Developing BI for Mobile for Optimal Access with Security
The real-world usages for mobile BI are endless. Consider a couple of examples.
A manufacturing supervisor can see reports on worker productivity and machine conditions in real time, so they can offer breaks to tired employees or ask maintenance to take a machine offline before it fails. A sales person offering managed IT services while on the road can review BI data on how a prospective client’s needs match with a satisfied customer and then recommend a similar pairing and consultative services. The opportunities are expanding because of the refined capabilities of BI vendors and the explosion in usage of mobile devices.
Businesses are shifting to mobile applications that are not device specific, and simply provide seamless access to data regardless of the method used to access the information. Developing the right mobile application requires a carefully planned strategy that will result in productive BI experiences. Here’s some best practices to consider:
Employ Purposeful Development
Answer the big questions first – “what should the app do?” It’s a simple question, but one that warrants close inquiry and discussion. Who are the stakeholders you are serving with the app, and what are their needs? While you can’t meet every request, there should be some frequently mentioned tasks or types of data that are common among many employees.
Once you’ve decided on the core functions of the app, then it’s time to design mobile-friendly functions such as thumb-sized buttons and the ability to zoom in or out (similar to photo navigation). Creating a clean and effective dashboard UI is difficult, so consider talking to an experienced IT consultancy about designing a mobile app that offers speed and efficiency through intuitive controls.
Build Data Sets through Mobile
Armed with mobile devices, users can not only access BI intelligence, they can also directly contribute data that can be leveraged by others. Architects and builders reviewing a site could use their tablet or phone cameras to take pictures of the surrounding landscapes, and then feed this information into the BI platform. GPS tagging could be added to the photos to provide location data, so for example the construction crew preparing the building site could better understand property lines and digging points.
To grow your data warehouse with useful info, look to mobile users as new sources, and introduce automation to the process to streamline the collection.
Consider and Implement Feedback
As you refine or develop the BI app, talk to current/future users about what types of information they require in the course of doing their jobs. Then discuss if they have adequate access to this data and can manipulate it in meaningful ways. Pay special attention to the mobile users, whether it’s the sales staff, marketing employees who work from home, or the CEO who is on the road half the year. You want to understand the employees’ routines and how they relate to information gathering. Are they able to acquire all of the information they want, or are they impeded by the technology? Do staff members have to ask IT to run manual reports? Is there a time gap between a request and delivery?
If you have a current (poorly functioning) BI application, then you can ask similar questions to provide you with a baseline for the app and areas for immediate improvement.
Bake in Security
Allowing users in the field to access BI data through their own devices is a logical step. People are consistently blending their work and personal lives, and use a singular device to manage all of their tasks. So it’s only natural they want to use BI through their own phone or tablet. However, this does present the tricky security concerns for IT. Think about how a BI app will send/receive data and make sure you have password and network controls in place. You should also build remote wiping capabilities into the app, so a lost phone can be immediately locked out from sensitive data.
The best security framework doesn’t work if there aren’t also protocols for the users. Security must include strict usage guidelines regarding how the users can access and share information, Wi-Fi rules, and password creation tips.
Providing access to BI via a mobile application provides the modern business with a method to inform employees so they can productively meet client needs. Developing or integrating such an application takes experience, including knowing how to relate business needs to the application’s specific functions.
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