MicroStrategy held its European user conference last week in Amsterdam, during which CEO Michael Saylor gave us an insight into how he sees mobile computing changing everything, from restructuring the worldwide economy to fundamentally altering how businesses operate. In a presentation that heavily promoted his new book the Mobile Wave, he painted a vision of a mobile-enabled world that requires no paper, no cash, no libraries, no text books, no car keys and no waiting in line. While it was certainly one of the more entertaining keynotes I’ve seen for a while this should not distract from some of the more salient points that were raised during the keynote, especially regarding the impact of mobile and more interestingly how MicroStrategy as an early mover in the space is carving out a very respectable position in the mobile BI market.
I don’t think many people would deny the growing proliferation of mobile, whether it comes in the form of smart phones, tablets or other untethered devices; we all seem to be communicating, interacting and accessing more and more online information away from traditional mediums such as the laptop or PC. Not surprisingly this trend has also hit the BI market as both existing and new users look for a faster, more convenient and inevitably cooler ways of accessing and interacting with BI data. Its appeal seems to be widespread, from senior execs who can’t be without their iPads, to managers and field workers on-the-move and who need to access to critical business information to support their daily operational decisions. In fact, Saylor is so sure of the continued dominance of the tablets (including the iPad) that his keynote mentioned an estimated 5 billion people using them by 2022.
To its credit, MicroStrategy was one of the early BI vendors to catch on to the mobile BI trend. The company initially introduced a mobile BI offering in 2007 on the Blackberry, but a more serious attempt was made in 2010 when it launched its iOS offering, not too long after Apple first launched its iPad tablet. What appeals to many enterprises is the way in which MicroStrategy has architected its offering, for example by supporting a fully native iOS application that can utilise touch sensitive gestures like pinch-to-zoom, swipe, and tap while at the same time adding its own special BI-specific gestures such as drilling and paging. During MicroStrategy World the company also demo’ed its integration with Apple Airplay enabling mobile content to be delivered wirelessly onto conference-room screens.
From an infrastructure perspective MicroStrategy mobile also takes full advantage of the company’s BI platform – in particular its Intelligence Server together with its administration, security and management capabilities – to allow BI developers to build mobile apps for customers, partners and so on. Similarly the apps can take advantage of and integrate with other mobile capabilities including GPS, voice, email or text, again helping provide a more native and specialised user experience that goes beyond simply re-rendering a standard desktop dashboard to a mobile device. In addition the company’s software development kit (SDK) enables organisations to build their own custom mobile apps. One customer at MicroStrategy World for instance, BBVA a financial services company and leading user of the company’s mobile BI offering, has launched around 30 mobile apps (with another 16 in development) aimed at providing mobile services to its banking customers.
It does appear that MicroStrategy’s move to target the mobile BI market alongside its allegiance with all things Apple does appear to be paying off in some respects; two years down the line and the company is able reference a number of successful mobile BI implementations. From enterprises such as Whole Foods Market who has rolled it out to store team leaders to monitor operational and sales metrics; Guess?, the fashion retailer that has given executives, store managers, and merchants access to sales performance analysis; and eHarmony, who use MicroStrategy Mobile to provide customer, marketing, and end-user engagement analysis to its users.
In many ways MicroStrategy World provided an ideal platform on which to demonstrate its leadership and success in mobile BI. But given the intensely competitive nature of the space, it isn’t something the company can take for granted. Other BI providers including QlikView, SAP BusinessObjects and IBM Cognos provide mobile BI support – although in some instances this is through HTML 5 rather than a purely native app experience. Continuing its commitment to the user experience, while addressing performance, ease of development, maintainability and governance concerns associated with mobile BI deployments will stand the company in good stead if – and it’s a big if – Michael Saylor’s predictions about the Mobile Wave are to become true.