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HP Software's community for IT leaders // October 2012
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Get your mobile BI moving

Mobile business is a huge opportunity. IM leaders should take the initiative by clearing away key technical and institutional obstacles.

Big data and mobility are changing the game for leading-edge business intelligence (BI). Collecting more information and enabling decision makers to dynamically parse and sort from their mobile devices can deliver a tremendous competitive advantage.
 
But setting up the infrastructure to deliver big data insights to mobile devices isn't a simple prospect. Information managers need to plan ahead to overcome inevitable technical challenges and organizational resistance.

Planning for technical challenges

Delivering large data queries, on demand, to small, hard-to-secure devices makes performance and security two primary technical challenges. But mobile BI apps need to be simple and convenient, too, or no one will want to use them. Start to tackle the challenges with these three steps:

1. Application performance. A mobile app is useless if it isn't fast. Yet mobile devices do not have the reliable, high access speeds for real-time, interactive queries. Unless you're content to deliver static, prebuilt reports—and you shouldn't be—you'll need a plan to transmit high-volume data in nearly real-time.
 
"What good is a query that runs for over two hours?" asks Bruce Yen, director of business intelligence at Guess. "Users just get frustrated," he says. Instead, Guess switched to Vertica’s next-generation analytical database and found that the same queries came back in 20 seconds. 
 
2. Security. If you're going to pioneer mobile solutions for IM, be ready to work closely with your CISO to address the typical vectors for enterprise data loss. These include:

  • Encryption—protection of in-transit data;
  • Authentication—prevention of unauthorized use;
  • Access—creation of policies to limit high-risk activities; and
  • Partitioning—separation of enterprise and private user data to facilitate remote wipe of lost or stolen devices.

3. Ease of use. If your analytics application is confusing or cumbersome, you’ll lose users and hobble your ROI. At Guess, the data is so easy to digest that one executive picked up the telephone during a training session with a new BI solution, taking action to reallocate a top-selling item.
 
"Seeing people use the apps while they are in meetings gives us great satisfaction," Yen says. It’s excellent confirmation, he adds, that the investment will pay off.

Preventing organizational resistance

Going mobile means you can leverage the advantages of BI for a much larger audience and uncover hidden insights. It also increases the effectiveness and job satisfaction of more people in the organization.
 
By keeping these “big picture” advantages in mind and promoting them up and down the org chart, you can help prevent organizational resistance to change. Other tricks to grease the wheels include:

  • Convince the CIO—Do your homework and show how extending BI to new roles in the organization can increase revenue or control costs.
  • Know the business—Find out what the lines of business want or need most, and make sure you're targeting those items first.
  • Work with consumer device trends—You want to leverage popular platforms and device features that will create a "wow" factor for users. 
  • Start small and scale—Don't try to do too much at first; go for a pilot program that will get you noticeable results for low cost and minimal effort.
  • Establish a vendor partnership that can help resolve technical challenges—An experienced partner can prevent obstacles from bogging down the project and help you leverage current BI trends.

Mobile and BI: A perfect fit

Executives, managers and salespeople are just a few of the people who are away from a desktop computer for long stretches. Giving on-the-go workers access to up-to-the-minute business metrics can boost efficiency and profitability. Mobile BI is a particularly powerful big-data innovation, and starting early to clear the barriers means getting those advantages ahead of your competitors.

Learn more about what Vertica and Guess have done with mobile BI.


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