In honor of arcplan 8's official release today, let's talk about Responsive Design and its importance for business intelligence and planning applications. The latest version of arcplan's platform is focused on mobile BI with a new HTML client that supports Responsive Design, which enables arcplan applications to automatically adapt their layouts to appear optimized on the end user's device.
Responsive Design is something you've probably heard about when it comes to websites, but it's just as important to application design – especially as organizations are challenged to support multiple devices and provide the best user experience possible on each of them. Responsive applications, like BI dashboards, rearrange their layouts and navigation to fit properly on smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. It's not automatic; there's no algorithm in the background figuring out the best layout. That is done by the application designer ahead of time. With arcplan, we have implemented "Views," which define the breakpoints for each type of device. The designer then rearranges the application elements (charts, tables, filters, etc.) for each View. It's quick, simple, and even better, all of the layouts are contained within one application. Changes made to an object are filtered down to each View/layout. There are no separate applications to maintain for each device. Just one total, no matter how many Views are defined.
So now that I've established how cool Responsive Design for BI is, let's get into why it’s essential now.
1) Mobile BI Demands
Everyone seems to want mobile BI these days. For a long time, it was a "nice to have" – not essential, but certainly useful if it was available. As we inch closer to the end of 2013, mobile BI is now an inevitability. By 2014, the mobile workforce is expected to reach 1.2 billion, or one third of workers. On top of that, 47% of US workers will be under the age of 35. I'm part of both groups, and I can tell you that I, like many of my peers, am tethered to a smartphone or tablet at all times (we can argue about whether or not that's a good thing another time). I expect the applications I use on my laptop to be available – and highly usable – on my mobile devices. For knowledge workers who depend on reports and dashboards to do their job effectively, the demands for mobile BI are loud and clear. And they're coming from the C-level too. Gartner has found that after e-mail, BI is the most popular application with CEOs and CFOs. Since they too need to make quick decisions while away from their desks, expect to hear them clamoring for mobile BI soon if they haven't already. Mobile devices are the present and the future, and we need to shift our design philosophy to this mobile-first reality.
2) BYOD Policies
Half of the world’s businesses are expected to embrace the bring-your-own device (BYOD) trend by 2017 and more than 80% of employees are already using personal devices in the workplace. Organizations have been facing "the screen size dilemma" for some time now as they struggle to develop and maintain applications for every device in use by employees. It's unmanageable without Responsive Design.
Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a standard tablet. An iPad was the standard until it wasn't. There are Samsung, Microsoft, Asus, Sony, Toshiba, Motorola and Kindle devices – all of which have different screen sizes and form factors (if you think an iPhone and a Nexus 4 aren't that different, wait until you use an application designed for an one on the other). If a BYOD policy is in place at your organization, you can expect that workers will use whatever smartphone or tablet they are most comfortable with to get their work done.
Working with a BI platform that supports Responsive Design is the way to seamlessly transition applications between desktop computers and mobile devices without much extra work. You can't reasonably design dedicated apps for every for every device platform and form factor that exists. The fundamental problems with this approach are that it is not scalable, it requires extensive dedicated resources, and the time to market would be less than favorable. A Responsive Design approach allows just one responsive BI application to support all these devices:
Return on investment is a constant question when it comes to business intelligence. Sometimes it's difficult to concretely determine ROI, so it's often expressed in vague terms like "improved decision-making" and "less manual work." But designing BI applications responsively has real cost reduction or cost avoidance ROI attached to it – as much as 70% savings in development and maintenance costs as compared to building distinct apps for every device in use at your organization. Responsive Design for BI enables just one app to work for all devices, delivering an effort reduction that can be calculated in dollars per hour saved.
In arcplan's world, we have a shorthand for "Responsive Design for BI." We call it DORA – Design Once, Run Anywhere, and it's the backbone of our arcplan 8 platform. Regardless of whether you call it DORA or Responsive Design, it's going to have a huge impact on the way BI apps are designed from now on. It's the way to future proof your BI dashboards, reports and planning apps, minimizing many of the risks associated with continuous mobile device innovations. When a device with a different screen size becomes popular, make a few adjustments and your apps will be ready to go in minutes. Providing your users with optimized mobile experiences goes a long way to ensuring your apps are widely adopted and enjoyed by as many users as possible.
Check out some of these resources to learn more about Responsive Design, and sign up for our on-demand webinar on arcplan 8 for an in-depth look at how DORA works:
- arcplan Webinar Recording: Mobile First BI Enabled By Responsive Design
- A Guide to DORA: Design Once, Run Anywhere – builds the case for Responsive Design for BI and offers design advice for developers