IBI unveils free Mobile Faves app for iPad, iPhone

DALLAS—Mobile BI, the latest trend in business intelligence, demands that users be able to not only view BI data on their mobile devices, but also interact with it, such as navigating dashboards and manipulating data.

Information Builders (IBI) responded to this demand at its 2011 Summit User Conference being held here this week, with the announcement of a free Mobile Faves app for iPad and iPhone, the latest in its WebFocus toGo series, which is now available on Apple’s App Store.

Mobile Faves provides browser-based access to reports, allowing users to analyze and manipulate data on a mobile device. According to IBI, a new user interface makes it easier to create charts on smaller phone screens, and it conforms to any mobile device screen with automatic device detection, whether it’s a Safari, Android or BlackBerry browser.

Tablets are being adopted on a much faster scale than anyone anticipated,” said Gerald Cohen, IBI’s founder and CEO. And when the price drops over the next two years, he believes organizations will dramatically increase the number of people using tablets — and they’ll be used for a lot more than just data entry.

For Eugene Hope, chief information officer of Victory Packaging Inc., a North American distribution company with a location in Mississauga, Ont., it’s one of the questions he brought with him to the conference. Because, regardless of the fact his company doesn’t buy tablets for employees, those employees are bringing them into work anyway and expecting IT to make them work with their business applications.

“Like everybody else, that’s the big issue I’m struggling with right now,” said Hope. While he’s been holding back, the announcement of this app will allow him to work toward a strategy for providing BI on mobile devices. “Personal devices introduce a lot of challenges and we’ve got to plan out how we deal with that,” he said.

For David Lush, director of IT at Canadian engineering firm Ainsworth Inc., mobility is more important to the company’s technicians at this point, since they’re using mobile devices to capture data. However, he sees mobile BI as a potential tool for salespeople and managers.

“We haven’t jumped into the tablet arena yet,” he said, but the company is looking at Research in Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry PlayBook as a potential mobile tool for salespeople. “Being able to capture that information is one thing, but being able to assemble it and present it to your client (is another) … It could be part of the repertoire of their sales bag arsenal.”

But wireless data security is still a huge issue, said Lush. As long as that infrastructure can be secured, then “being able to access and report on data will be beneficial for our sales and management team.”

However, a larger problem is that not only do companies need to develop a strategy for mobile BI, they also need to develop an overall BI strategy. In a recent survey of 5,000 companies across industries, IDC Corp. found that only 25 per cent had a BI strategy in place.

“That was a surprise to me,” said Dan Vesset, program vice-president of IDC’s business analytics research. “It should be an enterprise-wide strategy. That doesn’t mean deployment should be enterprise-wide — it doesn’t work that way, it has to be project-based, it has to tackle a specific business problem.”

When it comes to mobility, employees are going to bring their own devices to work, no matter how much IT tries to control it. “IT is going to lose that battle,” said Vesset. Rather than fight it, IT should provide a secure environment to help employees comply with corporate standards.

Most enterprises are in the early learning stages of mobile BI, said Adam Lotrowski, a strategic product manager with IBI. But, for those considering mobile BI, the question isn’t one of Web-based versus native apps. It should work no matter what device the user — or the customer — is using. “We work across any of these devices,” he said.

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