Mobile workers need real-time access to actionable business intelligence (BI). Mobile BI is still a growing technology area meaning some technology and cultural challenges and gaps remain between corporate backend data and mobile devices. In June, I spoke with Quinton Alsbury, co-founder of Roambi; Francois Ajenstat, senior director of product management at Tableau Software; Dan White, senior product manager, TIBCO Spotfire; and Ran Van Riper, SVP, global services, GoodData about the cultural and technology gaps between enterprise mobility and BI.

This article focuses on the cultural gaps; stay tuned for a future post about the technology gaps.

BI is traditionally old school

Alsbury and Roambi have been at the forefront of mobile BI since its inception and puts a historical context around BI and enterprise mobility.

“It starts first and foremost that most BI projects that exist have a pretty long history, “Alsbury said. “BI is a very old industry and has a fairly old set of architecture around it and by that I mean from the technology, all the way around to the processes, to the data management part of it, all the way up to how reports are generated, etc.”

Data friendly users and the changing status quo

“A lot of people who use Good Data are very data friendly, Van Riper said. “They might be campaign managers but they’ve been living with various data sources for some time now. Salesforce has been part of the fabric for some time. These people are pretty comfortable with accessing cloud data sources, and looking at it, and when they come to our user interface, they get a huge improvement because we have worked hard to make it usable.”

Not too long ago, we lived in a time when users weren’t so data friendly so Van Riper’s point speaks to one of the more fundamental gaps.

BI concepts are a changing

“When the project is coming from the BI team, these are the guys who have been doing BI and publishing dashboards around the company,” Alsbury said. “The first thing typically they are looking at is we have these ten reports or these thirty five reports now we want to enable people to access them on their phone so can you make our reports that look this way look the same way on a phone? That’s the first break down right there.”

Alsbury adds that some organizations perceive is as a transcription or transposition project where we are taking the same thing they look at here on their desktop and put the same thing on their phone.

“Things have to be conceptualized differently when you are thinking about mobile,” Alsbury said. “You have to think about what data does this person actually need when they are on their phone.”

He also said that first organizations need to look at what data there users need when they are mobile.

“The second problem is they don’t necessarily look beyond just the transcription of reports,” Alsbury said. “Well, we have these reports and want to put them on a phone.” These reports and indicators need to be matched to the necessary scenarios whether it is a salesperson presenting to a prospective customer or the CEO talking to the board.

This cultural shift also results in organizations not recognizing the opportunities they have for data now that their executives and employees are carrying mobile devices.

Post PC versus device diversity

“What’s been interesting that the vision of the post-PC world is moving forward,” Ajenstat said. “But I don’t think we live in a post-PC world, we live in a device diversity world.”

“And so what’s been really interesting at least from our perspective is when we think about mobility at Tableau,” Ajenstat said. “We think about it from a different perspective where we think of analytics everywhere where regardless of where people are and the device they are using they should be able to answer questions about data.”

“The device they use shouldn’t dictate whether or not somebody can use data effectively but in fact, it’s another delivery vehicle for that data,” Ajenstat said.

Fast data versus traditional BI reporting

Backing up what Roambi’s Alsbury says about BI’s history is Tibco’s White.

“We spend a lot of time designing around this cultural gap, focusing on the notion of Fast Data where a company or individual has the ability to collect, interpret and act upon huge amounts of unstructured information in as little time as possible,” says Tibco’s White. “We’ve built Spotfire Mobile Metrics on the premise of simple displays and simple navigation, with highly prescriptive information (KPIs), getting those insights into the palms of users’ hands.

White said the design approach translates into Tibco Spotfire displaying key business performance metrics across all mobile devices.

White said, “We want everyone, from executives to operational staff, to quickly see what’s going on in their business, with just enough context to know whether it’s a blip or an enduring pattern. And, we want all employees to be on the same page about the business’ goals, and how all levels of the org chart are contributing to that.”

Final thoughts

The transformative nature of enterprise mobility is making an impact on BI as cloud platforms as the cloud and mobile apps replace a laborious IT reporting process and users at all levels gain an unprecedented access to corporate data.