Mobile BI and cloud BI are among the top trends that we track in the industry. Our upcoming Enterprise BI Platforms Wave will dedicate a significant portion of vendor evaluation on these two capabilities.

These capabilities are far from yes/no checkmarks. Just asking vague questions like “Can you deliver your BI functionality on mobile devices?” and “Is your BI platform available in the cloud as software-as-a-service?” will lead to incomplete vendor answers, which in turn may lead you to make the wrong vendor selections. Instead, we plan to evaluate these two critical BI platform capabilities along the following parameters:

Mobile BI

Animations. Does the product support animations? For example, if a particular dimension, such as time, has hundreds or thousands of values (as in daily values over multiple years), manually clicking through every day is not practical. By launching an automated, animated scroll up and down, such a dimension is more practical.

Architecture. Can the product push content to mobile devices? Does the product access your on-premises enterprise BI apps via  a mobile browser? Does  the product access your on-premises enterprise BI apps with RIA browser plugins? Does your mobile platform require native mobile clients? Does the product support HTML5?

Authoring versus consumption. Does the product support consumption of canned BI reports and dashboards, or does the product also support authoring of new reports and queries?

BaaS. What back end-as-a-service platforms do you support?

Build once, deploy multiple times. What are the product capabilities to build a single report/dashboard and automatically render and deploy it on multiple platforms? Does it apply to tabular reports only or to visual dashboards also?

CSS3 spec. Does the mobile BI platform conform to CSS3 specifications?

Device-specific integration. Does the product offer integration with phone dialer, contact manager, calendar, email program, and other applications on the device?

Forms and prompts. Does the product support forms and prompts for report annotation/collaboration, what-if analysis, and integrating with workflow (approvals, for example) and ERP (generate new transactions) applications?

IDE. What mobile integrated development environments does the vendor support?

Mobile testing. What mobile testing platforms dooes the vendor use and/or leverage?

Offline. Can the product run the BI environment while offline? What features are available while offline? Is the architecture based on HTML5, which provides offline capabilities? Is a full-client version of the product required to run offline? How much IT involvement is needed to enable offline BI usage?

Platforms. What native mobile phone and tablet platforms does the product support?

Security. What device-specific security features are available (like device lockout, remote erase, encryption and integration with enterprise security platforms)? Are these native device security features or add-ons provided by the BI platform?

Sensor-based queries. Can the product automatically generate or modify queries based on barcode scans using phone cameras and changing/updating query content based on phone accelerometer and GPS devices? Does the product offer query generation via voice recognition and voice-to-text functionality?

Third-party BI platforms. Does the mobile BI platform integrate with third-party BI platforms?

Visual queries. What type of visual and dynamic querying, exploring, and analysis does the product offer? For example, there may be up to eight ways that a mobile UI allows users to visually manipulate the data: drill across (to another dimension), drill down/up (up/down hierarchies), drill through (to another source, to another dashboard, or to a detailed report), filter, group, pivot, rank and sort.

Voice recognition. Does the product have natural-language processing or voice recognition capabilities to input BI queries using speech to text? Are these the vendor’s own technology or OEMd?

Cloud BI

Additional licenses. In addition to the subscription fees, does the cloud BI platform require any additional licenses/subscription fees for apps to run and/or to connect to data sources?

Architecture/mode. Is the BI cloud platform hosted, via a managed service provider, or multitenant SaaS? If  SaaS, is it multitenant or virtual encapsulation?

Automodeling. Does the product autosuggest a best data model (star schema) based on input data types and content?

Cloud type. Public, private, or hybrid? If public, can clients connect via VPN? Is the hosting platform SAS 70 Type II certified?

Control over upgrades/maintenance. What kind of control and flexibility does the vendor allow you to have over upgrades and maintenance? This is usually different for hosted versus multitenant vs virtually encapsulated platforms.

Data model customization. What is the level of data model customization extent and flexibility?

Data persistence. Does the product store/persist data in an analytical cloud based data store or simply pass data through from data sources to BI applications?

DW. Is data warehouse functionality included in the cloud BI offering?      

Elasticity. What is the level of computing resources, storage, and pricing elasticity? Can resources be added or reduced (including changing payment plans) instantaneously, monthly, quarterly, yearly? Who provides the elasticity capabilities, the BI vendor or the cloud infrastructure provider?

ETL. What is the sophistication of the cloud BI product data ingestion / ETL process?

Free, starter solution. Does the vendor offer a free starter try-before-you-buy option? If yes, what are the limitations?

Functionality. Does the product support pixel-perfect complex report writing, ad hoc querying, OLAP or OLAP-like analysis, data visualizations including dashboards, advanced analytics (predictive modeling, data mining, statistical analysis)?

Native multitenant cloud SaaS architecture. Was the product natively architected as multitenant cloud SaaS? Or was it converted from an on-premises single-tenant BI platform? If the latter, can the product be deployed in a multitenant environment with zero modifications?

Offline. What is the product’s disconnected/offline capability? Will it automatically cache most recent reports?

On-premise. Does the product also offer an on-premises version of your software? If yes, is it exactly the same or a different product? Does the product offer a clear migration path from cloud to on-premises?

PaaS. Does the product offer vertical- or domain-specific solutions only, or does it offer a full cloud BI SaaS development environment, a.k.a. platform-as-a-service (PaaS)?

Public cloud platforms. Does the product support popular public cloud platforms, such as Amazon, Google, Salesforce, and Windows Azure?

Self-service. What percentage of the product functionality can be instantaneously procured, implemented, deployed and used by end users with no IT or vendor involvement?

As always, I welcome and encourage all comments.

This blog originally appeared at Forrester Research.