The Intelligent Road Warrior - InformationWeek

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12/15/2005
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The Intelligent Road Warrior

Where reports and analytical information are usually found, the people who need them often are not. Those workers are out in the field, roaming on the road. That, in a nutshell, is the reason business intelligence for mobile devices has a big future. But the IT side has a long way to go before it can give the roaming user masses what they want.

Where reports and analytical information are usually found, the people who need them often are not. Those workers are out in the field, roaming on the road. That, in a nutshell, is the reason business intelligence for mobile devices has a big future. But the IT side has a long way to go before it can give the roaming user masses what they want.Not that it's all IT's fault. It isn't. For one thing, mobile devices have built-in limitations, such as teensy-weensy screens. You might be able to wedge a simple table or two onto a PDA, but as for more advanced reports and charts -- well, that ain't happening. At least now. I won't even start on the security and bandwidth issues that hamper small hand-held tools.

A recent study from the Business Performance Management Forum and voice and data software maker Avaya found that remote employees are a growing percentage of workers at more than 70 percent of respondents' companies. Naturally, IT feels pressure to support those people, whether they're in their home offices or on the road. But as a story we bring you from Doug Henschen of Intelligent Enterprise reveals, most IT departments have yet to design a solid game plan for supporting those workers and their intelligence needs.

More to the point of mobile BI specifically, another recent article on Business Intelligence Pipeline gives a few peeks at the next generation of BI-enabled mobile devices -- as well as pointing out the biggest challenges of remotely delivered intelligence. There are, in fact, work-arounds that may overcome mobile devices' natural limitations.

Mobile BI will succeed in the end, not just because workers will demand it, but also thanks to a handful of relatively simple design concepts. For one, devices might not let salespeople, regional managers and roving executives access all the data they need, but they will let them access the latest data. And even with simple graphical interfaces, cutting edge devices in development now -- some of them working in tandem with established BI vendors such as Actuate, Business Objects and Cognos -- will allow drill-downs into key data through a simple graphic display.

Mobile devices aren't going to deliver split screens, dynamic displays or fifty-column tables -- at least not until we're building them to transmit holograms onto blank walls. But smart vendors and other organizations are on the case now to make BI-on-the-run a reality.

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