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August 24, 2012

Carphone Warehouse to eat its own dog food

Rollout of mobile BI will be device and OS agnostic, company tells CBR

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Carphone Warehouse

There is a phrase in the IT industry that describes companies using their own products to show off their capabilities: eating your own dog food. It can also be called drinking your own champagne, which is a far classier way of saying it.

As a seller of mobile phones, smartphones and tablets, Carphone Warehouse would be expected to be right up to date on the latest mobile devices. Of course it does not make the mobile devices but the huge range it sells means it should be very familiar with all of them.

But speaking to CBR, Paul Scullion, head of BI development at the firm, explained that there were certain areas where a mobile strategy was lacking.

As part of its rollout of a new analytics and reporting system (which you can read about here), Carphone Warehouse is planning to give its managers access to the BI dashboards via iPads or other tablets, something that does not happen at the moment.

"We are now looking at how we deploy that – how we take the dashboards and create mobile versions of them. My vision is of a regional manager bringing up the latest figures of a certain branch as he walks through the door of the store with the store manager having done the same."

The company is currently going through the process of working out exactly what it needs from its mobile BI strategy. Part of that is to establish a strategy for mobile device management. Scullion explained to CBR that the company does not want to be restricted in terms of what tablets or platforms it supports.

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"We’re working out our internal information security requirements and mobile device management," he said. "We are very particular that we don’t have a strategy in terms of the handset we give everyone -we want to be seen as technology agnostic, whether it’s the phone or the operating system. We need to experience all the products we sell; being a mobile phone vendor we had to be seen to be embracing the technology."

That mostly means Apple and Android tablets, but Scullion said they company does not want to rule any system out. That means the BI product the company uses has to be flexible. "We can’t just go and develop everything on iOS or Android because a month after you could be looking at a different tablet."

The vendor selection process for the BI rollout included the option to develop mobile platforms at a later date, Scullion said. He added that MicroStrategy’s proposal was the strongest from that point of view. In fact, MicroStrategy recently announced that it would be combining the development of its Apple and Android platforms into one. "So perhaps we can build once and deploy on multiple technologies," Scullion said.

Mobile business intelligence is a big theme for MicroStrategy at the moment. The company’s founder and CEO, Michael Saylor, has described it as one of the three "tsunamis" hitting the BI space along with social networking and cloud computing.

However it is fair to say that Saylor’s vision is of an Apple-dominated world rather than Android or Windows. He recently described Microsoft’s Surface tablet announcement as the, "most disastrous product announcement in a decade."

"Microsoft is saying ‘Here’s a tablet but you can’t buy it because we aren’t shipping it, we don’t know what the price will be and we don’t know when it’ll ship. We normally work with Intel but we’re not sure that will work so we’re making another version with ARM and we’ve got one operating system but that might not work so there will be another one’," he added.

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