Recently we have seen a dramatic change when it comes to deciding which screen size to design a new report or dashboard for. It’s always been a struggle for BI app designers to optimize applications to fit to the different sizes of desktop PCs and laptops, but adding mobile devices like smartphones and tablet PCs to the mix makes it even more complex.
The most natural solution of the past was to design two different views – one for the desktop and one for mobile deployment. But we no longer recommend this approach as the lines between different device categories are blurring.
Netbooks are encroaching on notebook and iPad territory, coming closer to their display capabilities. iPad has initiated a storm of new devices from other vendors with similar screen size. Even worse (from an app design point of view), Internet giant Amazon.com launched its Kindle Fire, whose screen size sits between traditional smartphones and tablet PCs. And now new devices like the Galaxy Note and the Galaxy III by Samsung, whose screen sizes are between the iPhone and the Kindle Fire, have found their own fans.
Although size does matter, screen size is not the sole point to consider when designing BI apps. There’s orientation to consider – which devices are optimized for portrait or landscape orientation – and on top of this, different vendors also offer a wide variety of pixel density – defined by pixels per Inch (PPI). For example, the new iPhone 4S with its Retina Display is able to display more pixels on its 3.5″ display than a decent netbook.
For app designers, it is impossible to create separate reports for every device, especially at organizations where BYOD (bring your own device) is the standard. This would end up being a total nightmare from a maintenance point of view. So what can we do? It’s time for a new and intelligent approach that will allow us to use one app and one report or dashboard layout for all devices.
We’ve been thinking a lot about the various ways organizations can improve their existing business intelligence applications. Many of arcplan’s customers have been with us 5-10 or more years and are continuously improving their BI along the way. Some of the initiatives we frequently hear about are related to data quality improvement, but this may be an anomaly. According to Ventana Research’s recent study, less than half of organizations surveyed have taken on some kind of information management initiative, like data quality or data integration improvements, in the last 2 years due to budget restrictions or lack of employees with the right skills.
I’d argue that data quality initiatives should be a “top 5″ priority for organizations in 2012. Why? Because of stories like this: A friend recently told me about a meeting at his company where the regional sales managers were giving their summaries of pipeline opportunities. During one of the updates, a director interjected that he didn’t see the favorable developments mentioned in Salesforce, their CRM system. Based on the information that was present in the system, the director figured that the quarter would be an average one. However, the updates from the sales manager would really swing the potential outcome of the quarter in a positive way. Now I bet that director had to make some decisions that were compromised by the (lack of) current information in the CRM system. He might have started strategizing about how to re-engage with the (assumed) stagnant prospects, started working with marketing on a nurturing campaign, asked the telesales team to reach out…any number of things could have happened based off of the faulty information available to him.
Unfortunately, many organizations have to contend with poor data quality which ultimately results in poor decision-making. After all, decisions are no better than the data on which they’re based. Reliable, relevant, and complete data (as opposed to the incomplete data set available to the director in my example above) supports organizational efficiency and is a cornerstone of sound decision-making. So what are some of the consequences of sub-par data quality?
1) Mistrust. Poor data quality often breeds mistrust among internal departments. I read a great example from 1998 (if you can believe it) that could have been written yesterday:
Collaborative BI enables employees at every level to make meaningful decisions for their areas of responsibility, backed by easily-accessible information and analyses. With 15% of BI deployments containing collaborative elements by 2013 according to Gartner, it’s time to start evaluating the kind of Collaborative BI solution that will work for your enterprise. To help, we’ve defined the top 5 criteria you should consider:
1. Integration of disparate systems
Integration of varying systems is a challenge for most businesses, but one that can be overcome with the right Collaborative BI solution. Enterprises often have several different stand-alone solutions for BI in place as well as other decision-relevant – often unstructured – content that is disconnected from BI systems. Your Collaborative BI solution should act as a bridge between these disparate systems, connecting them with a simple search function that delivers results from multiple BI vendors, third-party systems like SharePoint or e-mail, documents, articles, and user-contributed content. It should also allow users to open and use any report, analysis, or document within the Collaborative BI interface so that switching between tools is unnecessary.
2. Flexibility & personalization
Collaborative BI systems must allow users to perform a variety of actions, from contributing content to bookmarking to knowledge sharing. The ability for users to submit content to enrich the Collaborative BI system is paramount for system affinity and adoption. Who better to contribute content than users themselves – those who are making everyday business decisions with their available data? Users must be able to upload relevant information and reports from external sources (Salesforce.com for example) as well as bookmark items as favorites. In our own Collaborative BI solution, arcplan Engage, users have BI Walls where they can pin frequently-viewed reports or snippets of dashboards. In this way, each user can configure their own personal Collaborative BI environment.
3. Availability on any device