Mobile Business Intelligence (MBI): fact-based decision making

Ryan McNaught

In the United States, we’ve reached a tipping point: more than 61% of companies—up from 52% in 2010[1]—now rank MBI as a critical or very important priority. As the mobile workplace grows, industries must develop new ways to deliver information into the hands of decision makers.

CIOs generally understand that MBI is not simply a mobile version of traditional BI. Rather, there are fundamental differences between consuming data at a workstation versus on the go. To build successful projects, companies need to take these unique considerations into account.

Benefits of Mobile Business Intelligence

MBI empowers individuals by providing access to accurate, specific data in critical decision-making moments. This insight can lead to profound impacts on both individuals and companies. For this reason, it is now commonplace for executive leadership to demand organizational accessibility on one or more mobile platforms.

Key considerations before implementing MBI

Porting an organization’s entire BI infrastructure to mobile devices can lead to failure for a number of avoidable reasons. Before making the move to MBI, it’s important to consider how culturally prepared your organization is, how secure your data is, and how information will be consumed.

Know your user

As a CIO, there are some key questions you’ll want to ask with your management team before proceeding down the MBI path. Consider the following:

1. Culturally speaking, how prepared is your organization?

To gauge how culturally prepared your organization is, consider rating your organization in terms of being an early adopter of new technology or market trends. For example, when the first generation iPad was released in 2010, did your organization rush to purchase a large number of them for employees? Or have you still not seen a colleague with a company-owned tablet three years later? Another litmus test might be to look at how pervasive working outside of the office has become in your organization. A majority of companies are either completely prepared (24%) or somewhat prepared (45%)[2]

2. Who needs access?

Executive management, sales and marketing, finance, human resources (HR), and information technology (IT) personnel. Time-pressed, on-the-move workers stand to benefit the most. Could be working in the field, on the floor, or in the boardroom.

3. Where, when, and how will information be consumed?

Online or offline? With access to limited cellular service or reliable wireless networks? How will having/not having access to information when mobile impact decisions? Consider that nearly any industry can benefit from mobile BI when the right information is available in real time. Also consider the possibilities in industries such as real estate, retail, transportation, and telecommunications

Secure your content

Protecting sensitive information available on mobile devices is a top priority. Smartphones and tablets are often misplaced or stolen. If security is not properly designed, theft/loss can pose a looming threat. To pre-empt this potential issue, MBI solutions should leverage built-in device and application security (e.g., password protection with the ability to remotely wipe content).

Companies can also employ additional security and third-party mobile-device management solutions, but these options come with a higher total cost of ownership (TCO).

Use data wisely

Remember to customize the content to the medium. This means considering what sorts of information are best suited to presentation via mobile devices.

We suggest that you focus on data visualizations that can answer short-term and high-level questions.

tabletPick your devices

In today’s competitive smartphone and tablet market, device options are limitless. We suggest that you target specific devices and software versions to actively support, rather than supporting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model. While some organizations have opted to support only iPads, you may note that Android now makes up 52% of the US smartphone market according to comScore.

As a general guideline, emphasize the user’s tablet experience over the smartphone. A tablet is better suited to MBI, and smartphone applications will conform to tablet specifications.


In conclusion

Mobile BI has been a hot topic for a decade, but the space is just now beginning to grow exponentially. That’s because mobile competition amongst hardware and telecommunication vendors has spurred innovations that have greatly reduced cost of entry. With high-speed wireless networks now commonplace, nearly everyone is always online—making MBI a top priority for CIOs.

Slalom Consulting IM Consultant Nivaan Linhares contributed to this post. Ryan McNaught and Nivaan Linhares are members of Slalom’s Information Management Thought Leadership Committee. For more information, email the team at

[1] Dresner Advisory Services, LLC. “Wisdom of Crowds: Mobile Computing/Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study 2012,” p. 30.

[2] Dresner Advisory Services, LLC. “Wisdom of Crowds: Mobile Computing/Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study 2012,” p. 34.

About mostlyanalytics
Chief Editor for Mobile Analytics thought leadership in Slalom Consulting's New York Information Delivery practice and an IBM Certified Solution Expert – Cognos Business Intelligence; all views are my own.

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