The debate over the choice of web apps and native apps for mobile BI is a never ending one and also does not have a definitive answer to it. Both have their own pros and cons and each one could be beneficial to a business in different ways.

We’ll first take a look at what a native and web app are before getting into the post. Native apps are platform/device specific apps downloaded to your device and they can leverage the hardware, UI and features specific to a platform/mobile device. Whereas, a web app will work on any compatible browser, regardless of the platform and device but will be limited in its functionality as compared to a native app.

Web apps are constantly improving to match the native apps and yet far from what one could achieve with a native app. A native app can be more responsive, interactive, access the device’s hardware like camera and other sensors and most importantly it could provide all the functionalities even when offline. This makes it all the more valuable when it comes to tracking business intelligence on your mobile. A native app adds more depth and value to your business analytics as this helps you track and monitor more complex analytics that you might not be able to do on a web app. Users can interact with reports, dashboards, metrics, KPIs and analysis in a format they are already familiar with. It could add more value to your analytics by using the device features like sensors to provide interactive location aware map views, using the camera to scan barcodes and record in the app, provide quick drill down options etc.

However, one should invest considerable amount of time in planning and building a native app. It is not universally compatible with all the platforms/mobile devices like that of a web app. One might have to create separate versions for the different platforms like Apple, Windows, Android and Blackberry, the different tablet and mobile devices and add to that, the various OS versions to be supported. It’s not an easy task to present information and analytics to all the critical personnel in an organization in a universally compatible format. So, an organization might have the dilemma of deciding on which platform, device and OS to support.

A web app, on the other hand is easier to deploy and also compatible with all devices/platforms. In fact, anyone using browsers to review BI analytics on laptop can straightaway view the same on a mobile device with a browser. Web apps do not have the tiresome deployment process. But it might not be very appealing or user friendly on a confined screen and also it might not work out well for someone in the manufacturing, sales job. Let’s say he or she wants to view or use the analytics on mobile while out on the field. A web app might not be a safe bet for them but a native app is due to its capability of working offline as well.

An organization might have to decide which will suit their business needs better based on the BI analytics they would like to track and monitor and also their mobile ecosystem. An organization with a well-developed, established mobile environment could opt for native apps. And also organizations with needs of deep data integration, complex analytics and offline access should go with native apps. Though newer web apps have the offline functionality, they are not as secured and safer as a native app is. But for companies that are just starting out and looking for swift and universal deployment web apps are the best.

Tags: Microsoft BI, Mobile | Comments Off

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