Mobile business intelligence will be an integral part of virtually every organization's analytics strategy going forward. In order to achieve a successful application deployment, whether on Windows Phone or iPhone, developers have to focus on interoperability and the user experience. Of course, riding the mobile BI wave isn't as easy as simplifying the application and making a few cosmetic changes. The parameters of what is possible on a mobile device versus a traditional computer differ significantly, while visualization and functionality is less malleable on a device with a smaller screen that operates through touch.
The trend toward ubiquitous mobile usage is readily apparent, and it's already clear that some aspects of data analysis and visualization are already adapting to fit this form. For example, as SYS-CON MEDIA contributor Sunanda Jayanth observed, visualization creators are trending toward simplified, stripped-down versions that can effectively illustrate information without any bells and whistles. This becomes a challenge - how can developers design visuals that are easily used on a smartphone but still readily engage the user?
"[E]xperts envision data visualizations to become simpler yet more effective and pervasive through the tablet/smartphone platform," Jayanth wrote. "Visual storytelling becomes a compelling and powerful tool that reveals correlations effortlessly. The mobile platform will only enhance and enliven the visual exploration experience through collaboration and social sharing."
One way to facilitate visual exploration - and to conquer the mobile BI imperative - is to target end-user behavior. The self-service company user's profile has risen substantially in the last few years, as data and BI applications become more integrated into critical business development. This means that developers need to hone in on mobile BI applications that speak to both the end user's technical background - which may be slight - as well as the way he or she is accustomed to using a smartphone. Hit both these points, the mobile BI application has a strong chance for success.
Designing for end users
Mobile BI is part of what ZDNet contributor Dion Hinchcliffe aptly termed the "quantified enterprise," a new iteration of the office environment in which data and analytical insights rule the day. It's not enough for a company to simply use data-driven applications and BI in one area - it needs to become a cultural shift and an enterprise-wide movement. That starts with developers, who hold the keys to unlocking the potential of mobile BI.
"So much of what actually takes place in the enterprise is submerged or 'dark,' from enterprise data to ground truth on the physical state of the business," Hinchcliffe observed. "The quanitified [sic] enterprise is made up of applications and instrumentation that allows workers to literally take the full measure of what's taking place now and use it to manage, control, and optimize the business."
Going forward, companies will be able to act on initiatives with more specific and targeted decision-making strategies, bolstered by the influx of data. Programmers are responsible for ensuring that end users can conduct a full spectrum of self-service analysis without needing to employ a slew of devices, frameworks and applications.
For developers, this means implementing ASP.NET controls and other tools that facilitate cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility. Users need to be able seamlessly shift between devices and use touchscreens just as effectively as they once utilized the mouse and keyboard. In mobile BI, less really is more: A visualization has to be able to communicate pertinent information in an engaging way, free of clutter and completely user-friendly. Developers that prioritize these design requirements will help their companies surf the mobile BI wave.