Useful Mobile Business Intelligence: Real-Time and Integrated


While I normally enjoy being a blogger, some aspects of my job occasionally strike me as downright silly. This is one of those days, as I find myself in the somewhat weird position of writing a post based on one of my earlier posts. I feel a bit like I am standing in the middle of the street, holding up a sign that says "Look at me!"


In my post, I mentioned the need for business intelligence vendors to create more targeted mobile applications that would solve real business problems rather than general apps with snazzy interfaces. I offered some examples of possible apps suggested by DMBS2 blogger Curt Monash, most of which were based upon accessing real-time data at moments when it would prove useful, such as right before or during a sales call.


Writing on TIBCO Spotfire's blog, Amanda Brandon mentions three good examples of potentially useful mobile BI apps suggested by members of a LnkedIn group, again all based on access to real-time or near-real-time data. (If they want to access real-time data, companies will need to invest in real-time data integration, a topic covered by IT Business Edge's Loraine Lawson earlier this month.)


Here is Brandon's list:

  • Accessing sales data. I mentioned sales reps doing this right before a customer call or even during the call (to check the status of a customer's order or to make sure they were getting up-to-the-minute price information, for instance). Brandon points out that managing such data with a BI solution can move beyond simply providing better customer service to enable sales, finance and operations departments to streamline their processes and control or even cut costs. (Again, integration is important.)
    Earlier this month I interviewed a VP at Arhaus Furniture, a company that is using applications that delivery drivers will access via iPads to transform both back-office and customer-service aspects of the delivery process. For instance, if there is a problem with the purchase, an app will allow the driver to resubmit an order then and there, which the VP told me will speed redelivery of merchandise by three to five days. When the delivery is complete, drivers will use the iPad to collect an electronic signature, which will generate an invoice and prompt the financial system to e-mail a receipt to the customer.
  • Managing inventory. With mobile devices, staff at retail stores can scan barcodes and send them right back to headquarters, which should help keep supply chains running smoothly. This is especially important during holidays and other busy retail seasons. Tying BI to inventory systems could offer access to up-to-date stocking and price information, perhaps triggering alerts when changes need to be made.
  • Accessing patient data. As Brandon notes, health care professionals and physicians will likely become more mobile, spending more time at field hospitals and speciality care centers, which means they'll need apps to access patient data while on the go. Health care pros already are showing interest in using iPads. Among the features they covet: longer battery life than laptops, which means less time recharging PCs and changing batteries; no boot up, which saves time while making rounds; and a lower price tag than the specialized touchscreen tablets used by some hospitals.


To produce truly useful mobile BI apps, Brandon suggests vendors need to find out how their customers define mobile workers. Some of them may be on the go but in relatively close proximity, while others may be across the globe. Reiterating her earlier point of making it easier for companies to optimize their processes, BI apps should also have the ability to easily connect to CRM, inventory and other systems.