Surveying the Mobile BI Landscape
What’s the best platform for enabling mobile BI in your enterprise?
By Umesh Jain
According to a recent study published by Gartner, the demand for tablet computers, such as Apple’s iPad, will more than quadruple in the near future, from 15 million worldwide in 2010 to 70 million in 2011. This, along with the growing number of business users with access to tablets and smartphones, means that the need to provide mobile business intelligence (BI) solutions to this user base is expected to continue to be a critical component of any BI vendor strategy.
In the March 2011 column on mobile BI (“Ready for Mobile BI?”), we touched on the opportunities and early demand being generated by the proliferation and adoption of mobile BI platforms in the business world. In particular, with the growth in the tablet market after the huge success seen by iPad and Android-based devices, the need for extending business intelligence to the mobile user has been growing.
As with any other market-driven technology need, when there is a demand for a technology solution, a number of companies launch products and roadmaps to fulfill that need. Mobile BI is no different. Most of the major BI vendors have either released products already or indicated their interest in being providers of mobile BI solutions for businesses. Generally, these players fall into one of two categories: traditional BI vendors and niche mobile BI vendors.
The traditional vendors in this space include QlikTech (QlikView), MicroStrategy, and SAP (BusinessObjects). Most of them consider mobile just another device they need to service and have adopted an approach where the mobile BI client is an extension of their core business intelligence stack. With most mobile users looking for ease of use compared to overall functionality (according to Gartner’s 2011 Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant report), the traditional BI vendors initially launched simple native applications for the iPhone and iPad market. This is not surprising, of course; these devices have been game changers and category creators in this space, with the iPad controlling the majority of the tablet market.
However, because the traditional players look at mobile as just another device to which they can extend their solutions, they typically require you to centralize your BI solution on a single vendor platform in order to enable mobile access. In contrast, the niche mobile BI players offer solutions for users who have multiple business intelligence platforms and/or data sources within their enterprises, but need a single mobile BI platform. One prominent player in this space is Roambi (from MeLLmo).
When trying to decide on the best platform to enable mobile BI for your organization, you need to consider a number of areas: ease of integrating to existing data sources; existing investments in business intelligence platforms; security needs; ease of use; and type of mobile devices to be supported. As a starting point, we will look at a few of the key vendors to monitor in this market (see Table 1).
As the largest player in the business intelligence market, SAP BusinessObjects 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 offering—something that is yet to be proven. Despite this, for organizations that have already adopted BusinessObjects, the vendor’s solution will be a viable consideration. However, with solutions such as QlikView and Roambi that can happily coexist in the environment, SAP will need to show that the company can bring together disparate platforms into a single unified stack solution that includes mobile BI.
QlikView from QlikTech is a leader for an end-user-driven approach to business intelligence. The vendor’s self-contained BI platform, along with its commitment to mobile BI, positions it as a strong contender for organizations looking to enable mobile BI. In most deployments, QlikView is used as a single BI platform or a complement to existing data warehouse or business intelligence solutions. The focus on mobile BI and a growing portfolio of larger enterprise deployments will enable QlikView to continue to be a leader in this space.
MeLLmo’s Roambi has quickly become a prominent name in the mobile BI market, with its focus on iPhone and iPad devices. The platform easily integrates with a number of business intelligence systems and data sources, including SAP BusinessObjects, IBM Cognos, Oracle Hyperion, Microsoft, and Salesforce.com. This approach, along with a strong visualization offering, makes Roambi an ideal solution for companies that want to leverage their existing investments in these platforms while enabling mobile BI. The challenge for Roambi will be its ability to continue to grow its market share as traditional players enable and strengthen their mobile business intelligence offerings.
MicroStrategy was one of the original entrants in this sector, with a number of early success stories and a large deployment in the mobile BI space. The company initially focused on BlackBerry and now has a strong offering in the iPhone and iPad user base. The biggest hurdle for customers looking at MicroStrategy is the necessary commitment to its business intelligence platform and the steep initial learning curve. Furthermore, the overall cost and complexity of its full enterprise business intelligence solution is another hurdle that companies may need to overcome.
Even though Microsoft has been growing its business intelligence offering since 2000, the company 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
Despite its leadership role in business intelligence, 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. Although the company has started to offer mobile BI support, it’s still lagging in capabilities and the rich user interface required by today’s consumerized mobile BI solutions.
The mobile BI landscape is still in the early stages of development, with MicroStrategy, QlikView, and Roambi taking the early lead in offering and focus. With the anticipated growth in tablet and smartphone usage in enterprises, along with consumerization and ease-of-use drivers for mobile BI solutions, the leaders will need to continue driving innovation, as well as enabling collaboration and just-in-time access to business data, to stay ahead of the pack. It is another exciting day in BI, and mobile BI will continue to gain momentum and adoption in line with the growth of mobility solutions in the enterprise.
Umesh Jain is the founder and president of Merging Elements, an advisory firm focused on customer management and IT strategy services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jun2011, Software Magazine