A few weeks ago, I wrote a post in which I shared BI expert Howard Dresner's opinion that iPads and other tablets offer a great way to expose executives to the potential of business intelligence. It turns out other experts agree. An IT Pro article contains pro-tablet comments made by Alys Woodward, program manager for IDC's European business analytics, at IDC's recent Business Intelligence Conference 2011.
Woodward contends the hands-on nature of tablets makes them a natural fit for BI. Tablets "take things a step closer to the user," allowing them to "explore a little more richly than if you were using a mouse." In addition, she said, tablets make it easier for executives to share BI data with managers in an interactive way. (It beats the heck out of sending reports in an email, or even distributing printed copies, two practices that remain common at many companies.)
Such sharing was one of the benefits of iPad use mentioned by Sanju Bansal, CIO of BI provider MicroStrategy, which last year deployed 1,000-plus iPads to its executives and sales staff. Sure, you can share information with folks at meetings or one-on-ones by sliding a laptop across a table. Yet hardly anyone ever does. In contrast, I suspect people use iPads that way all the time. I recently attended two conferences, during which I saw plenty of folks doing just that.
Of course, adoption will grow more quickly if BI vendors create mobile applications that take user needs into account. As an example, Woodward mentions software that gives users the ability to write reports once and easily have them appear on multiple form factors, including tablets.
In an earlier interview, Dresner also told me he believed mobile would become the dominant BI platform, thanks to its ability to deliver insights to folks when they can actually put them to good use. He mentioned he'd taken a tablet along on a trip and found it quite helpful for quickly locating places of interest and determining how to get to them. He said:
To apply that to BI, I could have an alert sent to me and, depending on where I was at the moment, it could change what I do. If I'm in an operational role and I happen to be in a particular geography, and I see something that's interesting in a really good way or a really bad way, I might literally want to get into a cab and go to the location that relates to that insight. There's a perfect example in the report, from ... (clothing retailer) Guess. They give devices to management in the field. In that business, stuff changes daily. Based on what they know right now, they may decide to go across town to a different store to review their performance or find out what they are doing right or wrong. ...