Best practice for mobile BI apps

by Slavko Kastelic | Dec 17, 2017 | Blog

Mobile devices with their applications are becoming an essential and integral part of business processes which can also be noted in the field of BI (business intelligence). Mobile phones and tablets are more than just additional computing platforms. Users interact with devices wherever they go, making the location an integral part of the process and help them achieve their work goals easier.

Mobility is exploding, as interest among executives and frontline personnel, in using information effectively, grows. Nearly all personnel in organizations would benefit if they had an easier access to data and analysis capabilities at the decision point, while they are on the go, with their mobile devices.

Mobile devices bring together applications, services, and native functionality, which fuse together communication, computing, data discovery, multimedia content, and participation in transactions.

Mobile computing represents opportunity for organizations in these two areas:

  • Improving the employee’s productivity,
  • Improving the partner and customer relationship, sales and services and business transactions.

Below in the text you will find some guidelines to maximize the potential of mobile BI and analytics, including application design, integration with enterprise data and security management and how to use insights to innovate in operations.

Users, using modern mobile BI, will be able to apply data insights to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and agility in sales, services, and operational management scenarios.

Focus on opportunities of mobile BI

Organizations should focus on:

  • Improving operational efficiency.
    Employees in operations have limited access to information while away from the office. Most common information they have are paper based. They carry a lot of documents with them while they are inspecting equipment or manage inventories or production lines. If they use laptops, they are dependent on a reliable networks or Wi-Fi connections.
    Mobile access to data, reports, and analytics enables operational employees to access current and relevant information and be efficient in dealing with concurrent situations.
    Moreover, if their mobile app offers write-back capabilities, they can also promptly update databases in the back-office so teams are able to work with the most accurate information.
    Managers can use analytics to study patterns and trends based on multiple sources of data, enabling them to discover data relationships and make more informed decisions about how to remedy operational problems.
  • Increase customer and partner satisfaction.
    Mobile BI and analytics applications offer sales, service and support personnel, who are interacting with customers or business partners outside of their offices, a critical means of improving their satisfaction with information, what they have purchased recently, and further to help understand any issues that they or segments of similar customers have had with a particular product or service, as well as best cross-sell and upsell opportunities for a particular customer that might arise during such interaction. Customers expect that employees will know about all of their experience with an organization, including about those that have occurred across multiple channels. Mobile applications with these capabilities can fundamentally change customer engagements for the better.

Clear and ease of use mobile BI app design

Good design is key to fast adoption of mobile BI and analytics. Clarity and ease of use should be top designing priorities, particularly when the primary users are not analysts and are less experienced in working with data and analytics.

 

Designers of these applications have to provide:

  • User interface
    • Polish aesthetics, simple design,
    • Apply communication standards like IBCS – International Business Communication Standard
    • Easy navigation, and use of mobile device’s native functionality, to enable users do their work efficiently and effectively
    • Seamless experience across desktops and mobile systems
  • Functionality
    • Concentrate mobile BI app on key context to support users needs, working remotely due to limited “real estate”
    • Include actionable dashboard elements with seamless integration with business, transaction, or process applications.
    • Focus on the most important elements: KPIs, real-time alerts, or next step information how to proceed in a business process.
    • Speed up the loading of data or rendering visualizations to avoid user frustration or confusion.
    • Clearly defined workflow: users have to know what to do next in the process
    • Native and familiar swiping, pinching, and other functionalities.
    • Efficiency, enabling users to get to results in as few screens as possible.
    • Integration with other applications to extend functionality beyond BI and analytics.
    • Collaboration enable users to share their work with partners, customers, or colleagues, including via email, approved social media, and internal collaborative platforms.

These steps will help to embed BI and analytics functionality into UX so that working with data becomes integral to all of their activities.

Leverage native mobile device functionality

Mobile device is not yet another Web access point. Its native capabilities make people excited, and in many organizations, mobile BI application deployment is moving faster than on the PCs and workstations. A major reason is that users like native functionality, such as touch gesturing, photography, integration with voice, video, and text communication, hands-free voice command capabilities, and integration with geolocation functionality.
“Native” mobile applications are developed and designed to take advantage of device-specific functionality. Traditionally they are written specifically to run only with the device’s operating system, such as Apple iOS or Google Android.
Development environment should be code-free and enable users or developers to add application features via APIs and pre-populated components without additional coding and include:

  • Touch gesturing, integration with cameras, and different forms of communication that enhance the user experience and increase adoption.
  • Push notifications for situations that require a user’s attention, may include alerts about trends, patterns discovered.
  • Use of the device GPS. Current location could be an important contextual element in determining what types of data or visualizations the user needs to observe. Users may also want to perform quick queries or other geospatial analysis with location as a prominent variable.
  • Enable offline mode, which allows access of critical native device functionality during air travel or when users are in areas with poor network access.
  • Automated caching of objects in the event that users are offline.
  • Secured access of cached reports and dashboards.

Analyzing usage to improve user experience and satisfaction

To increase user satisfaction, and expand adoption, the performance, design, and relevance
of mobile applications need continuous improvement. Collecting and analyzing data generated by the application’s use to make informed decisions on how to improve applications and upgrade UX is a key element.
The data is already available, since users generate it every time they tap on the screen or perform an action including geolocation data, which can provide contextual insights into both performance issues and application use. Developers should base improvements on:

  • Measuring frequency of apps usage for each user, measure recency of usage, measure peak days and times,
  • Measuring where and why users abandon apps
  • Measuring navigation through apps and causes of drop the app process before finishing it
  • Examining application usage behavior within a sales team, line of business, or geographically located subsidiary.

Leading mobile application platforms enable organizations to monitor and track application usage across user populations for cohort analysis and to perform analysis of individual UX and ensure that developers, administrators, and other design personnel can apply data insights as they revise the application’s functionality as how the application enables users to access and interact with data.

Enforce Enterprise Data and Security Strategies

Users with mobile applications, have the freedom to interact with data wherever they are, including outside of firewalls. However, this means that it is important to address enterprise security concerns as mobile applications are deployed.
Organizations should align mobile expansion with their security procedures, including those for enterprise BI and data management.

Many organizations try to avoid complexity by simply treating mobile applications as new clients in their current data architecture as part of larger enterprise strategies, which allows them to use their existing data management, integration, metadata, and governance infrastructure. Centrally managed deployment extends data quality and security procedures, as well as regulatory adherence, to the mobile world.

Whether mobile is part of an existing or new architecture, security should be a key concern.

Companies should:

  • ensure that sensitive data is protected during data transfer between the applications and databases and the mobile serve, accessed by users, which can be situated behind the firewall.
  • establish procedures to deal with a lost or stolen device to ensure data on the device is not compromised.
  • examine whether their identity, authentication, and access management processes are properly set up so that functionality privileges and access permissions only go to designated mobile users.