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8/25/2010
11:36 AM
Seth Grimes
Seth Grimes
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Mobile BI, Situational Intelligence, and a Call-Out to SAP-Sybase

Mobile computing is a disruptor, a game-changer. Forward looking organizations, notably recently merged SAP and Sybase, have seen mobile's enterprise potential, including as a BI revolutionizer. Our vision should extend to situational intelligence, situational awareness coupled with interpretation of the users status, plans, and goals and enhanced with analysis of the user's social network...

We in the BI world like to throw around the adjectives: Agile! Collaborative! Integrated! On Demand! Real Time! Self Service! Visual! I'm party to this practice myself. While there's a place and time for each of those BI styles (and others), let's not mistake often-unnecessary pseudo-requirements (i.e., not justified by business need) for must haves. Even innovations such as mash-ups (involving dynamic, do-it-yourself data and application integration), although truly new rather than same-but-better, haven't yet been game-changers, perhaps because they fall prey to those perennial BI nags, data quality, usability, usefulness, and entrenched, rigid work practices. Yet the computing world does occasionally spawn disruptive innovation, most often launched as personal, consumer technologies, introduced to the enterprise by individuals in an end-run around IT. Mobile computing is one such disruptor. Forward looking organizations, notably recently merged SAP and Sybase, have seen mobile's enterprise potential, including as a BI revolutionizer. Our vision should extend to situational intelligence, I believe.Credit Sybase's recent TechWave training event for getting me thinking about mobile's BI implications and also, in this age of social computing, its limitations. The TechWave message, as relayed especially in Sybase CEO John Chen's keynote, was mobile, mobile, mobile. (To be fair, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer Raj Nathan stated more broadly that Sybase's future focuses on data, decisions, and devices. Sybase future focuses on 1) data, 2) decision, 3) devices. As I observed in a tweet to Colin Clark, priority #4 is ripping out Oracle DBMSes from SAP installations. John Chen said as much.)

Data-wise, mobile means two things:

  1. Delivering computing services to mobile devices
  2. Delivering location-aware services that respond to, or even anticipate, the mobile user's needs.
Point 2 is, of course, enabled by GPS (Global Positioning System) chips, the user's IP, network address, cell-tower triangulation, and even a user's self-reported location as reported to public services such as Twitter and FourSquare. Public discussion has centered on delivery of context-sensitive ads, offers, and information -- in this case, context=user location -- and on finding nearby like-minded individuals.

Sybase is a data-management company, and execs, at TechWave, talked about both types of mobile. According to my tweetstream notes, Sybase Vice President Greg Dunn stressed "consumer mobility engagement": a Market, Transact, Manage, Empower life cycle extended from pre-mobile-computing touchpoints to ones created by the emergence of location-aware mobile devices. Dunn spoke of mobile Customer Relationship Management (mCRM) with mobile-adapted coupons, loyalty programs, marketing, research, and services locators. I observe that these are data-driven services, effective only if guided by strong analytics. I haven't seen any other company articulate a comparable vision that is so far along the road to delivery although I do admit that I'm not on top of every mobile/CRM/marketing solution out there.

Regarding delivery of enterprise computing services to mobile devices:Sybase apps delivered vi iPad I was impressed by Ian Thain's live demos in which he discussed app-building and then placed an iPhone and then an iPad on an overhead projector to very simply and effectively show . (See it here in Doug Henschen's Image Gallery: SAP Unveils Integrated BI Strategy Roadmap.) Thain calls himself a Sybase Tools Technical Evangelist, a role that clearly suits him well.

I do have questions regarding the inclusion of location in enterprise applications -- a goal for every enterprise applications vendor, not just for SAP-Sybase -- that I can articulate in a few simple use cases:

  • Manager X is out of the office, as indicated by a mobile device. Route operational alerts to an on-site deputy and reduce X's alerts to certain essentials and send twice-daily, simplified summary reports.
  • An iPhone-equipped account rep is visiting a customer and has an extra hour. Whom should she introduce herself to at that particular customer site?
  • The account rep is in downtown San Jose. Customer's FourSquare tweets that he's at Philz Coffee a few blocks away (one of twenty customers the rep follows on Twitter). Perfect opportunity to say hello.
These are examples of situational intelligence, BI/analytics-fueled enterprise services that respond not only to the user's role but also to immediate needs and possibilities as indicated by location and activity, both of the user and the individuals in his or her social network. SI is situational awareness coupled with interpretation of the users status, plans, and goals and enhanced with analysis of the user's social network.

My scenarios seem hum-drum, today needs, same-but-better stuff rather than anything truly new, but the concept of situational intelligence is not. I expect things truly new to emerge from mobile computing, in BI and other enterprise applications, just as they have in the consumer domain. Mobile enabled, BI/analytics fueled, situational intelligence is among the most promising.


Addendum, August 26, 2010: I've just had one of those "duh, how could I forget that" moments. Of course there's a truly new enterprise mobile app (and of course it's analytics-reliant), augmented reality. SAP is working on it per a July 30 ZDnet interview with Timo Elliott, senior director of strategic marketing. See SAP leads businesses into augmented reality.Mobile computing is a disruptor, a game-changer. Forward looking organizations, notably recently merged SAP and Sybase, have seen mobile's enterprise potential, including as a BI revolutionizer. Our vision should extend to situational intelligence, situational awareness coupled with interpretation of the users status, plans, and goals and enhanced with analysis of the user's social network...

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