TORONTO — The emergence of the wireless Web has brought about a mobile intelligence era where classic business intelligence (BI) reports on a smart phone won’t render end users the native mobile experience they seek, said an exec with MicroStrategy Inc.
“Most applications that project to mobile phones are nothing more than business intelligence pre-packaged,” said Mark LaRow, senior vice-president of products with the McLean, Virginia-based BI software vendor.
Classic BI reports like grids and graph reports don’t work for the smart phone’s form factor and, if anything, said LaRow, such reports shouldn’t look like BI when viewed on a smart phone.
MicroStrategy is working on technology to help customers create iPhone-specific BI apps with the goal of providing performance that is acceptable for “true mobile intelligence,” said LaRow. “What people really want on these devices is not a Web browser experience, but a native iPhone application or micro-application experience,” he said.
LaRow spoke to an audience of users in this city during a Canadian road show for the launch of MicroStrategy version 9 release 2. The company will also make stops in Montreal and Vancouver this week.
The sole new functionality in version 9 release 2 is the MicroStrategy Health Centre, a centralized console for monitoring server health. The tool helps administrators address problems like poor configuration choices and out-of-bound conditions, said LaRow. “This will make this a one-click action for administrators,” he said.
Among the enhancements to version 9 release 2 are new algorithms for data compression and in-memory queries for faster and greater throughput. LaRow said reducing the computational distance by moving transactional data out of the database and closer to the user by way of in-memory analytics is “the biggest innovation in business intelligence in the last three years.”
Several Canadian customers were on hand to share their experience with MicroStrategy version 9. Markham, Ont.-based St. Elizabeth Healthcare, a home health organization with 25 locations across Ontario, manages four million practitioner visits to patients annually.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s vice-president of business capabilities, Mary Lou Ackerman, said it has been 18 months since deploying a BI tool of any sort, which is now being used to monitor compliance to new processes and measure the resultant efficiency.
The health-care provider has a seven-day timeframe during which it can bill patients, a process that used to be dependent on manually recording patient visits. Now with greater visibility, Ackermann said, the organization attains a 99.4 per cent billing rate versus 98 per cent. “If we don’t have it billed, that was lost revenue,” she said.
The greatest benefit the software has afforded St. Elizabeth Healthcare is actionable data, said Ackerman. Previously, reports were based on historical data that didn’t get delivered till four weeks after requesting it, she said.
But the initial excitement of real-time reporting has kept the development team busy with report generation, noted Ackerman. This year will be focused on reducing the dependency on the developers and introducing self-service capabilities to users, she said.
Another customer, retailer Hudson’s Bay Co./Lord and Taylor, is putting into action a long-term strategy, using MicroStrategy version 9, to reduce mainframe dependency and increase reporting for all merchants and financial staff.
Ed Hill, the company’s business intelligence manager, said the goal of this “consolidated reporting environment” will allow the organization to drill down on data for a complete picture of the business.
Hill said the biggest change is users are now able to quickly access the information they need by themselves. “It really opened up self-service business intelligence to everyone in the company,” said Hill.
On the topic of mobile intelligence, Ackerman said the goal for St. Elizabeth Healthcare is to provide users with BlackBerrys to collect critical field data in to make better decisions about health services provided. But a mobile strategy will also allow the company to realize efficiencies in practitioner travel costs by collecting data on the road, she said.
Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau