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Here's a way to take advantage of mobile devices

I saw this post by David Raab over on his blog - Business Intelligence on Smart Phones: Not Just Humbug. Like the author of the original article to which David refers (Power Of A Data Warehouse In The Palm Of Your Hand by Elena Malykhina) I am cynical. Her comment that "It remains to be seen how many mobile professionals actually need to slice and dice data from handheld devices" really struck a chord with me. I don't see even weary road warriors wanting to do "traditional" BI on a smartphone. But as David correctly points out the follow-up question is interesting:

The more intriguing question is what new business intelligence functions a smart phone platform would make possible

Now substitute the works "decision management" for "business intelligence" and I think you are on to something. One of the the differences between BI and EDM is the focus on taking action using insight gained from data rather than showing someone the data and helping them gain some insight. I would say that David's examples are all, in fact, EDM examples. They use the information the phone has (position), insight from the data the company has (fraud likelihood, wait times) to take an action (dispatch the person with the phone to a particular place, tell them to do or not do something). I don't see traditional BI vendors having much to offer here - the whole reporting/OLAP infrastructure they have developed is predicated on knowledge workers doing analysis. If you want to take advantage of mobile devices you need to think about automating decisions for the person holding the device. For instance:

  • Use mobile phones held by maintenance engineers to track their location and then use analytics to predict which pieces of equipment are most likely to fail soon and rules to assign the nearest, qualified engineer before sending the directions on where to go to the engineers phone.
    • Don't show them reliability graphs or travel times, tell them where to go to make best use of their time
  • Use the mobile phone of a real estate appraiser to find out which risk zones a property is in and what the predicted difference is between a house inside and outside that risk zone
    • Don't show them a picture of the risk zones
  • Use a doctor's mobile phone to route them to the most useful hospital during an emergency based on predictions of patient load, the hospitals they know and their specialties
    • Don't show them graphs of wait times and pie charts of specialties needed
  • Use a customer's mobile phone to make them an offer at a store that is nearby having predicted that they are likely to buy it, checked that is in stock there and estimated that they are more likely to respond in person than to an email promotion to the website

And so on. Automate decisions and use mobile devices to provide context for those decisions and to deliver decisions to people out and about. Don't send them reports. Please.

I have blogged before about the value of location information in automation of decisions and on location intelligence with EDM and wrote an article in BI Journal (subscription required) with Ed Gandorf of MapInfo "Driving Decision Automation with Location Intelligence".

P.S. An extreme example of this might be something like pay-as-you-drive insurance as described by my colleague Ian.

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