Mobile BI a driving force in this era of always-on connectivity and voluminous data
But it should enhance business processes and not become added chore for workers
THE world of business is constantly evolving. Many companies are now more reliant on data as it is increasingly being looked upon as a source of information that can help business leaders and executives make better decisions and drive more effective business operations.
Companies are striving to gain a competitive advantage by tapping on data and the insights that it brings to the competitive landscape, market outlook, operational efficiency, etc.
Business intelligence or BI tools help businesses to increase efficiency and foster a culture of informed decision making by providing employees with the ability to interpret multiple sources of information effectively.
More recently, companies have turned to mobile business intelligence, which further expands on the benefits of traditional business intelligence by providing users with the ability to access and analyse data on the go.
Mobile business intelligence frees users from the need to be at their desks when analysing data. This provides them with the ability to access information on the road, at client meetings, etc.
Mobile business intelligence greatly improves the efficiency and effectiveness of data analytics, which is proving to be invaluable in today’s business environment.
Equipping mobile workers with the right information and tools to do their work is extremely important for many businesses. IDC predicts that 838.7 million employees in Asia Pacific excluding Japan, or 1.5 billion globally, will be mobile workers by 2015.
A recent Aberdeen Group survey involving 130 companies also revealed a strong correlation between high levels of mobile business intelligence use and employee retention, as well as customer satisfaction.
These trends show the significance of data and informed decision making for business executives and professionals while they are away from the office. Mobile business intelligence is indeed becoming one of the main driving forces behind business transformation in this era of always-on connectivity and voluminous data.
An in-depth look into mobile business intelligence shows that companies that leverage on these tools are able to communicate value better, operate more efficiently and collaborate easier.
1) Communicating value
Mobile business intelligence replaces boring reports and spreadsheets with sleek dashboards and visualisations.
However, that is only the beginning. The best part about mobile business intelligence is the ability to filter information and customise it to users’ needs in an instant, allowing them to effectively communicate their ideas to customers and coworkers wherever they are meeting. This also eliminates the time taken to go back to the office to re-analyse and re-draft reports.
For example, sales pitches in the past consisted of data being analysed by a group of analysts and converted into reports that are presented to the clients.
However, these reports are not always what the prospective client needs. This means having to re-draft a new report to the client’s specifications, which takes time and runs the risk of the client potentially engaging another vendor during the time it takes to re-draft the report.
Mobile business intelligence allows the user to instantly customise his visualisation into an analysis specifically catered to the client, with data that is relevant and pertinent to their situation. This allows the user to continuously engage with his client bringing up the latest information to stay relevant to the discussion.
2) Smooth operators
Mobile business intelligence allows users to combine spreadsheets, order forms and other relevant data to perform analysis on a company’s operations and value supply chain. It allows companies to pinpoint potential problem areas and rectify them before they become a greater cost burden to the company.
This is especially useful in the manufacturing and retail industries, where supply chain inefficiencies could mean substantial losses in terms of money and opportunity costs.
Take a retail company’s supply chain, for instance. In the past, it might have required days to review order logs, with even more time needed for submitting queries and requests about the points of inefficiencies.
These inefficiencies are caused by reports that are outdated, leading to congestions within the supply chain. A supply chain needs to work efficiently in retail business. Inefficient supply chains can lead to rushed orders, unnecessary overtime wages, escalated storage costs and increased transport costs.
In such cases, data needs to be up to date. With mobile business intelligence, a store manager in a retail outlet or a logistics supervisor at a warehouse can keep track of inventory levels at all times.
This allows them to efficiently manage orders, inventory levels and transport arrangements without having to rely on deskbound or traditional business intelligence tools in the office.
3) Collaborate and cooperate
Each department in a company fulfils a crucial function in its operations, and they are inter-dependent on each other. Departments need to work together and sync with each other to drive towards overall business objectives and corporate goals.
In the past, departments worked separately and decisions were made based on information that is gathered and used in their individual departments. These departments also worked to fulfil the company’s goals based on what they feel is the best course of action, based on past experience and without knowing the direction the other departments are taking.
Mobile business intelligence allows workers from different departments, including workers who may be on the road or out of office, to collaborate by inputting data into one centralised database. This allows the whole company to work off the same information platform.
This enables workers across the company to work on the same set of data. This way, everyone is sharing the same data and is able to tap on and utilise each other’s data. The company is now better coordinated and truly synchronized.
By having a common point of reference, departments such as sales and manufacturing are able to better coordinate on deadlines and help manage the expectations of customers. One added benefit that better synchronisation brings is that it reduces the chances of miscommunication, which in turn lessen the possibility of human error.
Enhancement, not an added chore
Mobile business intelligence has given many companies the ability to communicate effectively and operate efficiently. In the ever-changing landscape of business, mobile business intelligence is increasingly becoming an important tool in helping companies stay ahead and rise above the competition.
According to TEC’s Buyer Guide, the top 10 industries that are currently actively tapping on mobile business intelligence range from the traditional IT sector to diverse industries such as hospitality and healthcare.
However, it is important to bear in mind that mobile business intelligence should enhance business processes and not become an added chore for workers.
Today’s mobile business intelligence tools need to be easy to use and simple to understand. They should be useful to all levels of staff, and not just for skilled data analysts or computer programmers.
Additionally, mobile business intelligence tools need to be able to help users tell a story, and be able to interpret and present data in an easy to understand visual manner.
JY Pook is Asia Pacific vice president at Tableau Software.
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