Just as business is no longer confined by the walls of a company's physical facilities, business intelligence (BI) has largely untethered itself from the centralized workstation.
Industry-changing apps such as Uber are using mobile BI functionality to overwhelm a technologically conservative industry.
"Mobilizing data has the potential to facilitate new business models and disrupt entire industries," said Martha Bennett, an analyst at Forrester Research in a report entitled, The Key Ingredients for Mobile BI Success. "Mobile BI will be a differentiator between industry leaders and laggards."
The number of North American and European companies making business intelligence applications available on mobile devices has quadrupled over the past three years, she reports. Another Forrester analyst, Boris Evelson, said companies are now beginning to port mobile BI to smartwatches.
These 10 apps show the range of what is now available to meet different mobile business intelligence niches and needs:
- SAS Mobile BI
- Birst Mobile BI
- Tableau Mobile
- WebFOCUS Mobile
- QlikView Mobile
- Logi Info
- MicroStrategy Mobile
- IBM Cognos Mobile
SAS Mobile BI
SAS Mobile BI aims to help executives, sales or service staff, and those on the production floor to gain relevant insights through mobile devices. They can open the mobile BI app on their smartphones to interact with SAS Visual Analytics reports and charts natively on Apple iOS and Android devices.
"Native gestures, offline connectivity, different types of layouts, personalization and collaboration capabilities enable users to quickly share and interact with critical insights needed to meet a range of business demands in a secured manner," said Tapan Patel, principal product marketing manager at SAS.
Birst Mobile BI
Birst provides a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application with features such as integrated ETL (extract, transform, load), data warehouse automation, enterprise reporting, ad-hoc querying, dashboarding, data visualization and mobile business intelligence. It can be delivered through an on-premise virtual appliance or via the cloud. Birst also provides a native mobile BI app for iOS or Android tablets and smartphones.
"Users only need to create one version of their dashboard, and Birst automatically adjusts the layout to fit the device," said Pedro Arellano, Birst's vice president of Product Strategy.
Birst Mobile takes advantage of a mobile device's touchscreen interface, enabling users to swipe down to scroll through rows in a table and use the two-fingers-spread to zoom in. To drill down and across for more detail, users can touch a chart element or table cell. The mobile BI app supports embedded prompts to help users filter results and pass filters on when drilling from one dashboard to another.
On the security side, Birst encrypts data on the device and provides remote data wipe capabilities.
Tableau Mobile, available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play for tablets, securely connects users to corporate data and lets them select, filter and drill down into that data. The tablet version includes editing capabilities, including different views of the data. Like the desktop version, the mobile BI app is being updated on a frequent basis. Some of the most recent features include enhanced security and access, additional geolocation capabilities and improved search functionality for iOS.
"Mobile device management is being added in Tableau 10, now in beta," said Ellie Fields, vice president of Product Marketing at Tableau. "Later this year, we'll be releasing an Android-compatible app for phones as well, putting data in the hands of more people."
WebFOCUS, Information Builders' flagship business intelligence and analytics platform, incorporates several authoring tools which provide the ability to create a variety of business intelligence applications and output formats including mobile BI. It leverages web and HTML5 technology in reports, charts and dashboards, as well as guided ad-hoc reporting, visual analytics, performance management and write-back transaction processing.
Another mobile BI application that runs on WebFOCUS is the IBI Performance Management Framework (PMF). This application allows management to create, refine and manage strategy in a highly visual way, and on any computer or mobile device.
"We also offer a native mobile app called WebFOCUS Mobile Faves, which is an iOS and Android helper app that interacts directly with WebFOCUS to enable access and presentation of analytical content on mobile devices," said Andy McCartney, director of Product Marketing, Information Builders. "Business users can create reports, charts and dashboards and choose to make them available to other users via Mobile Faves."
Qlik is another vendor utilizing HTML 5 browser technology to make its mainline business intelligence applications available on any device. This makes things simpler, as there is no longer a need to have one app for the desktop and another for mobile devices.
Most recently, the company released Qlik Sense Cloud Business so SMBs and enterprise workgroups can create, manage and collaborate with visual analytics in the cloud. The QIX Associative Indexing Engine enables users to probe any associations that may exist across all of their data. Together with a subscription-based payment system, this lowers the cost barriers for those seeking to engage in mobile BI.
Logi Info business intelligence applications are available to all users regardless of their device. They produce HTML5 output, which makes interactive business intelligence applications instantly accessible on Apple iOS, Google Android and Windows mobile devices. They use touch interactivity and can also be embedded within native mobile apps, offering the same functionality and interactivity as the browser-based content.
MicroStrategy Mobile's native mobile apps provide analytics on the go. They include touch-optimized reports and dashboards. In addition, the MicroStrategy platform can be used to create custom mobile productivity apps with built-in analytics capabilities so there is no need to exit those apps to conduct mobile business intelligence actions.
IBM Cognos Mobile
IBM's mobile BI app extends its Cognos business intelligence platform to devices such as Apple iPhone/iPad and Android phones. Users can view and fully interact with Cognos reports, dashboards, metrics, analysis and other information.
Roambi, which was acquired by SAP earlier this year, takes data from sources such as SAP BusinessObjects, IBM Cognos, OBIEE, Microsoft Reporting and Analysis Services - as well as Excel, Google Docs, Salesforce and more – and presents the data on an iPad or iPhone. It does not have its own back-end infrastructure; instead it presents the data generated by other business intelligence applications.
Yellowfin allows users to query many different databases and combine multiple data sources to create a single report or dashboard without having to build a data warehouse. Yellowfin's basic pitch is that not everyone has the time, skills or the access rights to log into a BI platform. Instead, Yellowfin sends mobile alerts, broadcasts and reports related to the types of information the individual needs to remain informed.
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in Florida, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).