SAS Institute is teaming up with mobile BI (business intelligence) vendor Mellmo to bring analytic applications to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, the companies announced Tuesday. The move further cements Apple’s devices as must-hit targets for enterprise software vendors, especially for BI. It also follows deals Mellmo has struck with IBM, SAP, Salesforce.com, Microsoft and Oracle. The SAS integration, which also requires SAS Enterprise BI Server, is set to be released early next month.
BI vendors have moved quickly of late to mobilize their software, touting the benefits of workers in the field getting real-time analytics and reports on business data. SAP is set to make a particularly aggressive run at the market later this year when it releases a converged mobile platform based on its own technology and that which it acquired through the purchase of Sybase.
But so far, mobile BI adoption has been slow due to factors like security concerns and smartphone form factors that inhibit the proper use of such applications, according to a new Forrester Research report. “Truly analytical BI applications require a certain amount of screen real estate to display, interact, and analyze all relevant information on a single small screen,” it states. To that end, mobile BI applications must enable users to work with data “using typical analytical operations such as drill-across (to another dimension), hierarchy drilldown/up, drill-through (to another source, to another dashboard, or to a detailed report), filter, group, pivot, rank, and sort,” it adds.
But tablet devices such as the iPad are helping address the usability problem, Forrester said. “It really is next-generation mobile BI on the next-generation devices that will finally deliver on the promise of information access at any time, in any location, on any device.” There is also a growing number of common use cases for mobile BI, the report adds. For example, the software might help a salesperson close a deal by giving them the power to call up some analytics that dazzle a prospective client. Still, challenges persist for mobile BI, particularly regarding the development of rich experiences across many device types. Customers should carefully weigh how well a vendor’s tools provide “write once, use anywhere” capabilities, Forrester said.