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With mobile BI deployments, company size matters

New survey results document how smaller businesses are leading the mobile BI charge.

The smallest organizations are winning the mobile business intelligence race. In fact, according to new research from Dresner Advisory Services LLC, three times as many small organizations indicated that mobile BI is a critically important function to the business compared to large organizations.

"When you're a small organization, you have to garner as many competitive advantages as you can," said Howard Dresner, lead researcher, president and founder of the Nashua, N.H.-based analyst firm.

His fourth mobile study in three years, Wisdom of Crowds Mobile Computing/Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study, highlights trends based on data from more than 250 survey respondents. New this year, the survey also provides general insights into mobile computing, which Dresner said helps to put mobile business intelligence (BI) in greater context.

Overall, the survey results revealed the importance of mobile devices and, specifically, mobile BI continues to grow year over year, Dresner said. But while mobile BI is still building momentum, some segments of the industry are showing more interest, aggression and preparedness for the technology -- and the challenges that go along with it -- than others.

Size does matter

More than 70% of this year's survey participants hail from North America and EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), and a good majority are employed as IT professionals (slightly less than 50%) and executive managers (slightly more than 25%).

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But the respondents represented organization size a little more equably: 35% are from the smallest organizations, which retain between one and 100 people; 43% represent midsize organizations, which retain between 101 and 5,000 people; and 22% are from the largest organizations, which retain more than 5,000 employees.

One of the trends Dresner documented was a relationship between mobile BI and the size of the organization. He described the mobile BI adoption curve as a misshapen U, with midsize organizations taking the most conservative approach.

"You find this with almost all new technologies," said Dresner, who noted the finding is consistent with his 2011 mobile BI survey results. "The smallest organizations are the most aggressive and most ambitious, it wanes in the middle and then it picks up again."

There are several reasons smaller organizations are leading the mobile BI charge, including agility and, according to the survey, what Dresner calls cultural preparedness, though that term was not defined for respondents in the survey.

"This is about collecting perceptions. Rather than leading the witness, we let them infer [what it means]," Dresner said. "But [do] I think it means are they ready to abandon their desktops? Most aren't, but some are."

Preparing for a mobile culture

A majority of the respondents -- almost 70% -- indicated they were either somewhat or completely culturally prepared for mobile BI, but a look at responses by organization size revealed a similar pattern as the adoption curve. More than 75% of the smallest (1 to 100) organizations answered that they were completely or somewhat prepared; that number dips to about 65% for the largest organizations (more than 5,000 employees) and dips even more for midsize organizations.

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A data point that shows an even deeper dichotomy is the number of respondents who suggested they were completely prepared culturally for mobile BI. For the smallest organizations, that number is above 40%, but for all other respondents, that number doesn't even hit 20%.

"Smaller organizations tend to be more mobile and more dynamic than larger organizations," Dresner said.

That reasoning might help to explain another survey finding: While email and personal information management such as scheduling remained the top two most important mobile applications, BI also held its ground between 2011 and 2012, coming in at third. The order may not have changed, but the degree to which the applications were considered a priority did. Email lost some ground between 2011 and 2012, whereas BI gained ground along with customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning applications access, to name a couple.

The top three applications were the same regardless of organization size. However, the same could not be said for where they appeared on that list. "[BI's] importance grew over the year," Dresner said. "For some segments of the market, like smaller enterprises, BI was No. 1, and not email."

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