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This content is part of the Essential Guide: Mobile BI tools, trends and best practices guide
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Mobile business intelligence applications provide analytics on the go

Mobile BI tools let users make informed decisions on the go, but feature sets vary greatly. Some apps lack key functionality; others may not work for health care professionals.

Business intelligence (BI) has become increasingly accessible through many of the mobile device platforms. With gauges, dashboards, scorecards and key performance indicators (KPIs) available right on a smartphone or tablet through mobile business intelligence applications, "BI on the go" is a feature that many BI vendors have been promoting. With many health care executives so often on the go, this access to dashboards provides up-to-date data for evidence-based decision making.

Why is mobile BI useful?

In the past, most BI tools gave access to information either through desktop applications or Web portals. With vendors now rolling out applications built specifically for mobile platforms, users can get immediate access to different dashboards and charts directly from their devices and drill down through the data.

There are several additional benefits to mobile business intelligence applications.

  • Data visualization. Charts accessed via native or Web-based applications provide up-to-date reporting.
  • Real-time feedback. Mobile access lets users view real-time data and get alerts related to changes in trends and data immediately. This allows for quick response.
  • Drill-down capabilities. Some mobile business intelligence applications bring performance information to tablets and mobile devices. This lets users drill down and get a detailed view of exceptions or causes related to specific information.
  • Ease of use. Many mobile BI tools bring a graphical user interface (GUI) to mobile devices. With intuitive navigation and customizable dashboards, these products become the chosen tools for making critical business decisions on the go.

Mobile BI solves a lot of the challenges faced by many health care professionals -- not only through the immediate access to data, but also with improved usability so that it is no longer a burden to actually view the data and interact with it. 

How can mobile BI be used?

Mobile business intelligence applications are being offered in two models.

First, there are BI applications with a hosted back-end data repository. Many vendors offer hosted BI services for their clients. By offering a subscription model when the data is manipulated and analyzed offsite, vendors can offer as part of that package access to the data via mobile apps. Some of these firms have also provided customers in specific markets with comparative analysis against aggregated data from other clients.

BI vendors are continuously looking for differentiators to include in their products, in large part because interest in mobile business intelligence applications hasn't always been a priority.

Second, there are BI apps that connect to an internal or enterprise private data repository. This model is common, as larger organizations tend to implement their own data warehouse. These organizations receive mobile apps connected to their data repositories as part of their BI platform.

What types of mobile BI should be avoided?

While many BI vendors are actively marketing the mobility feature of their BI suite, it is very important to avoid products that display graphs on mobile devices but otherwise offer very limited capabilities and usability. These tools are not true mobile business intelligence applications and include the following:

  • Applications with flat reports that do not allow the user to drill down to review data and sub-charts.
  • Applications that do not connect to an online analytical processing (OLAP) source.
  • Applications that do not allow for customizing and profiling of the dashboards.
  • Applications that lack gauges, scorecards, KPIs, bar charts, trending, radar plots and other commonly used data visualization models.
  • Web-based applications that only offer access to a traditional Web portal and do not use the native feel of the familiar iOS and Android mobile platforms.

Where is mobile BI headed?

BI vendors are continuously looking for differentiators to include in their products, in large part because interest in mobile business intelligence applications hasn't always been a priority. Some of the new functionality identified in recent releases includes the following.

  • Smart system response. This "push" notification sends certain users feedback and alerts based on specific data triggers.
  • Comparative analysis. Here, client data can be compared against other de-identified data sets.
  • Domain-specific data. BI vendors are increasingly offering best practices and preset dashboards and thresholds for health care organizations. This provides clients with a baseline, as well as a set of usable widgets.

Overall, mobile BI tools are designed to bring transactional data to life visually. They are gaining wider adoption and helping users identify and react to specific situations. For health care executives, these lightweight analytics can provide visibility into clinical, financial, compliance and administrative performance. However, as more mobile business intelligence applications enter the market, taking the appropriate steps to select the right mobile solution for the organization becomes very important.

Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the health care industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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