We have been banging the drum off and on about the validation and emerging practices for mobile BI for most of a year, to the point I figured we might give the topic a (short) rest. But the CIOs are talking, the analysts are talking, and we found that on the ground, this is no hype cycle and is a popular topic that is hard to stay away from.

Sure enough, I noticed today that a Forbes blogger had picked up an item from mobile app vendor Appconomy, which poked around and found that 82 percent of the Fortune 50 have rolled out mobile applications.

That is a very large percentage. I took a look at the Google Docs list the vendor posted and saw a good number of marketing and catalog type apps posted. Everyone is pretty careful to say these are light commerce and consumerish apps, not heavy duty mobile apps for CRM or BI.

But it is a powerful leading indicator, and besides, heavy duty mobile is kind of an oxymoron wherever it's applied. When CRM and BI do go mainstream on mobile, most apps will have simple interfaces and be productively tuned to role-sensitive queries, clever analytics and tasks at hand. Where it's already happening, mobility is delivering the kind of quick and unique insight you want to grab easily for a customer or in a meeting room where no one touches the resident dumb terminal anymore.

The flip side of this is the "at the moment" data entry as well as query benefits of mobile CRM and BI. Forrester's Andy Bitterer has talked about how mobility offers write back to databases, initiates back-office transactions at the same time it's collecting information through ad hoc networks and sensing and alerting based on user roles.

Super users don't have an adoption issue and we'll always have power users in green visors somewhere on an upper floor, but the trending of visualization and analytic tools are to make them as simple and inviting as possible. Now it's starting to look like mobility will be the breakthrough that finally beats down the longstanding lethargy of widespread BI adoption - by putting it in context of the working day and by not making BI harder than it has to be.

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