A Mobile City

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Enterprises are adopting sophisticated business intelligence and analytics technologies and strategies to manage the enormous waves of data they receive and to establish a competitive advantage.

A Mobile City

As organizations look for ways to make workers more mobile, BI and BA fit neatly into the mix. At the City of Richardson—a community of about 103,000 citizens located in northeastern Texas—mobile BI has significantly changed the way police, fire and public safety personnel go about their jobs.

Using a mobile application from Information Builders, the city is able to tap into several applications and databases, including Lotus Notes, a SQL server and dispatch systems. Officials can view scheduling information and real-time reports—drilling down into the latter to check such details as the state of active 911 calls, a list of who’s currently being held in the city jail, and recent fire and police activities. “The system allows city officials to tap into important information, anytime and anywhere, from a BlackBerry or iPhone,” says Eric Matthews, the city’s deputy CIO. “It reduces the time demands on our dispatchers, gives them more accurate information, and helps them make faster and better decisions.”

The city of Richardson began using Information Builder’s WebFOCUS software about five years ago and added the mobile capabilities about three years ago. Matthews reports that it’s now integrating iPads and looking for additional ways to extend data to officials in the field. “Mobile business intelligence has greatly enhanced the way we operate,” he says.

Getting Smarter & Better

Admittedly, assembling all the pieces for a robust BI or BA architecture is no simple task. Nevertheless, Deloitte’s Lucker says that companies must stop hiding behind excuses for why they can’t make these systems work. This includes the notion that accurate results aren’t possible because of “dirty data.”

“Many data analytics systems don’t require data to be all that clean to work well,” he explains. “The built-in algorithms can find or produce the right data.”

Other factors also affect the success of an initiative. Lucker says it’s crucial to find people who understand how to interconnect systems and data in an optimal way, and extend access to smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

It’s also important for ownership and decision making to reside with business leaders rather than with IT executives. “IT must be the enabler, not the dictator,” says Tata’s Mhashilkar. “Unfortunately, this is often not the case.”

Finally, organizations must understand that BI and BA initiatives are often long-term projects that accumulate value over time. Along the way, it’s also vital to consider intangible gains, including promotions and campaigns that help build a stronger brand or achieve other, perhaps intangible, goals.

“Some of these systems require months or years to refine” Mhashilkar says. “An immediate payoff might exist, but a bigger one waits down the line as the value of the data increases.”

Make no mistake: BI and BA systems are evolving rapidly, and organizations that use these tools effectively boost performance and results.

“Business intelligence and business analytics offer tremendous opportunities across a wide range of industries,” PwC’s Patton concludes. “The ability to use data in powerful ways makes it possible to create a smarter and more resourceful organization.”

This article was originally published on 2011-07-28
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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