Mobile BI – The why, not the wow

This is the second part of my write up on the MicroStrategy BI symposium on Wednesday 13th October 2010. As mentioned in my appraisal of iOS (ironically, I am writing this blog entry on an iPad at 23,000ft, where the iPad arguably excels), the focus of the event was predominantly on Mobile BI with some nice demonstrations of MicroStrategy’s iPhone and iPad applications. They did indeed look nice, as the speakers frequently commented with quotes like “this looks really good, I really like this one” as sliders and graphs whizzed and whirred before our very eyes. It is a smooth application, of that there can be no doubt, but it was the carefree abandonment with which the speaker was presenting that made me sit back in my chair and just ask the question “Why?”. There was no real substance to the presentation, no story to the data to say, “look, I can now see that by doing x it saves the company y”.

I am not one to question or stand in the way of progress. I love progress. I love things that look good. But what I love more is things when things are done right. And for me, this is where Mobile BI is not yet ready for the mainstream. Getting “traditional BI” (I hate that term) implemented correctly is difficult enough and many organizations fail with this alone. Now, us BI practitioners have the distraction of Mobile BI to contend with. There will be C level executives who love it and who want it on their wish list for the coming year. It’s the responsibility of BI professionals to assess this wish based on the success and effectiveness of the companies existing BI implementation and advise accordingly. Maybe you’ll have a bit of a fight on your hands, but you need to make sure that the business case is more substantial than “I’d like an iPad so I think we should implement Mobile BI”.

Currently, Mobile BI, for most organizations, will not fix things, it is not a magic bullet and it comes with considerable hardware costs. If I was a CIO today and one of my workers said to me “Hey Gareth, I’ve got a great idea that will revive our ailing BI implementation, MOBILE BI!” I would be tempted to sack them on the spot. Unfortunately I live and work in the Netherlands where labor laws prohibit these kind of actions, but my point remains the same. Mobile BI is nice, it probably will have a place in the future, but right now? Let’s just focus on getting standard BI right.

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