A look into how mobile BI can have a major impact on your business.

The world has gone mobile, and where the world goes, so must go business. But operating your business in the mobile era can and should mean a lot more than simply replying to emails from your smartphone or conducting transfers through a banking app. If you want your business to prosper in the mobile-first era, you need a proper mobile business intelligence strategy.

What is Mobile BI?

Mobile Business Intelligence, or mobile BI, is any way of giving your workforce access to business intelligence, data, and data analysis tools via their mobile devices. Typically, this refers to something more than just a static data push—we’re not just talking about alerts or getting sales numbers auto-texted to your phone. Rather, a robust mobile BI solution will give your employees a way to access, sort, manage, and visualize important company information and data in real-time.

Why do I need Mobile BI?

Access to real-time data

This can give you a leg up on competitors, and help your business take advantage of opportunities you might never have noticed otherwise.

Here’s a hypothetical example: say you run an ecommerce site that gets linked to by a major, but niche, interest-based blog on a Friday night. This blog’s readers are pouring onto your site, but they’re only interested in one of your products. Without a mobile BI solution, there’s a good chance you won’t even notice this has happened until Monday morning, at which point the traffic will have died down significantly. But with a robust mobile BI setup in place, you could get a real-time alert about your site’s spiking traffic on Friday night, and make some quick changes to capitalize on the new users, by doing things like making the product they’re looking for a featured item on your homepage.

Real-time data can also be used to avert crises. If your company has, for example, posted something on social media that’s generating controversy, a mobile BI platform with sentiment analysis capabilities could alert you instantly of the shift in public sentiment, allowing you to take swift action and get control of the story before it snowballs into a PR disaster.

Better Interactivity

Mobile BI isn’t just about data access from anywhere, it’s about data manipulation and visualization from anywhere. It’s about allowing your team the freedom to work from any location, at whatever time inspiration might strike them. If, for example, a new theory about your company’s marketing strategy occurs to you in the middle of the night, you can grab your smartphone and get the relevant data from mobile BI software like Board, then use that same software to arrange the data in a variety of visualization formats – charts, graphs, etc. – until it’s easy to see whether or not your theory is correct.

Do your ads perform best at a certain time of day? Is there a correlation between the length of time people use your app after they first open it and the total amount of time they keep it installed? These are the sorts of questions that can occur to you anywhere, at any time. With a proper mobile BI solution, you can immediately access up-to-the-minute data, pick the data points you need, and arrange them into visualizations that can help answer your question and propel your business forward.

Budget

Creating a mobile BI app for your company might sound expensive, and it can be. But there are three common tiers of mobile BI solutions, with options at every price point. The cheapest is a mobile browser BI app; this isn’t actually an app at all, it’s just a web page with data analytics features that employees can access and manipulate via mobile devices. The next step up from that is a device-customized mobile browser app, which might include iPhone-specific controls but which still doesn’t require developing a wholly separate app. The most expensive (but also most effective) option is a fully customized mobile client app that’s been built from the ground up specifically for your business.

Depending on your specific analytics needs, there are also third-party tools like CollabMobile that could fit the bill, and these too come at a variety of price points.

Unique Sales Tool

Giving your employees access to manipulatable real-time data and analytics isn’t just about boosting their productivity. It can also be an effective selling point used to impress clients or potential new business partners. Imagine, for example, your sales team being able to create data visualizations in real time to illustrate to potential clients how your product can help them. A good mobile BI app will make your data visual and relatable to almost anyone and that, in turn, can be the difference between a sale closed and a sale lost.

Is mobile BI right for me?

Despite the advantages, a mobile business intelligence strategy may not be a wise priority for every company, and there are some downsides to mobile BI.

One common trap, especially when developing a custom mobile client app, is to get too bogged down in creating a slick app and forgetting to focus on the business use cases. This can result in a lot of money spent developing a very cool app that doesn’t actually have much practical function for your team, and thus won’t see much use. For mobile BI to be effective, the business case for each feature should come first. An ugly app that’ll actually help your team is better than a slick app that doesn’t give them access to the data they need or that can’t manipulate that data effectively.

Another problem with mobile BI is security. If your data is available on mobile devices, that makes it easier for your employees to access, but it also makes it easier for hackers and thieves to access. If you’ve got critical business data in your analytics, having a mobile BI solution could turn an employee’s lost phone from a personal inconvenience into a business catastrophe if the phone falls into the wrong hands. Companies that need to maintain a high level of data security and companies concerned about hacking will need to tread carefully when considering mobile BI, and factor in the potential costs associated with ensuring their mobile BI solution is secure.

Yet another obvious downside of mobile BI is the expense. While there are low-budget mobile BI solutions, you must carefully consider whether the business case for mobile BI exists to justify the expense. What kind of advantages could you gain from having mobile access to data and analytics? How do you expect those advantages to impact your bottom line? For some companies, the advantages of mobile BI are obvious and the impact can be tremendous. For others, it may not make a significant enough difference to be worth the time and cost.

Other important considerations before diving headfirst into a mobile BI strategy include how your mobile BI solution will integrate with the apps your company is already using, and where it will fit into your company’s digital workflow. Which employees are you hoping will benefit most from mobile BI, and how do you see them using it? The answers to these questions should help you determine how best to design and deploy a mobile business intelligence solution that will benefit your company in the short- and long-term.