Providing access to pre-formed cubes and tables via a browser, along with alerts via email, IM or RSS, can deliver a lot of the functionality users want and expect without a lot of work by the IT department. If your shop can deploy an interactive experience via HTML – enabling users to explore the data rather than just digest pre-configured reports – so much the better.
David White, senior research analyst for Business Intelligence at Aberdeen Group, is firmly in the browser camp. "A number of organizations and vendors have introduced browser -based access, and it is fine, especially with HTML5," he says. "Many vendors are rendering to HTML anyhow. While the browser approach is not always fine-tuned for the tablet, it is the way to go."
He warns against the native app approach due to the burdens it would place on the IT department. "While it may be fine from a user perspective to just download a native app from an online app store, what about security and reliability of a corporate wide program, with multiple device types?" he asks. "That's a big challenge."
Howard Dresner sees the native app approach as the better approach. "What users want is a very interactive and visual experience with a native application," he contends. "And they want to get it from an app store, where it is easy to find and easy to install and use right away. They don't want to live inside the browser."
Dresner agrees with White that shops using HTML5 can provide the happy medium—an interactive browser-based experience.
Also, there is the vendor reality check involved in this debate. Organizations that have standardized on Blackberry devices will have a tougher time finding a native app for their BI applications. And given Research In Motion's declining market share in the smartphone world, and weak tablet offering, IT shops are probably rethinking their long term commitment to that vendor.
Of course, the large, legacy BI vendors are rolling out modules to deliver a native experience. And many startups already offer this approach. So over time IT shops will be able to safely offer the native experience that many users crave.
Curious about how the access technique will evolve? You can participate in the latest Aberdeen survey by going to this web site and taking a mobile BI survey. In return you'll receive a copy of the report.