Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

How Metro/Windows 8 Design is Transforming Mobile BI Apps: Part II


In my last article, I wrote about why arcplan advocates Metro design for business intelligence apps. I discussed how Metro design is great for mobile BI, with speed, intuitive navigation, and motion built in. Today I'd like to address another reason why Metro (or Modern UI) design is ideal for BI apps, like dashboards, scorecards and mobile reports.

Information prioritization. It's a concept important to every busy person. Wouldn't it be nice if your phone or tablet would just tell you what's important?! Now it can thanks to the Metro/Windows 8 concept of "live tiles."

The fact is that all legacy BI today is infrastructure to manage our stuff. Organizations track thousands of KPIs – so many that we're unable to keep track of the KPIs themselves. We've lost control of the "BI animal" to the point where it's very common for designers to create new BI content like reports and dashboards, publish them, and forget what happened to them. Then the same reports get created again and again. In many cases, that new content may never be utilized because no one can find it. The result is that BI systems are simply organizing and managing "BI hoarding."

Certainly arcplan, like all vendors, has been guilty of this in the past, but we introduced a solution in 2011 to fix this problem. arcplan Engage is what we call a "search & collaboration" tool. Not only can users find reports that can be of use to them – one of our customers had 10,000 SAP queries and used arcplan Engage to determine which ones were actually being used so they could retire the rest – but they can also comment on them, rate them, and request enhancements right in the system. We took a cue from Microsoft’s Windows 7 and added widgets (like Microsoft's gadgets), which enable users to have quick access to their most important metrics.

Then we went a step further by adding Live Screenshot Widgets in arcplan. This means that the widgets that display important metrics are actually displaying real-time data, not a static screen capture. It's similar to what Microsoft is promoting with its live tiles, but with graphics. Now that live tiles are well, live, we can use them to great effect in BI apps.

So just as arcplan Engage uses live widgets like the one you see above, we're building mobile BI apps for our customers that take advantage of live tile capability, where buttons on your phone's interface tell you the status of your important KPIs. Users subscribe to certain metrics and those are reflected on their individual devices.

I said before the organizations manage thousands of metrics. In working with arcplan's customers, I find that no more than 2 dozen of those metrics are important to any given decision-maker. The way I see it, Metro is all about taking a step back from the chaos that can sometimes be BI and having your system notify you of what you need to pay attention to. You can subscribe only to content that is meaningful for you. The system will bring your data to the forefront while still allowing you to drill down and access more details.

If you've ever attended one of my dashboard design webinars, I always say the best dashboards can tell you the status of KPIs from across the room. Live tiles are the next iteration of that capability. It's information prioritization through design.

Interested in how to get there? Leave me a comment.

Dwight deVera

About Dwight deVera

I'm Senior VP responsible for Solutions Delivery at arcplan in North America. I also present on a lot of arcplan webinars, so you can sign up to hear me - the events listing on our website is located here: You can also follow me on Twitter: @dwightdevera.
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