Last month when I spoke to Carsten Bange, CEO of BARC and co-author of its BI Survey 14, he positioned mobile business intelligence as a trend that generated lots of hype but had experienced little traction in the enterprise.
Use of mobile business intelligence among companies in BARC's survey grew just 2 percent in the past year, he told me. While it is common for surveys like BARC's to reveal gaps between plans and actual implementation, he said the gap for mobile BI was quite large. "It is normal to have a difference between plans and actual adoption, but I have never seen such a large rate of people not doing a project after saying they want to do so."
Companies are beginning to realize that deploying mobile business intelligence requires more than simply porting BI software to mobile devices or purchasing mobile BI apps, Bange said. "For example, they need a strong mobile policy and mobile device management before they deploy apps with sensitive data."
And for many companies the costs of implementing mobile business intelligence simply may outweigh the benefits, he concluded.
"Most BI apps are Web based, so you can always access them with a browser on your mobile device. Some realism comes into play when they look more closely at what they want to do and start asking what benefits they will gain by putting data on mobile," he said. "The cost/benefit analysis just may not add up."
Mobile Business Intelligence Ambition 'Pretty Strong'
Yet the latest study on mobile BI by Dresner Advisory Services – which, like BARC, does annual surveys – shows a more consistent interest in mobile business intelligence. While the percentage of respondents who called mobile BI "very important" or "critical" dipped briefly in 2013, Howard Dresner, the firm's founder and CEO, said the number "recovered and then some" in 2014.
In addition, he said, in 2014 respondents made business intelligence their number two priority for mobile applications, trailing only email. "The ambition moving forward is pretty strong," he said.
The relative maturity of mobile business intelligence has made companies "more circumspect about it," Dresner said. "I think they understand it better now, so they are taking a more balanced approach."
There have been "bumps in the road" along the way to mobile business intelligence, Dresner acknowledged, but he expects to see deployments grow in the next few years as companies make decisions about key application development and infrastructure issues. For example, he believes many organizations are moving toward a hybrid development model that will encompass both HTML5, which facilitates cross-platform development, and native applications, which offer the most robust user experience.
"As organizations figure out which direction they are going in, I think we'll see whole new generations of more usable software being born," he said.
Cloud BI and Wearables
Infrastructure appears to remain a sticking point for mobile business intelligence adoption. "Mobile is a heck of a lot easier if you are in the cloud," Dresner pointed out. Despite this, 58 percent of respondents use their existing on-premise systems to support mobile BI in 2014, while 24 percent used public cloud and 22 percent used private cloud. Those numbers have remained fairly constant over the past four years.
Wearable form factors like smartwatches could give mobile BI a boost, Dresner predicted. Wearables "are very relevant for BI for anyone in an operational role," he said. "If the system can let me know about something that has happened that is relevant to what I am doing now, that is a pretty big deal."
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.