Business intelligence goes mobile

Corporate America is finally beginning to deliver BI where it's needed -- everywhere.

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In response, Prasad asked his architecture team to look for ways to get data from SAP Business Objects and IBM Cognos BI systems onto employees' BlackBerries and iPhones.

The team suggested Mellmo Inc.'s Roambi, a data-visualization app that takes BI data from various sources and makes it iPhone- and iPad-friendly. Prasad asked an architect and a developer on his team to use Roambi to develop two reports -- sales quotas and daily sales reports -- that are important to Life Technologies' salespeople.

"I showed it to the CIO, and he got excited. And we showed it to some customers, and they got excited too," says Prasad.

A test version of a system showing daily sales reports taken from Life Technologies' Cognos data warehouse was rolled out this spring to some 50 salespeople with iPhones. Roambi doesn't work on BlackBerries, so Prasad's team plans to use the mobile version of Cognos to deliver similar functionality to the sales department's BlackBerry users.

Prasad already has his team working on applications for other parts of the company, like a global warehouse report, and has set up a mobile development architecture team to devise an entire mobile strategy for Life Technologies, with a particular emphasis on business intelligence.

Airport data takes flight

If Life Technologies is a mobile BI newbie, Fraport AG counts as an experienced veteran.

Fraport AG, the organization that runs Germany's Frankfurt Airport and a number of other airports, started a business intelligence project six years ago, says Dieter Steinmann, senior manager of business systems there.

The initial goal was to provide data from around the airport -- data about flight departures and arrivals, wait times at security checkpoints, and reasons for delays -- to employees in operations every five minutes, 24 hours a day.

In 2008, Fraport made that data mobile and delivered it to some 100 operations and customer relations managers at Europe's third-busiest airport, which last year saw more than 50 million passengers.

About 800 employees can now access information from a SAS Institute Inc. BI system via their phones. "When managers can get some actual information on the actual situation, it helps them make better decisions," says Steinmann.

For instance, through May of this year, 68% of the flights at Frankfurt Airport were on time. But that means that 32% of the flights weren't on time. Managers who meet with airlines to discuss the reasons for delays used to have to retreat to their offices to find data about delays affecting specific flights; they typically don't carry laptops into meetings, Steinmann says.

But they do carry BlackBerries, and now they can use those devices to instantly find out what happened to cause a delay, including whether the airline itself played a role. Knowing the answers immediately means problems can be resolved faster because there's less need for managers to make one another wait for answers while they stop to look up information.

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