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How Will the Rise of Small Form Factor Devices like SmartPhones and Tablet Computers Change BI?

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Nari Kannan: iPhones, Blackberries, Android Phones, iPads, HP Slate and others promise to enable a lot of people to visualize a lot of data on the move, on location, in the coming decade. How will the rise of small form factor devices like SmartPhones and Tablet computers change the creation and consumption of Business Intelligence in the future?

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  • Although iPhones, blackberries, etc. have been used as a promise to help deliver mobile BI to the masses and enable people to use and access analytics no matter where they are, the reality is that (and this is my opinion from speaking with countless solution providers on how successful their mobile BI offerings are) adoption is slim. Companies have not been jumping on the bandwagon to implement mobile BI across their organizations. So far the promise of mobile BI has not been met.

    Looking at the iPad and the future use of Tablet computers begs the question of whether what hasn't worked for mobile, will work for the Tablet? I definitely think that there is more of a chance that people using iPads and the like will be more likely to use BI applications than they would on their phones, however, that assumes that Tablet computers will become production tools and move beyond the realm of play and entertainment.

  • Much of the effort to date has been put into the recreation and delivery of the traditional BI interface onto the mobile device; which could also be considered the core problem. This presentation layer has been considered impractical and unusable on these devices have lead to the not so impressive adoption rate so far.

    At the same time as enterprises work towards making data more usable, visible, timely access to, and making it actionable; logically it makes sense to integrate the use of mobile devices into this delivery of information. It becomes a matter of what information, modify the presentation layer, removing bandwidth/distance constraints, using more scalable platforms (in-memory db) to support this data access, and the first step being including mobile in their BI strategy.

    Vendors have begun to shift design with these devices in mind; no more on size or function fits all; and develop a more practical architecture to support multiple delivery mechanisms. While today usage for the most is low; the interest, requirements, and driving needs I've seen have been in the delivery of real-time data to the field in both healthcare and the manufacturing verticals; along with the support for ad-hoc questions that integrate specific features on these devices; geo location being one.

  • Information Delivery layer will pack more intelligence than what currently exists. Having said that, I for one, don't think that technology will be the issue. There are techniques available (and it can only get better!) to deliver reports, dashboards and scorecards on multiple devices. The weak link is in terms of understanding the 'usability' of such devices. Data visualization on small form factor devices can be very different from the typical devices used for BI consumption - viz. desktops & laptops. More research has to go into this 'usability' aspect of information delivery rather than the technology itself.

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