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Trucks that carry goods across the nation are data-producing machines. At one southern transportation company, the vehicles are equipped with sensors that churn out almost 1,000 data elements from the engine alone, revealing everything from how fast the vehicles are going to how hard the drivers are braking.
That’s valuable information—but in the past, the trucking company couldn’t collect, analyze and act on the data fast enough to get much benefit from it. Then the company switched to a new Business Intelligence (BI) system that focused on using the huge piles of data to answer a few specific questions.
Just as important, this information was immediately dispatched to fleet managers who viewed it on their smartphones or tablets wherever they were. This newfound ability to take fast action saved the company tens of millions a year just by reducing truck idle time.
By improving decision-making capability, mobile BI is likely to have a dramatic impact on many sectors, including retail. “If you are a store manager, you never want to leave the floor,” says analyst Howard Dresner, chief research officer at industry analyst firm Dresner Advisory Services. “With mobile BI, the manager can get immediate information from a smartphone or tablet—right down to the SKU level—to correct problems on the floor, in the warehouse, while in transport or from a manufacturing site.”
Just about all the business intelligence research analyst firms now break out mobility apps in their research work. I’ve wondered myself if this exception is only waiting for a hardware refresh cycle to become universal; lots of people have come to the realization that tablets and other smart devices are already the de facto platform for BI app development.
It’s nice to know the trend is very user demand driven, but not to say mobile information management hasn’t literally been in everyone’s pocket for years now. I know some analysts and vendors who will disagree on boundary definitional terms, but if BI can be defined as “the process of making better decisions,” it strikes me as odd that a lot of your phone’s personal productivity apps aren’t already counted in the tools and process workflow. The intersections are plain, your CRM flows to your contacts and email and messaging to your calendaring and maps et cetera, et cetera. And, increasingly, the analytics are embedded where and when you need them.
Noodling around the range of opinions, I rang up Howard Dresner the other day after reading his latest Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study, one corner of Howard’s BI research which he says is getting harder to segment (which is something analyst firms always seek to do).
The smallest organizations are winning the mobile business intelligence race. In fact, according to new research from Dresner Advisory Services LLC, three times as many small organizations indicated that mobile BI is a critically important function to the business compared to large organizations.
“When you’re a small organization, you have to garner as many competitive advantages as you can,” said Howard Dresner, lead researcher, president and founder of the Nashua, N.H.-based analyst firm.
The term “data scientist” is a somewhat nebulous one, although pundits and analysts generally seem to agree it means someone who understands data-analytics technology and the math behind it, can use that knowledge to solve data problems, and (often) see how that data offers deeper insight into a business process.
In a recent discussion on Twitter (#BIWisdom), Dresner Advisory Services president and founder Howard Dresner sparked a discussion about the definition of a data scientist. While those Twitter denizens following that discussion offered a variety of different definitions, Dresner suggested that data scientists walk a thin line between science (i.e., the ability to discover a process related to data analysis and make it repeatable) and art (the ability to take relatively immature technology and make it work in creative and new ways).
For many organizations, mobile business intelligence has gone from a minor consideration to a must-do item over the past two years. Business intelligence managers primarily have the iPad to thank — or blame — for that. After Apple introduced its tablet PC in 2010, masses of corporate executives quickly took a shine to the device and began bringing it to the office and taking it on the road. Many wanted to be able to use their iPads to call up reports quickly and drill down into data during meetings — and when corporate execs want something, resistance is usually futile (not to mention foolhardy).
It didn’t take long for business intelligence analyst Howard Dresner to detect an upswing in demand for mobile BI tools. In a survey he conducted in mid-2010, 52% of the 200 respondents said mobile BI was “critical” or “very important” to their business. That increased to 68% in a follow-up survey with 170 respondents last year.