The iPad has become a favorite device among consumers who want to surf the Web and check e-mail on the go. But it’s also gaining popularity in the enterprise—especially among those who work in business intelligence.
Indeed, B.I. is the only real instance where the existence of the iPad has changed the way people use a particular set of business applications. Apple’s tablet makes it easier to flip through reports and gain valuable insights at a glance. According to Soumendra Mohanty, global lead for information management at Accenture, that’s helping increase B.I. application usage while altering the way people work: “There’s a lot more decision-making taking place outside the office, because people are accessing BI applications on mobile computing devices.”
In addition to allowing workers to drill into data while on the road, the iPad is impacting the way people work inside the office. Instead of using projectors for conferences and meetings, people have begun connecting inexpensive Apple TV devices to monitors that allow them to present wireless data straight from their iPads.
While the iPad has already made a significant impact on B.I. in terms of portable data-crunching, MicroStrategy CTO Jeff Bedel suggests the tablet will also affect how workers choose to visualize information. “Cloud computing is changing the way organizations share information and collaborate,” he said.
MicroStrategy has been developing a Visual Insight capability that allows massive amounts of Big Data to be loaded in-memory in a way that can be easily consumed by an iPad user. The basic idea centers on creating a public or private cloud computing service that allows IT organizations to leverage graphics as a way to more easily consume large quantities of information.
Much of that data, added Bedel, doesn’t necessarily come from inside the organization. The ability to compare and contrast information from external sources with proprietary corporate data will allow companies delivering B.I. applications to mobile devices to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.
Together, mobile and cloud computing are evolving the way B.I. applications are delivered and consumed. The end result is an increasing percentage of business users who actually make use of B.I. applications. That would represent a marked change from the past two decades, when the percentage of users regularly using B.I. applications stayed relatively small (especially compared to spreadsheet use). Now it’s hard to think of a B.I. application that doesn’t support the iPad to one degree or another.
Howard Dresner, president of Dresner Advisory Services, claims the combination of B.I. and the iPad is having a beneficial business effect. “Mobile is obviously a huge factor,” he said. “The relevant operational data that people need to make decisions is now being brought to them.”
The primary reason for this change, he added, is the intuitiveness of the iPad’s interface for line-of-business executives, which makes them more comfortable using BI applications.
But there’s nothing inherently unique about the iPad in that regard. Over time, other mobile computing platforms should be able to run B.I. software locally and in the cloud with the same degree of effectiveness. In the meantime, it’s clear that the iPad has become the preeminent mobile computing platform for running B.I. applications.