Between 2012 and 2014, mobile BI adoption shot up: Forrester survey data shows that the percentage of technology decision-makers who make some BI applications available on mobile devices has nearly quadrupled, and the percentage who state that BI is delivered exclusively via mobile devices has risen from 1% in 2012 to 7% in 2014. While this clearly demonstrates that mobile BI is gaining traction, the actual mobile BI adoption picture is rather more nuanced. Our ongoing research and client interactions show that mobile BI adopters fall into three overall groups; some organizations

  • Really ‘get’ the transformational potential of mobile BI. They are the ones who understand that mobile BI is about much more than liberating reports and dashboards from the desktop. They focus on how data can be leveraged to best effect when in the hands of the right person at the right time. If necessary, they’re prepared to change their business processes accordingly. For those companies, mobile BI is an enabler of strategic goals, and deployment is a journey, not an end in itself.
  • Make mobile BI available because it’s the right thing to do, or they’ve been asked to.  Many of these organizations are reaping considerable benefits from their mobile BI implementations, and the more far-sighted of them are working on how to move from the tactical to the strategic. Equally, many are trying to figure out where to go from here, in particular if the initial deployment doesn't show a clear benefit, let alone return on investment. 
  • Are counting the cost of a failed mobile BI roll-out.  A failure can result from purely technical reasons (e.g. rolling out software that can’t support the required functions or hardware platform), or it can be the consequence of a mismatch in expectations (e.g. users expecting interactivity and real-time information when all they get is a static set of numbers updated once a day). Not taking into account individuals’ work patterns, or even adding to their workload, is another key reason why some organizations have store rooms filled with unused tablet devices.

Of the 22% of survey respondents who’re not considering any BI applications on mobile platforms, some will no doubt have taken a carefully considered decision not to invest at this time; others simply don’t see what’s in it for them. Anybody in the latter group should think again, though: there is a real chance that their organization misses opportunities for innovation and transformation.

So what matters most when deciding to roll out mobile BI capabilities – or indeed not to? Clearly, the right technology helps. But it’s a misconception that you need advanced capabilities like collaboration features, or being able to make use of the device’s GPS or camera. And while some leading adopters have indeed changed entire processes based on what mobile BI makes possible, it’s not a prerequisite for mobile BI success. The key differentiators are understanding that:

  • Mobile BI success comes in many shapes and sizes. It doesn't matter whether a mobile BI deployment involves delivering static dashboards or KPIs that are only updated once a day, or providing a rich set of capabilities to interact with data and collaborate with co-workers — if it meets a business need, the roll-out will be successful.
  • The key project success factors are right data, clear objectives, and focus on the user. Given the restrictions inherent in mobile devices, it is important that users get the data they need — no more, no less. It also has to be clear what they're supposed to do, or do differently, once they have the right data at their fingertips. The design has to be fit for purpose, and changes to individuals' working patterns must be handled sensitively.
  • Mobile BI will be a differentiator between industry leaders and laggards. Aside from improving the way businesses are run and serve their customers, "mobilizing" data has the potential to facilitate new business models and disrupt entire industries, in particular when exploiting new or unusual data sources. Whether it's a stand-alone mobile BI app or BI embedded into another application (e.g. mobile CRM) – the key is understanding what data is needed, and how it needs to be delivered.

More detail as well as a couple of case studies and the complete data chart can be found in my report The Key Ingredients For Mobile BI Success. As always, I’m interested in your feedback and opinion. Use the comments facility, tweet to @martha_bennett or send me an email (