BI for the Masses, iPad Style

An overwhelming majority of organizations believe mobile BI will play an important -- perhaps even critical -- role in their information futures.

Just in time for the iPad 2, Dresner Advisory Services has released a new report that finds interest in mobile business intelligence (BI) basically unchanged in the last 12 months. Users understand the importance of mobile BI, but it was just as important to them last year as it is this year.

In fact, writes industry veteran Howard Dresner, almost 60 percent of survey respondents rate mobile BI as either "Critically" or "Very" important. (Dresner's survey collected responses from nearly 200 organizations across a spectrum of industries, comprising both SME and large enterprise shops.) This was the case in June of 2010 -- when Dresner Advisory Services first surveyed users -- and in December, when it updated its survey. In both cases, Dresner reported virtually the same tally. In its December 2010 sample, an additional 37 percent of shops rated mobile BI as at least "Somewhat Important."

At the same time, only a small percentage of organizations (approximately 7 percent) dismiss mobile BI as "Not Important."

These results have Dresner invoking the loaded "P-term" -- paradigm shift.

"We believe that we are in the midst of a fundamental 'paradigm shift' for Business Intelligence," he writes. At the very least, most shops see mobile BI as a superior enabling technology, according to Dresner. It's an issue not simply of exposing users to information but -- in a mobile context -- actually ensuring that information follows users, regardless of their location or situation.

That's the paradigm shift. "In conversations with [potential adopters], we hear a similar story -- Mobile BI is a great enabler," he writes. "It allows the information to be accessed wherever and whenever the users need it."

Paradigm shifts have both theoretical and empirical aspects. Although the theoretical promise of mobile BI is still, to a degree, largely unrealized in the form of empirical deployments, Dresner expects that to change -- soon. "[T]he proverbial 'genie is out of the bottle' -- so to speak. Study respondents have confirmed that within two years a significant percentage of users will consume BI content exclusively on mobile devices," he writes [emphasis added]. "Mobile BI is here now and will become dominant within the next [two plus] years."

Although the popularity of mobile BI hasn't waned, the popularity of specific mobile devices has changed. Dresner cites surging interest in Apple's iPad -- not surprising, given the release of the initial iPad in April -- in the months since Dresner Advisory Services' first mobile BI survey in June.

"[W]e see a dramatic increase in interest for the Apple iPad as a mobile Business Intelligence platform with decreased interest in [the] iPhone. At the same time, we notice stronger interest in Android devices: both phones and tablets." Dresner also points out a strong showing for Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry platform, which market watchers say is increasingly besieged by smartphone devices from Apple Inc. and Google Inc.'s Android partners. "[This is] due to a requirement to leverage existing investments in mobile devices."

In fact, Dresner notes, RIM and BlackBerry still enjoy a big lead over both Apple and Android in terms of installed base, although Apple -- thanks largely to the iPad -- is gaining ground.

"RIM Blackberry, with its huge installed base, remains the number one Mobile BI platform. However, it appears to have declined in the past six months with only modest interest in the RIM tablet," he notes. "[W]e can see that the iPad intentions from last year have turned into actual deployments, while those for the iPhone did not fully materialize."

Meanwhile, Android-based tablets should fare better than discrete Android smartphones, at least as platforms for mobile BI adoption. Nonetheless, Dresner doesn't see Android as a serious threat to either RIM or Apple. "[I]f we consider stated use and intentions we must conclude that the most prominent Mobile BI platforms for 2011 will be: RIM Blackberry, Apple iPad and Apple iPhone."