Trends in pharma mobile BI

Nick Plank

C&amp,C Group

Fact. There are 5.3 billion mobile subscribers in the world!

That’s 77 percent of the world’s population hooked into cellular networks wrapping the world in a huge spider-web of radio-frequency (RF) energy which terminates in antennae and physical network installations.

Those installations bridge the cellular network and the public internet. And if you’re working in the developed industrialised world – if those words have much meaning any more as our global economic geography undergoes seismic activity of a level never seen before – then like as not there’s a secured bridge between the public internet and your company private network.

“This puts us in the office 24*7 whether we like it or not.”

Since it is technology which has created this situation then the smart approach is to use technology to respond to it.

If the reach of business networks has so extended that an email can get to you wherever you are and whatever time it may be then why shouldn’t that technology also be tasked with providing you with the response as well?

The good news is that it can.

Just because you are out of the office whilst business rolls on is no longer a reason for you to be out of touch with the key metrics which you have developed to help you guide your division or your department through the current sales cycle. And if it’s set up correctly then you should be getting the answers before the questions even arrive.

How is that possible? Take the classic balance scorecard approach to business performance management. Each metric is correlated with the metrics it influences and is influenced by. Those influences have a known time lag. So provided there’s no time lag for you to receive information then you should be hearing about a supply chain situation long before the demand-side metric starts flashing.

With today’s network reach and speed of delivery we’re living in a world where business intelligence is becoming pervasive – not just in commercial scenarios but in everyday life.

• We know when an item has reached our bid ceiling on an eBay item because our mobile app tells us in real-time when it happens allowing us to decide upon our response.

• We know when an accident has blocked a motorway 2 hours downstream in our business journey by car and we can decide what action to take.

• And we know if our region’s sales force coverage for the current QTD is off target on it’s variance from the prior year same QTD so we can make the intervention whilst there’s still time for it to have an effect.

So why not use the same technology that brings you the questions to give you the answers at the same time?

“…you should be hearing about a supply chain situation long before the demand-side metric starts flashing.”

With companies like Medtronics announcing the deployment of 4,500 iPads within their staff you might wonder how on earth it will all work?

But the advent of Cloud architecture in information technology is making life a lot simpler. There’s no need to connect all those iPads to the corporate network with all the support overheads and security worries that might result.

Instead companies are outsourcing business intelligence and sales force automation requirements to vendors who can operate virtualized environments dedicated to their customer’s staff.

An outsourced Cloud or mobile BI arrangement looks like this.

A single site-to-site VPN (virtual private network) connects your business back-office systems to the Cloud. Data travels up to the Cloud and is personalized and tailored ready to be passed onto your staff via their mobile devices. They self-install the appropriate BI app with a single-click from a website provided by the vendor. And in 5 minutes they are receiving the right metrics for their role based on their profile in the Cloud.

“Mobile devices have leapt forwards in terms of usability, intuitive controls, and graphical capabilities.”

Studies indicate that enterprises using mobile BI make critical management decisions in one-sixth the time of companies that don’t use the technology” notes Denise Culver, a research analyst and author of the report ‘Mobile Business Intelligence Gains Ground On New Devices’.

And there are some interesting trends to be seen in other Business Intelligence reports published recently by industry analysts.

One of these reports focuses upon the adoption of embedded BI. It takes the view that BI can be categorised into (1) on-premise BI installed back-office in stand-alone applications, (2) embedded BI deployed within an application such as ERP or CRM, (3) SaaS browser-based BI managed outside the company network by an outsourcing vendor.

Using data from 2008 compared to 2011 the report shows that on-premise BI has fallen from 59% to 34% whilst embedded BI has risen from 34% to 37%.

What it also highlights is a huge shift in the trend for SaaS mobile or Cloud based BI.

The figures show that SaaS mobile BI has increased from 13% to 26% between 2008 and 2011.

“Networks have improved dramatically, particularly so where there are high-speed facilities such as 3G available.”

There are some good reasons for this shift in the way that BI is delivered.

• Mobile devices have leapt forwards in terms of usability, intuitive controls, and graphical capabilities.

• Networks have improved dramatically, particularly so where there are high-speed facilities such as 3G available.

• The advent of mobile apps has introduced a reliable easy non-technical approach to provisioning devices with self-installed mini-applications (some BI solutions work equally well using browser based apps rather than mobile apps),

• There has been a shift from traditional heavy-iron data warehouses to more agile real-time BI using direct data adapters delivering information when it happens, not when it is refreshed in the warehouse.

• Technical advances have been made such as write-back BI which allows mobile apps to drill through from pie-charts and graphs into source data and to write changes back to the source system.

• And there’s a trend (originating in the US) for companies to reduce their capital investment in mobile device estates by giving employees an allowance to choose their own personal and business use mobile devices which are compatible with the employer’s BI app strategy.

In her report ‘Mobile Business Intelligence Gains Ground On New Devices’, analyst Denise Culver says, “Studies now show that more than 25 percent of enterprises now have a mobile BI application or dashboard in place. Another 33 percent of enterprises are planning to implement some type of mobile BI by the end of 2012”.

In our experience working in the BI space over the past 15 years the Life Sciences sector and pharmaceutical manufacturers in particular have typically been ahead of the curve and fast to market when it comes to corporate performance management and business intelligence.

With regard to mobile BI we don’t expect the pharmaceutical sector to behave any differently. Adoption of mobile BI in this industry is going to be fast, effective, and widespread.

“Information needs to be on-time and it needs to be actionable, and we believe mobile BI can deliver that.”

In summing up, let’s consider these Facebook official statistics from November, 2011.

“There are more than 350 million active users [44 percent] currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices. People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile users.”

If we apply that statistic to the users of business intelligence in the life sciences sector then there can be no doubt that mobile BI is going to transform the behaviour of decision makers in our industry.

We think that a mobile business intelligence app should be on every pharma decision maker’s Christmas list for Santa this December!

About the author:

Nick Plank is a Director at C&amp,C Group and has been working in the life sciences industry for 15 years, providing enterprise, SaaS, and digital technology based solutions throughout the brand life cycle for branded and generic companies, delivering global, European, and UK focused projects.

You can follow C&amp,C Group on Twitter @candc_group.

What’s your experience with mobile intelligence in healthcare?