rep looking up info on a prospect he’s meeting with or a stock trader looking to keep up with market developments.
  • Tablets are obviously bulkier than smartphones, but they can support visualizations as well as dashboards and more involved business analysis applications. If you have a sizable community within your organization that is using tablets for business purposes, the devices should be part of your BI portfolio.
This was first published in November 2011

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