It seems like everyone wants to deploy a mobile BI solution these days. The idea of location awareness and the freedom to access data from anywhere at anytime has generated a lot of excitement. From a software perspective BI vendors are fueling the mobile BI market with "out of the box" solutions for most of the major mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry). At the same time we have had an almost overnight adoption of tablets that make mobile BI more usable thanks to the larger screen size.

Just because mobile BI sounds like a good idea doesn't always mean it is. The tools available from the big vendors can display existing reports on mobile devices but that doesn't mean the reports are appropriate for mobile consumption. Pushing out an existing reporting suite to mobile consumers will make for frustrated end users and low satisfaction rates. Just imagine pulling out your phone to view a report and waiting for a couple of minutes to download the data. Once you download the data, you have to point, drag and scroll to get to the page of the report you are interested in. Then to locate the right data on the page you have to pinch and zoom to actually read the content. That sure doesn't sound like the experience we want our BI consumers to have. What is really needed is a mobile BI application that is built to meet the needs of a mobile reporting consumer. Now imagine pulling out your mobile device, loading a report with a single tap and immediately having access to the data you wanted with no additional gestures required. That is the difference between a report on a mobile device and a mobile BI application.

Mobile reporting is a band-aid solution to get existing reports out to mobile devices quickly, with little or no consideration for the device they are being consumed on. A mobile BI application is a holistic mobile analytics solution designed with a specific need in mind. In the rush to deploy mobile BI many organizations end up with mobile reports and not a mobile application.

The chart below is how I distinguish between a mobile BI application and mobile BI reporting. If your organization has delivered the solution on the right, you probably have unsatisfied users, low adoption rates and needs that are not being met. If you have built the solution on the left, your users are likely getting tremendous business value from the BI application.

Mobile BI Application vs. Mobile BI Reporting

Mobile BI Application

Mobile BI Reporting

BI designed to meet a mobile reporting need

Existing BI ported to a mobile device

Reports formatted for the mobile device

Little or no consideration given to the mobile user experience

Aggregated data

Detail level data

Charts and Dashboards

Tabular view

Small data sets

Large data sets

Reports designed for a specific enterprise standard device

Mobile device not considered (tablet vs. phone)

Reporting solution designed for enterprise standard OS

End user Mobile OS not considered

Real or near real time information

Daily, Weekly, Monthly reports

So what are the best ways to avoid the mobile BI reporting trap and build a Mobile BI application? Define a mobile BI strategy for your organization and establish a need. If you don't have a strategy laid out and a need defined, you will likely end up with a set of reports that can be viewed on a mobile device but will not have a BI Application.