Mobile BI tools, trends and best practices guide
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When Les Howell began looking for a way to empower his company's salespeople, he needed a tool that would get information into their hands fast. He found the answer with an in-memory mobile business intelligence application.
Salespeople are impatient. They don't want to have to wait 10 seconds or 15 seconds.
executive director of IT at Illes Seasonings and Flavors
Howell, the executive director of IT at Illes Seasonings and Flavors, a family-owned food manufacturer based out of Carrollton, Texas, said that speed is everything when it comes to using mobile BI applications.
"Salespeople are impatient," he said. "They don't want to have to wait 10 seconds or 15 seconds while the customer is waiting for them to respond, and then they have to come up with some dog and pony show."
Illes isn't the only company with this need for speed. The ever-present demand for instant information and declining prices for RAM have combined to create a boom in in-memory applications. Last year, Gartner called in-memory computing one of its top technology trends.
And it's getting easier for businesses to implement in-memory analytics. The Gartner report estimates that at least 35% of midsize and large companies will have adopted in-memory computing by 2015. It also states that, while only the most technologically savvy organizations used to be able to make the leap, a growing number of companies with less in-house technical expertise are moving to in-memory computing.
That was the case for Illes. Howell said the company is first and foremost about food production and lacks the vast IT team other businesses might have. He admitted that getting his head around in-memory analytics and how to implement it was a challenge at first. But he said the benefits were clear once he learned more. It enables the application to pull information straight from the company's ERP system, which means data doesn't have to be duplicated at any point. This saves on storage costs and also helps the application run faster, Howell said.
Illes implemented a mobile BI application from QlikTech called QlikView on iPad Business Discovery in 2011. The company worked with New Jersey-based consulting firm the Axis Group to implement the system. The sales team is the primary user of the tool, using it to track sales numbers, show forecasts to clients and access data about new prospective clients. Executives are also using the mobile BI tool to monitor manufacturing data and track financial information. Howell said that since the application was implemented, salespeople have seen a 40% reduction in the time they spend communicating with the customer service department to track and update orders.
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Still, in-memory analytics may not be the best fit for every organization. The Gartner report points out that the scarcity of technicians with skills in this area, complexity of setting up architecture, security concerns and other management problems will hold back in-memory applications from being adopted at ubiquitous levels.
Additionally, the vendor market is in flux. Because in-memory analytics is a relatively new concept, many vendors -- both established tech companies as well as startups -- are rushing into the area. SAP's HANA database is one of the most widely recognized pieces of in-memory hardware, but the application realm is much more open. Potential buyers will have a number of vendors to evaluate.