Birst Mobile puts full-featured BI on mobile devices

The browser-based app provides real-time access to all data

With the announcement of Birst Mobile, Birst is claiming a victory for mobile workers: a full-featured BI application that not only provides analytics, but also has access to all company data -- not just a subset -- in real time. The HTML-based SaaS (software as a service) application works within a browser to offer cross-platform support for BlackBerry, Android, and the iPhone and iPad, and because there's no software to be loaded on the device, Birst Mobile sidesteps the setup and maintenance headaches that other BI suites or mobile apps can suffer from.

While prepackaged reporting tools already exist, Birst Mobile claims to be the first full-featured BI suite that is customizable and provides real-time access to all company data without having to move that data into the cloud. "We provide a single metadata infrastructure that spans many data sources," says Birst CEO Brad Peters. "That model doesn't exist anywhere else; the closest is Oracle BI [mobile apps]."

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The data access model also means companies don't have to load their data into the cloud to have it usable; users can merely plug Birst Mobile into their existing database system -- it can do both relational and OLAP queries -- without having to move any data.

The key to being able to provide full-fledged data access as well as analytics, dashboards, and reports, according to Peters, is the SaaS model itself. "Think about what Southwest Airlines did for air travel. Or look at Home Depot -- it exists because it changed the supply chain around the delivery of products," says Peters.

SaaS, in his view, is doing the same thing for app delivery. "It's the most compelling, economic way to deploy BI," he says. "It will support multiple devices with minimal infrastructure."

Also, Birst is able to provide a better pricing model: Instead of buying licenses, some of which may be used sparingly, if at all, the SaaS setup allows customers to pay strictly for usage, making it more cost effective, and more scalable

Ultimately, Peters sees Birst Mobile as appealing not only to workers like mobile salesman who need up-to-the-minute information as well as on-demand analytics, but also to workers who may not have gotten a license during their company's big BI rollout (Peters cites studies saying that the rate of penetration of BI is 20 percent of knowledge workers). "BI is a mature industry, so for larger businesses, there's already an investment in an incumbent player," he says. 

"We're not selling an app that never existed before, we're selling an app to the margins of businesses that haven't been provided for," he says.

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