To make the product as versatile as possible, Information Builders used a web app, which is a small program that gets delivered to the device. It bridges the gap between a browser-based application and a native application. "Browser-based applications are the least common denominator," Freivald says. "They do not have the functionality or understand the native device. At the opposite end is a native application, which knows everything about the device but has to be developed for each device. The middle ground is a web app, which understands what device it's on and modifies its behavior accordingly."
Mobile BI is likely to show significant growth in the next few years. A recent study by Dresner Advisory Services indicated that mobile BI is seen as critical or very important by 68 percent in a broad cross section of industries. That number is a significant increase from the 52 percent reported in 2010. Despite the challenges of delivering information to multiple devices using a variety of standards, and concerns about security, mobility offers the potential for BI to achieve the pervasiveness its advocates have hoped for.
M-learning takes center stage
Mobile technology is ideally suited to current trends in learning, according to Massood Zarrabian, CEO of OutStart. "Informal and social learning are becoming increasingly important," he says. "Content that supports this type of learning can be delivered very effectively on mobile devices." OutStart's Hot Lava mobile development tool allows subject matter experts to quickly develop and publish content in PowerPoint; a delivery engine then renders it appropriately for the mobile device.
"Everyone is mobile now, and people want to make use of the time they are riding buses or waiting in line," Zarrabian says, With m-learning (mobile learning), users can receive reinforcement to guidance provided at a sales meeting or take a pretest prior to more comprehensive training. Hot Lava allows both browser-based online training and downloading of content to the mobile device on a native application that can track the usage of content and synchronize it with the delivery engine for analytics. Typical applications include compliance training, performance support and "snack learning."
To some degree, the adoption of m-learning has been hampered by outdated perceptions of its limitations, according to Zarrabian. "Just a couple of years ago, delivering video was a problem because each device handled it in a different way," he explains. "That problem has been solved, as has security regarding content downloaded to the native applications." He advises companies not to get caught up in the device debates such as iPhone versus Android, but to focus on what can be accomplished with those devices.
OutStart offers a suite of learning technologies that includes systems for tracking training and managing content, as well as Participate, a business social software product for networking, collaboration and knowledge sharing. "Mobile users can ask questions in Participate and get a response from experts," says Zarrabian, "expanding the learning experience into a social context."