Mobile BI – Business KPIs and Dashboards “on-the-go”

Business Analytics solutions for “always-on” 3/4G enabled mobile devices – tablets, smart phones – are becoming prevalent as the form factor becomes appropriate for BI.   We are increasingly seeing firms build state-of-the-art dashboard solutions for iPads. The apps provides senior management with intuitive interactive access to the company’s most important business KPIs and dealing with data overload.

Tablets, 3G Wireless and next gen displays have enabled new productivity improvements and better ways to consume information, perform ad-hoc querying and scenario planning. Dashboard, heatmaps and scorecards on the iPad, iPhones and Androids are intuitive, attractive, powerful, available at any time and any place: a perfect mix for top managers, sales teams and even customers.

BI (and Information Management) is a natural fit for mobile devices.  Managers, blue and white workers today spend a majority of their time away from their desks. Most are traveling, walking about or driving from site to site. And it’s these mobile workers who often need the most up-to-date information. They need BI to retrieve data to make on-the-spot decisions, monitor operational processes and review dashboards on different processes.

Is Mobile BI a fad or a trend?

  • With 500 million smartphones being sold in 2011, the consumerization of business analytics an unstoppable trend.  
  • Tablet sales are estimated to reach 100 million by 2012. 
  • Apple sold a staggering 20.34 M iPhones and 9.25 M iPads in the recent quarter (Q2 2011)

bicorecycleMobile BI addresses a big complaint against analytics  and information management for many years – not being easy to consume, chart and data overload, devices not secure.  Not any more.  Tablet devices are just right for mobile BI – small enough to carry and large enough to be effective. The early success of the iPad for BI has caught many experts by surprise.

Numerous corporations are leveraging the iPhone, iPad and Android phones to improve productivity via business-driven, data-rich mobile BI apps that transform how mobile executives and field users consume data and make informed business decisions.

As mobile becomes a must-have channel not a nice-to-have afterthought, the apps are getting more sophisticated (richer graphics and more easily consumable information on demand) and this further fuels adoption. We are moving away from the “shrink to fit” method of taking legacy business applications and simply downsizing them for the smaller, mobile screen. Shrink-to-fit is a dominant practice among major providers of BI that was not well received by users.

The Case of Solvay – KPIs on- the- go

So what makes a good Mobile BI app?  Take the example of Solvay Group, an international industrial group.  Solvay is active in chemistry and chemical compounds, is headquartered in Brussels and employs about 14,800 people in 40 countries. In 2010, its consolidated sales amounted to EUR 7 billion.

To move from data to insights faster, Solvay reorganized its Corporate Performance Management environment.  They created a new “Reporting Factory” CoE or shared services model.  Solvay is not unique, more and more firms are executing on a CoE or Shared Services model to leverage Business Analytics talent better.

One of the objectives of the Reporting Factory CoE is enabling mobile dashboards for the workforce.

Solvay’s Finance dept and Executive team wanted  to have a user-friendly reporting environment where they could look at the most important KPIs on-the-go using the iPad. The first app for Solvay is Executive Committee Dashboard for the iPad. The technology for building this on-the-go iPad app is MicroStrategy Mobile, an extension of their “Corporate Performance Management” environment.

Type of Mobile BI Dashboards/Scorecards

What is your mobile BI strategy? The business case for mobile BI is no longer hard to build.

Typically there are two types of dashboard/scorecard apps: executive level and employee level.

  • The executive dashboard enables management to track key performance indicators (KPIs) across their enterprise and monitor the pulse of the business.
  • The operational dashboard enables operational workers to monitor day-to-day operational activity and task performance.

Both types of dashboards display performance status according to plan and enable users to drill into detailed data and view time series charts that reflect past and future trends. The figure below lists the type of questions to address in formulating a Mobile BI business case.


The data for executive dashboards usually comes from a data mart or data warehouse or and consists of both summary and detail data loaded on a daily or weekly basis. However, if the dashboard tracks operational activity, then the data either comes from a real-time enabled data warehouse or directly from operational systems via real-time queries.

What makes Mobile BI interesting in industries like Travel, Retail and others with heavy consumer focus is the ability to integrate Camera and Maps into the BI mashups.  Figure below shows these emerging capabilities.


Mobile BI Development Approaches to Dashboards/Scorecards

Typically the vendors and companies are using different mobile app development approaches:

  • Native app development – Purpose-built, workflow-driven apps that quickly and easily guide users through their data to discovery, analysis, or decision. Apps fully leverage mobile device capabilities, including the multi-touch interface, sensors (GPS or camera), communications (voice, email, text), and more.
  • HTML5 for mobile
  • Hybrid approach using the PhoneGap platform.
  • Intermediary solutions like RoamBIGeckoboard and the Klipfolio dashboard,  that leverage open Web standards to deliver BI visualizations that are comparable to native apps


Mobile BI Vendor and Technology Landscape

The convergence of information and analytics with mobile technology is creating an entirely new landscape of opportunity. There are a lot of players jockeying for position of mobile BI platform providers.

Enterprise adoption of tablets has caught many established vendors by surprise.  Tablets and retina display smartphones are enabling a new class of “always-on” mobile enterprise applications that seamlessly blend real-time wireless access to corporate data with the ability to manipulate complex information.

 Large and Leading Players

 Small and Emerging Players

  • Microsoft
  • MicroStrategy Mobile
  • IBM Cognos
  • SAP BusinssObjects
  • Oracle
  • SAS
  • Actuate
  • Qliktech
  • Tibco Spotfire
  • Panorama Software
  • Information Builders
  • Roambi
  • SmartGlance
  • TARGIT iTop
  • Transpara
  • Yellowfin
  • Webalo
  • Visual KPI
  • Baseplan Software
  • BI Flash
  • Context!
  • key2value
  • PushBI
  • ReportPad

Potential Target Platforms  ->

  • IPhone IOS
  • IPad IOS
  • Windows Mobile
  • Android
  • Blackberry
  • Symbian
  • HTML 5 Browser Based (Device agnostic)


Leading Vendors and Descriptions

MeLLmo Roambi

MeLLmo’s RoamBI  has become a prominent player in the mobile BI market, with its focus on iPhone and iPad devices. RoamBI  provides snappier performance or heightened security of a native app, and  leverages integration services with many enterprise services and even Google Docs at very reasonable prices that even small businesses can afford. The platform integrates with a number of BI systems and data sources, including SAP BusinessObjects, IBM Cognos, Oracle Hyperion, Microsoft, and This approach, along with a strong visualization offering, makes RoamBI  a perfect solution for companies that want to leverage their existing investments in these enterprise platforms. The challenge for RoamBI  will be its ability to continue to grow its market share as traditional players expand footprints and strengthen their mobile BI offerings.

Checkout ->    for Pricing and Features.

MicroStrategy Mobile

MicroStrategy Mobile is becoming a formidable competitor to RoamBI, with a number of early success stories and a large deployment in the mobile BI space. MicroStrategy was an early pioneer in the use of interactive dashboards. It initially focused on BlackBerry and now has a strong offering in the iPhone and iPad user base with the 9.2.1 release.   MicroStrategy Mobile architecture is shown below.  The biggest hurdle for customers looking at MicroStrategy is the necessary commitment to its BI platform and the steep initial learning curve. However , the overall cost and complexity of its full enterprise BI solution is another hurdle that companies may need to overcome.


SAP BusinessObjects

As the largest player in the BI market, SAP BusinessObjects powered by Sybase will ensure that its mobile offering gains good market share. The challenge for SAP will be in its ability to prove to the market that it can become a leader in its mobile BI offering—especially for organizations that have already adopted BusinessObjects. However, with solutions such as QlikView and Roambi that can penetrating the enterprise, SAP will need to show that the company can bring together disparate platforms into a single unified BI solution.

QlikTech QlikView

QlikView from QlikTech is a leader for an end-user-driven approach to BI. The vendor’s self-contained BI platform, along with its commitment to mobile BI, positions it as a strong contender for enterprises looking to enable mobile BI. In most deployments, QlikView is used as a standalone BI platform or a complement to existing data warehouse or BI solutions. The focus on mobile BI and a growing portfolio of larger enterprise deployments will enable QlikView to grow marketshare.


Microsoft has yet to deliver a strong offering for mobile BI. Currently, Microsoft’s positioning is to use custom-developed applications to support mobile BI. With the growth in mobile usage and the rapid adoption of tablet devices in business, it’s just a matter of time before the company creates a presence for itself in this space. If Microsoft takes too long to make that happen, anticipate potential acquisitions or other aggressive strategies as the company plays catch-up.

IBM Cognos Mobile

Cognos has had limited success in the mobile BI space. The Cognos Mobile platform allows organizations using Cognos as their BI platform to extend those capabilities to multiple mobile devices, including BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iOS, and Symbian operating systems. Surprisingly, the platform is lagging in capabilities and the rich user interface required by today’s consumerized mobile BI solutions.

All the large vendors SAS, IBM (Cognos + SPSS), SAP, and others have sophisticated data analytics to feed visualizations (shown below). What they lack is the front-end sizzle, ease-of-use and simplicity.  This where the new entrants are taking market-share and establishing a foothold.


Going forward

“Progress is not created by contented people. ”     Frank Tyger

bicorerequirementsMobile intelligence has evolved from basic BI reports and dashboards on a mobile device to proactive apps that change the way people work.

Mobile BI is poised to revolutionize the way organizations deliver, consume, and act on information. The convergence of information and analytics with mobile technology is empowering highly personalized channels of intelligence.

However, the ultimate test of the mobile BI revolution is better decisions and improved productivity.

Do you have a Mobile BI strategy?

Other Sources:

  1. Morgan Stanley Blue Paper – Tablet Demand and Disruption –  
  2. See Wikipedia for a Mobile BI technology discussion:
  3. MicroStrategy BI for iPad: Customized Workflows  Video–
  4. Roambi Innovates Mobile Industry with Simpler Information and Analytics Ventana Research (By Mark Smith)  –  05/21/2011
  5. MeLLmo Roambi – RoamBI
  6. Checkout ->    for Pricing and Features.



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Saama Executives is an exclusive group of thinkers, leaders, mentors and innovators within the company. The members of this group come together from time-to-time to pen their thoughts on topics that would matter the most for the industry. Over the last few years, the group has written some brilliant pieces of Insurance, Life-Sciences, Healthcare and CPG industry.

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