Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mobility Matters: Delivering Needed Information at the Right Time

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           Demand for BI as a means to get maximum value from information has never been higher as businesses increasingly compete in real time and require integrated information from across the enterprise. An old saw says BI gets "the right information to the right people at the right time." It's really time to add "via the right medium" to that mix.

Automating business decisions is one path to BI maturity. Triggering actions automatically, based on changes in corporate data, can arise beneficially from a solid understanding of how decisions are made today.

But we also know that many decisions are multifaceted, and a knowledge worker's analysis will continue to be a part of effective business intelligence.


Effective analysis is getting more complicated for knowledge workers. The more involved aspects require understanding what is happening and combining that with summarized historical data to build a set of possible actions. These decision "analytics" are the basis of competitive advantage for organizations today. Once calculated, they are put to effective use, utilizing the best medium available for real-time delivery.

Like water, information and analytics must flow through the path of least resistance, utilizing the deployment option that turns the information into valuable business action most quickly.
BI Deployment Option History

The accepted paradigm of effective business intelligence must change. Once, BI was exclusively made of reports built by IT from overnight-batch-loaded data warehouses, which replicated a single or small set of source systems. Those reports were deployed to the personal computers of end users in what now seems, in hindsight, a very heavy-handed and resource- intensive process.

Delivering a report to a user's personal computer on a regular basis is nowhere near the pinnacle of BI achievement. Shops still operating with this mentality are leaving tremendous value on the table.

Today the norm for BI involves "zero footprint" Web-based delivery of reports. This improvement allows information to reach many more users. A parallel development is that, while the detailed transactional data is necessary to be accessible on a drill-through basis, it is the rapid availability of summary level information that activates the process.

The majority of users have become more accustomed to a targeted presentation layer. Dashboards represent an advanced form of information delivery, second only to operational BI as a mature approach to disseminating information. Acting on dashboards that already have a certain amount of knowledge worker intelligence built in moves the organization to real-time competitiveness.

When you add mobility to the picture, notifications take on a whole new utility. Notifications can be sent to mobile devices when the dashboard data changes - or, rather, changes in a way that is meaningful to the knowledge worker. Mobile applications provide useful notifications and remove email as an extra step in the process.

Notifications, combined with the ability to immediately access the information wherever the knowledge worker is, provide many advantages over a dashboard, which requires Web browser technologies.


Business Mobility

If the past several years have brought a sea change in social culture, it is clearly in the use of mobile devices. What was once a phone for verbal communication has become a favored medium for email, Web access, music, podcasts, photos and information about weather, dining and travel. This has all happened in a short period of time and the trend will surely continue.

As case studies attest, mobile devices and tablet computers are highly useful business tools. The flexibility that they offer to knowledge workers no longer tied to a physical location is now seen to be as necessary in business. Achieving real-time business mobility helps information flow like water through the path of least resistance. It facilitates less hunting and gathering on the part of the information consumer by delivering summarized information, supported by detail by BI systems.

The biggest business factor driving the need for mobility is the real-time nature of new business needs. Out-of-stock conditions, customer complaints and fraud are not optimally solved with reporting. In order to address these issues, information cannot be out of date. Fortunes can be gained and lost by suboptimal business decision timing. Data warehouses built with a personal computer usage layer create a distinct challenge to the optimal timing of decisions.

The preferred timing of intelligence gathering is during the immediate occurrence of a trigger event. Business is becoming a world where the players are always plugged in, and expect and need to make immediate decisions. Therefore, business units - and the systems they utilize for real-time decision-making - need high quality, high performing, corporately arbitrated information in real-time.

For competitive parity, it is imperative that the information management function not only responds to business needs, but also brings solutions to the table in real-time and ensures that they are visibly exposed for decision-makers.

Real-time information delivered to an abandoned desktop or to the Web that inherently involves multiple steps for the user to derive value does not exploit the potential of available on-time information. Businesspeople need easy access to accurate information delivered to them at any time or place. The answer is mobile BI, utilizing the mobile device as the data access layer.

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