Just about all the business intelligence research analyst firms now break out mobility apps in their research work. I’ve wondered myself if this exception is only waiting for a hardware refresh cycle to become universal; lots of people have come to the realization that tablets and other smart devices are already the de facto platform for BI app development.

It’s nice to know the trend is very user demand driven, but not to say mobile information management hasn’t literally been in everyone’s pocket for years now. I know some analysts and vendors who will disagree on boundary definitional terms, but if BI can be defined as “the process of making better decisions,” it strikes me as odd that a lot of your phone’s personal productivity apps aren’t already counted in the tools and process workflow. The intersections are plain, your CRM flows to your contacts and email and messaging to your calendaring and maps et cetera, et cetera. And, increasingly, the analytics are embedded where and when you need them.

Noodling around the range of opinions, I rang up Howard Dresner the other day after reading his latest Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study, one corner of Howard’s BI research which he says is getting harder to segment (which is something analyst firms always seek to do).

Collaboration and social tie to workflows, and broadly, cloud computing has been linked to mobility as hosted services arise as likely data distribution hubs for lightweight device access. (I say lightweight in “air quotes,” given the computing power now contained in smart devices.)

As platforms cross paths (e.g., iPhone/iPad/laptop) and purpose specific lightweight information applications increasingly come to bear, Howard and several others (including us at Information Management) are awaiting collaborative BI and Cloud BI coming together with mobile over time to become the mainstream.

For anyone who missed it, 2012 has been the year of the four horsemen of social, mobile, analytic and cloud technologies. It may have been Cognizant who first described these "SMAC" modalities and understood the four things are interdependent and jointly synergistic. Gartner calls roughly the same mix “The Nexus of Forces;” Saugauck calls it “The Boundary-Free Enterprise;” IDC is calling it the “Third Platform.” Google “SMAC” or other combinations and you’ll see that this year saw a lot of ink on the topic(s).

There’s no reason to dismiss the role of the power user or analyst and there are plenty of projects to throw the way of data professionals; this is about the broad user base long coming to bear on data-driven decision support.  While there’s plenty of interest and usefulness in ad hoc and analytical apps, the demand side (tablet users) want role based job support wherever they go. I've taken to calling them “power tools," very fit for purpose support like the scientific and business calculators of a generation ago, except these tools will be backed with stores of ready information and computations. We can expect to watch these apps get function and vertical specific in the coming year and beyond. 

The behavior is plainly user driven and on this platform, users want analytic utility  and immediacy, not complexity. Coming soon, observers agree “mobile business intelligence” merely becomes “business intelligence,” though analysts and organizations are not yet sorting it that way.