Do BI Vendors Need to Think Niche for Mobile Apps?

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Last month I wrote a post in which I said mobile business intelligence appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough. But if and when it does break through, it may be with niche applications appealing primarily to certain verticals and/or certain users. That's the impression you get from a SearchBusinessAnalytics.com story in which analysts, consultants and other sources say interest in mobile BI is lacking despite vendors' efforts to promote it.


In my post I mentioned that while some of the previous hurdles to mobile BI no longer exist, others remain. In the past 18 months, mobile devices have beefed up computing power, memory and storage, and added larger and easier-to-read displays. Largely because of this, vendors including IBM, SAP, Oracle and SAS Institute are producing mobile BI applications.


But just because knowledge workers can access BI apps on a smartphone or other mobile device, does that mean they will want to? I mentioned this question in my post. The folks in the SearchBusinessAnalytics.com story don't think so. Sumit Agarwa, a BI consultant with Accenture, says he hasn't seen any interest in mobile BI, largely because most knowledge workers have little need to access real-time data on the go. He says:


For most reporting and BI needs, I don't think there would be much justification for data access through mobile apps.This would make it really difficult to justify the added cost and return on investment on such solutions.


The story also quotes two organizations with no near-term plans to buy mobile BI and little apparent interest in doing so and several other analysts and consultants who say vendors must better address concerns about security and give users mobile BI apps that are actually useful. Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, says alerts based on real-time data, such as a notification of a client's order cancellation, would be far more valuable to workers than the ability to access sales reports.


I cited some similar examples from DMBS2 blogger Curt Monash in my post: getting information about prospects right before a sales call or checking on a customer's order status during a sales call; checking a logistics or maintenance issue such as airline (re)scheduling, truck/warehouse dispatching or medical procedure availability; and comparing benchmarks such as customer purchases or machine uptime when a user is at a location where such data is highly relevant.


Based on the comments from Monash and from folks interviewed by SearchBusinessAnalytics.com, it sounds like vendors need to do a better job of creating more targeted applications that will solve specific needs instead of general apps with interesting interfaces.