‘Cute Little Apps’ are Starting to Open Up Analytics

From the “it’s-About-Time” Department:  More enterprises are embracing – or will soon be embracing – access to data analytics via mobile apps.

Having analytics available in a simple app fashion could be a major boost for efforts to “democratize” analytics in organizations. I once heard Competing on Analytics guru and best-selling author Tom Davenport wonder out loud at a conference why there weren’t more analytics being made available as a “cute little app.” By offering analytics through simple, single-purpose mobile apps, decision-making can be brought into a whole new realm. “I’ve heard of 50 analytical apps for the iPhone so far,” he points out. Examples include a nursing-productivity app, a truck-loading analysis app, and a social sentiment analysis app.

A new report from Ovum analyst Fredrik Tunvall points out that day is upon us. The combination of high-performance mobile devices and the evolution of robust data-carrying infrastructure is making it easy to deploy enterprise BI apps, he says.

Another report issued last year by Dresner Advisory Services also finds interest and movement in mobile BI apps, and finds the primary types of functions being made available include standard reports, key performance indicator marketing, drill-down navigation, data selection and filtering, and alerts. The Dresner survey finds sales and marketing have been the earliest adopters of mobile BI – with half indicating greater than 11% overall penetration today. They also have the most aggressive plans through 2015. In contrast, finance is the most conservative of the three groups, with the IT function only slightly more ambitious than finance.

The potential rise of enterprise mobile BI apps also raises some interesting questions. For starters, will these mobile BI apps get built within corporate IT departments – or even by users themselves?  Or will BI vendors have handy, ready-to-go apps with their packages? Also, if corporate IT departments do get involved in mobile BI app development, what mobile OSes should they choose to support?

Ovum, for one, predicts that BI vendors will be the main suppliers of these apps. Vendors will be  providing collections of prebuilt applications and even offer mobile development platforms that enable users to build more customized apps to access their solutions. This may help address the development shop issues that may arise as enterprises attempt to support multiple mobile OSes, from Apple iOS to Android to Blackberry and Windows.

In fact, Ovum finds that all BI vendors already fully support the iOS platform, followed closely by Android (90 percent). Support for BlackBerry (50 percent) and Windows (33 percent) devices, however, lags.

Mobile BI apps are easy to deploy, and with so many employees within organizations now bringing their own devices to work, may be readily used at many levels that previously did not have access to analytics. For a long time, BI and analytics was once limited to business analysts and statisticians with Ph.Ds in their titles. With apps that are inherently designed to be user friendly and easy to understand, more information can end up in the hands (literally) of decision makers at the front lines of organizations.

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