Executives and managers who travel frequently are often called upon to give business performance data on the spot. They might be in an airport in Europe, a hotel in Hong Kong or a customer site in Oklahoma. Technology media pundits have questioned the viability of mobile analytics for over a decade.

In recent years, a small group of stand-alone and startup BI vendors have introduced innovative mobile-friendly analytics solutions into the marketplace. It seems to have motivated some of the larger, traditional enterprise software vendors to get serious about mobile BI, either through acquisition or internal research and development.

The jury is still out for some whether mobile device screen real estate is large enough for comprehensive BI dashboards. Yet as the debate rages on, devices like the Microsoft Surface and iPad Pro straddle the line between tablet and laptop, providing a better viewing experience for dashboard charts and graphs. Here are five key factors which are driving mobile adoption in the analytics marketplace:


REST API’s aren’t new, though they are growing in popularity for mobile app and Software as a Service (SaaS) integration. Business intelligence solution vendors are able to build large connector libraries, and deliver valuable information to users on their preferred device. REST API’s are scalable, high performance, and easier to customize than SOAP API integrations. REST API calls can retrieve data from multiple back office systems quickly, so mobile BI users can access dashboards which represent current performance data.

2. Startups and Acquisitions

As SaaS applications evolved into the mainstream, and mobile devices have become the computing platform of choice, opportunistic startups jumped into mobile business intelligence space where existing enterprise software companies were struggling. In some cases, acquisitions of companies like Roambi (SAP) and Datazen (Microsoft) have helped traditional enterprise analytics vendors to compete in the mobile space. Other cloud analytics vendors like Domo, Tableau and Birst were built for data visualization, which bodes well for mobile applications.

3. Collaborative Analytics

When an executive looks at how their business performance is trending, they’ll usually want some background information on some of the wins, challenges, opportunities and threats behind the dashboard. Collaboration tools such as instant messaging are right at home on mobile devices, which makes smartphones and tablets excellent devices for BI. Some of the collaborative data visualization tools were built as mobile-first applications, to work with platforms including:

  • iOS and, in the case of Salesforce Analytics Wave, even Apple Watch

  • Android

  • Windows Phone

4. The Rise of In-Memory Computing

Computer memory has dropped in price, and has evolved to take on some of the computing workload off of hard drives and processors. Mobile devices can access dashboard data from technology like SAP Hana and Oracle Exalytics because in-memory analytics delivers insights faster than traditional BI queries. Most of the popular BI platforms are powered on in-memory platforms, which helps to use data from multiple sources.

5. Role and Industry-Specific Analytics Use Cases

Mobile analytics offers unique productivity and profitability advantages in industries like:

  • Retail

  • Financial services

  • Manufacturing

  • Healthcare and pharmaceuticals

All of these industries have unique use cases for mobile devices and data visualization. In many cases, many employees don’t work at a desktop or laptop computer like office employees. They need to access data on the sales floor, the trading floor, the shop floor or in the operating room. There are a number of management, technical and sales/marketing roles which call for access to role-specific data sets, or to visualize data in a different context. Cloud and mobile analytics vendors have built dashboard segmentation and channels into their solutions, to mitigate the risk of providing all users with visibility across the enterprise.

Inherent Risks of Mobile Analytics

Despite the many benefits of accessing corporate performance data on a tablet or smartphone, there are a number of risks as well. Devices can be stolen, or data in transit can be hacked by opportunistic hackers.

The biggest benefit of mobile data visualization is also its biggest risk: portability in the field. If an employee meets with a competitor or partner, they might purposely or unknowingly compromise sensitive data, and damage your company’s reputation or stock price.

Governance of data access privileges is a vital function of leading mobile analytics applications. Enforcement of strong device passwords, and use of mobile VPN, anti-malware and stolen device bricking apps are strongly advised.

Mobile analytics adoption has increased significantly over the past few years, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Just as the workplace is evolving, as is the need to access reliable, actionable data -- where, and when it is needed.

Technology innovation, collaboration and context-specific analytics have paved the way for mobile executive dashboards, and business professionals have been quick to make them part of their every-day work habits.