In my first book, Why New Systems Fail, I write about the perils of IT projects. Clocking in at over 350 pages, it’s certainly not a short book. In a nutshell, projects fail because of people, organizations, communications, and culture more than purely technological issues.

I began writing that book in mid-2008, long before apps and mobile BI had reached critical mass. While I know that technologies always change, when I leaf through my first text, I find that the book’s lessons are still very relevant today.

For instance, consider mobile BI. In an Information Management piece on the ten most common mobile BI mistakes, Lalitha Chikkatur writes

  1. Assuming mobile BI implementation is a project, like a traditional BI implementation
  2. Underestimating mobile BI security concerns
  3. Rolling out mobile BI for all users
  4. Believing that return on mobile BI investment cannot be derived
  5. Implementing mobile BI only for operational data
  6. Assuming that mobile BI is appropriate for all kinds of data
  7. Designing mobile BI similar to traditional BI design
  8. Assuming that BI is the only data source for mobile BI
  9. Believing mobile BI implementation is a one-time activity
  10. Claiming that any device is good for the mobile BI app

It’s an interesting list and I encourage you to check ou the entire post.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I’d argue that you could pretty much substitute ‘mobile BI’ for just about any contemporary enterprise technology, but let’s talk for a minute about the actual devices upon which mobile applications run.

With any technology, there have always been technological laggards and mobile BI is no exception to that rule. Think about the potential success of mobile BI in a typical large healthcare organization vs. a typical retail outlet.

Healthcare

In a very real way, mobile BI is quite similar to electronic medical records (EMRs). The technology behind EMRs has existed for quite some time, yet its low penetration rate is often criticized, especially in the United States. Why? The reasons are multifaceted, but user adoption is certainly at or near the top of the list. (For more on this, check out this HIMSS white paper.)

Generally speaking, many senior doctors have (at least in their view) been doing just fine for decades without having to mess around with smartphones, tablets, and other doohickeys. Old school doctors rely exclusively upon paper charts and pens. Technology just gets in the way and man of them just plain don’t get it.

Does this mean that the successful deployment of mobile BI is impossible at a hospital? Of course not. Just understand that many users will be detractors and naysayers, not advocates.

Retail

Retail, on the other hand, is quite a different animal on many levels (read: margins, employee turnover, elasticity of demand for the product, tax implications). Here, though, let’s focus on the end user.

Go into just about any retail store and I’ll bet you a steak vs. Saab that most of its employees aren’t much older than 30. Translation: they grew up on computers and the Internet. As such, they’ll all too willing to experiment with tablets, app, and mobile BI. The fear factor is gone and that fundamental willingness to experiment cannot be overstated.

Simon Says

Technology progresses faster than most users can embrace it–or, at least, want to embrace it. Like any technology, mobile BI can only be successful if your employees allow it to be.

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