The pervasive trends of mobile computing and data analytics are rapidly approaching a point of singularity, and when combined, these technologies will prove to be transformative on an unprecedented scale.
Analytics is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the reanimating effect of mobile computing. Accessing complex data sets on a pocket-sized device forces an extreme prioritization of information, creating a layer of abstraction and haiku-like interpretation that is permanently redefining how we interact with information resources. Because this new framework is particularly compelling for data visualization, we can expect massive, game-changing shifts in the presentation of analytic data in the near future.
For example, sales managers will have access to real-time performance data - in a succinct, mobilized roll-up - that can help them optimize sales and marketing strategies on the fly. Organizations that understand the mechanics of this transformation and that act quickly to leverage the rising tide of mobile analytics will wield a severe and effective weapon.
Changing the Face of Data
With so much media emphasis on the growth of mobile computing, it would be easy to miss the even faster growth occurring in the analytics space. Analytics is driven by data, and the amount of data available for analysis is increasing at a staggering rate. For example, RFID tags that once tracked the number of pallets in a container now track each unit of product individually. Meanwhile, 500 million Facebook users upload a daily barrage of personal minutiae that is subsequently forwarded and re-forwarded ad infinitum. Fueled by trends like these, massive increases in data volume are providing unlimited fodder for analytic applications.
Mobile technology isn't just changing the presentation side of data; it is changing the lifecycle of enterprise data as well. If automating a process changes it, mobilizing it changes it even more. Mobilizing a workflow improves the operation of that workflow, making it faster and more efficient. Thousands of workflows are within every enterprise and hundreds more are within every supply chain and distribution channel. The raw potential for transformation would be difficult to overestimate.
Raising the Value of Business Processes
Over the long term, advances in mobile analytics will provide much better visibility and transparency into how an enterprise is performing in real time. Mobile access will mean managers will access key performance indicators (KPIs) more frequently. But more importantly, advances in data display will mean the KPIs will provide better performance insight. In the short term, there are likely to be some complexities as the back-end systems that hold the data are integrated into the middleware and front-end where access to the information is controlled, but in the long run, this is clearly a rising-tide effect.
While improved data quality is the real objective of these mobilized analytic applications, speed will be another benefit. Making BI metrics available to workers at virtually any moment of the day will increase performance efficiency across the organization and improve response time for downstream processes. Moreover, providing critical performance data at the point of decision vastly increases the value of the process to the enterprise.
These changes will be felt not only inside the organization but by customers as well. A well-informed worker or workgroup is in a better position to provide timely and relevant customer support, which can only have a positive effect on customer satisfaction.
Changing the State of the Art
Current mobile analytic offerings are simple extensions of desktop BI platforms, which enable a user to consume an existing desktop report or dashboard on a mobile device. These first-generation mobile analytic products are a step in the right direction, but they fail to seize the opportunities that mobilized enterprise data creates. They offer the same old reports on a small form factor.
The next generation of business intelligence applications will attempt to optimize the visualization of complex data in limited space. Brevity will be essential; between the increasing amounts of data available for analysis and the smaller display space to visualize the data, we should see some interesting and innovative shifts in interpretation.
Once they hit the business mainstream, these second-generation mobile analytic tools will have the effect of democratizing business intelligence: making precise, real-time data available to a wide variety of business users at any given moment. Organizations that move quickly (and we mean right now) will enjoy a competitive advantage that could take their entire enterprise to a whole new level of performance.
To earn the first-mover advantage, enterprises need to prime their IT infrastructures today so that future mobile application deployments can happen swiftly and securely. Business and IT leaders need to envision a fully mobilized future, including a clear understanding of how internal processes are likely to change when mobilized. They must decide how they will secure their mission-critical enterprise data, and set their governance policies accordingly.
A mobile enterprise application platform is a proactive IT strategy that can help enterprises reap the full potential of mobilized data. Because it fully integrates with existing enterprise applications and data, a platform will enable the next generation of mobile analytics to blur the lines between transactions, analytics and collaboration. Organizations that adopt this strategy will be well positioned to provide the mobile workforce with context-aware decision-support capabilities that provide insight to judicious action - all done in real time, and from anywhere.
The next step will be to undertake a strict prioritization of data. Looking at business intelligence data on a four-inch screen moves visualization to the top of the queue. IT and business analysts must focus on the crux of the data and know which data sets will provide the most value once mobilized.
The corporations our children will work in will be unrecognizable compared to the ones we know today. Business as we know it will move much faster, with pervasive group dynamics that adjust in real time to massive, dynamic information flows. It is our privilege to experience the origin of this exciting future as it emerges from the alchemy of mobile communication and staid, unsexy mobile analytics.
Dan Ortega is senior director of product marketing for Sybase mobility products. Ortega brings more than 20 years of technology marketing experience to Sybase, having held senior-level marketing positions with a series of successful startups in the mobility and analytics domains. He also has worked with expansion stage companies, such as Centigram Communications, and Fortune 500 companies including Sun Microsystems and Wang Labs.