When iPad was first announced, the first thing that raced into my mind was the emergence of a true platform for the delivery of business subtly and more pervasively.
iPhone, and earlier attempts to make phones smarter, certainly created the ability to deepen access to operational data in mobile contexts, however, successes were far and few between. RoamBI for iPhone, introduced in 2008, was the closest any BI company had come to making a truly useful data visualization application for managers on the move.
We can safely say that iPad changes everything about data visualization for mobile workers, and by “mobile worker”, I mean just about everyone in the organization. We can also agree that the definition of mobile worker has changed dramatically over the past ten years. Pretty much everyone in your organization is considered an always-on team player even when they’re having a coffee break. Whether it’s in the corporate cafeteria, or in a conference room half way around the world, we tend to depend more on people because they are simply more accessible.
Because of this ten year progression toward pervasive mobile access to workers and the tendency to leverage mobile technology to get out of the office more, businesses have no choice but to embrace this trend by arming their workers with business information.
Democratization of BI
Traditionally, business information in the hands of a few managers and corporate leaders was known as “BI” (business intelligence) and was typically designed for a few eyes only. The emergence of a more mobile-centric workforce has necessitated an expansion of the relatively tight influence of BI to encircle a far greater percentage of workers.
Technology, specifically wireless protocols, smart phones with high resolution screens, and of course tablets with relatively low costs, have made it possible to provide access to business information where it was previously unimaginable. Software suites such as Salesforce.com and FileMaker have also paved fast on-ramps that can supercharge access to business data without breaking a sweat.
At a recent Aberdeen briefing by Andrew Borg, the subject of mobile app advantages surfaced. Survey data taken from 240 enterprises suggest that [overall], the use of mobile apps designed specifically to help employees get their work done, increased productivity by 45%. Further, the data reveals that operational efficiency rises almost as much (44%) when enterprise apps are made available. But the kicker in Aberdeen’s study revealed that business intelligence data is twice as likely to be used by enterprise workers if they’re simply offered a means to access the data through a mobile device.
Democratization of Strategic Planning
Another movement occurring in companies is the inclusion of deeper levels of the workforce in the strategic plans, monitoring progress, and assisting in corrective actions to meet strategic goals. Tools such as Geckoboard, Balanced Scorecard, and even apps that are not designed specifically for strategic planning or monitoring, are liberating plan data from the rigid confines of management’s desktops.
The consumerization of IT has triggered a landslide of unanticipated consequences that now enable operational data and awareness of performance outcomes to be known by the people that can actually effectuate change first hand.
“Mobile information agility is now, more than ever before, the most important competitive advantage. Yet, IT organizations are generally unprepared to accelerate access to information in a mobile framework. Most projects are years away, and if they follow the current IT industry failure rate, only 3 in 10 will actually emerge as sustainable solutions used by enterprise workers.”
According to a recent study by Unisys, employees and employers have very different ideas about the current accessibility and utilization of mobile devices. Workers believe they are not only entitled to some degree of influence concerning the choice of mobile devices, but they believe they are secure and should be used to access important business information that will help them do their jobs better.
Training, Security, Controls
With this trend comes a number of issues, not the least of which relate to security and confidentiality. Mobile devices represent significant exposure to sensitive data. While front-line employees are more likely to benefit from a clear understanding of business objectives, additional training is needed to make sure they use strategic and business intelligence data wisely.