Knowledge is power. The saying holds more truth in today’s information driven world than ever before. Consumers expect businesses to keep up with the latest trends and cater to their fast changing tastes. Businesses that lag behind are often at a distinct disadvantage.
Increasing connectivity and the proliferation of mobile devices like mobile telephones and tablets have quickened the pace in which we consume information as well. This is even more amplified in the business world where business intelligence and data analytics needs to be accurate and fast, often real time, for important decision making. For many mobile business executives, very often information needs to be accessed on the go too.
The mobility of business intelligence
Mobile business intelligence, the capability for a mobile workforce to gain business insights through information analysis using applications optimized for mobile devices , is fast becoming an essential tool. Research has found that many companies are viewing mobile business intelligence as “critically important” , and this can be attributed to the fact that the potential uses of mobile business intelligence are seemingly limitless. A global sales leader can find out about his company’s performance over the past three years right down to a specific geographical region, product lines and the number of units sold, even when he is sitting in a cafe. A country product manager visiting one of his company’s 200 retail shops can access information on sales, customer profiles -- like gender and age – and consumption patterns down to the cities, and determine the amount of inventory to order for the next quarter.
Factors to consider for mobile business intelligence
Mobile business intelligence is meant to provide instant information essential for businesses anytime, anywhere. Obviously, information needs to be easily accessed and understood when on the go. Furthermore, the mobile application that is providing the information needs to be easy to learn and simple to use. Another point of consideration is that mobile business intelligence should be structured to not only cater to a certain profession, but rather, be customizable to allow users to use it for their specific needs.
Ease of use
Simplicity in mobile business intelligence is of paramount importance as people need to see the benefit of the application before they are willing to begin using it. Imagine this scenario: A business executive goes into an important sales meeting with a client well prepared with a great sales pitch. The client is impressed, but posts him with a question on sales figures from a particular year that he did not mention in the presentation. He then has to pull up various spreadsheets from various locations and frantically tries to cram two days’ worth of analysis into five minutes and in the process, loses the attention and interest of his client.
Now imagine if the same sales executive is able to access an easy to use application that allows him to combine various spreadsheets and data sources at once. Furthermore, the application instantly calculates and shows the desired correlations between selected sets of data. Using the genius of well-planned mobile business intelligence, the sales executive is able to provide critical information to the client at the moment when it matters most.
The above scenario is just one of thousands of different situations where instant information that is provided in an easy to use and easy to understand manner will benefit a company.
Another important consideration for mobile business intelligence is that it is meant to be used on the go and in situations where time is of the essence, or where specific information is needed immediately. In such cases, a long and thorough report on the data findings will not work.
We all know that a pie chart is more effective in showing percentages than a spreadsheet with all the relevant facts. There are of course many other ways to do a visual presentation of data to make it clearer and easier to understand. Visualization of analyzed data helps users to better read the information as it is able to visually show the relationships among different sets of data.
Additionally, it is important to remember that while a spreadsheet may be relevant to the user, the audience he may be presenting the information to may not be able to fully grasp the information. Visualizing the data helps the user present it in a form that is easy to comprehend. It can also highlight certain information that the presenter wants to emphasize.
The ability to visualize data also brings forth a vast amount of opportunities for any company. Very often, visualization arouses people’s curiosity in the information and brings them to ask the next question and find the answers themselves from the information. The application of a mobile business intelligence system that is highly visual means that it can be easily picked up and understood by anyone, not just by trained or technical professionals.
Market environments are constantly changing in today’s business world. Business executives are running to keep pace. Tools designed to help them with their work need to be adaptable and fit into with their work style, as they may not find it of value if they need to invest too much effort and time to learn to use it. It is therefore important for a mobile business intelligence tool to be useable by and benefit anyone in the organization, from people in accounting and finance to sales, marketing and operations.
The ideal mobile business intelligence tool empowers users with a customizable dashboard. Users can tap on the dashboard and adjust the tool to best help them perform their duties in the most effective and efficient ways.
A customizable dashboard would mean that the base application used by all employees is essentially the same. This allows for quick and easy implementations of updates to the application, as well as, faster and easier IT support. Users from different departments can share data and findings easily.
Moreover, a customizable dashboard allows users to easily share data and switch between data sets. They may also change task or job function within the same organization and still access the same data. For example, a production specialist that is transferred to another department will be able to use the same application and integrate into his new position effectively and with minimal training and effort when using the company’s data analytics tool.
Intelligence on the move
Increasingly, businesses are adopting the use of mobile business intelligence to keep up with the demands of customers and react to changing business and market environments. Mobile BI benefits may be hard to measure. Besides pure business gains, the tool can help in increasing customer satisfaction and even employee job satisfaction at times. The adoption of mobile business intelligence also fosters a culture of innovation and data-driven decision making for knowledge workers.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that to optimally harness the potential of a mobile business intelligence tool, businesses first need to have the end users in mind. Even more so than many other IT tools, mobile business intelligence requires businesses to study how the tool can be effective for people performing different functions, while balancing business and IT considerations.
J Y Pook is Vice President Asia Pacific, Tableau Software.
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