Over the years, there have been several forces behind the surge of mobile devices. With the influx of devices in today’s market, unlike the limited options you were once faced with, now there is something for everyone no matter your style, color, or operating system preference. On top of this is the introduction of Quadcore to tablets, 4G, and the continuous adoption of HTML5. This proliferation of devices gave rise to the phenomenon of BYOD.
With the emergence of this trend, businesses realized they had decisions to make and quickly: Do they stick to their current policies and only support company issued devices? Do they adjust their current strategies and infrastructure to support new BYOD policies? In hindsight, with the growth of BYOD, lurks the inevitability of having to create apps for each screen for the large number of devices, which is not only time consuming but requires resources. In the end, companies want end users to be happy and productive while ensuring your IT departments sanity.
The end of each year warrants a look at the key trends that may take hold in the coming months. Mobility, cloud computing, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and big data topics are clearly influencing the business intelligence industry. However, major market players such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung and others are producing the technology to make these developments possible. The question becomes: are the trends paving the way for these companies to produce the technology, or is the existence of the technology influencing the trends? I believe the latter – that Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung are the true pioneers of the BI industry.
In 2014, we’re not going to see much in the way of wholly new trends, even though some experts are already forecasting more innovations. Gartner, for example, has singled out voice-controlled BI as a hot topic. However, the idea of being able to control BI processes by voice instead of through user interfaces is more of a fantasy than a realistic business requirement. Instead, the focus for 2014 will be on developments that are already possible and how to integrate these into the corporate IT environment. Big data for one has been a subject of discussion for years. In 2014, there will be more talk about the benefits and value provided by the increasingly larger amounts of data. Primarily though, it is the underlying technical innovations created by industry giants such as Amazon and Apple that are driving the development of BI and the requirements of the market.
Mobile BI Thanks to Tablets and Smartphones
In the wake of the BYOD movement, organizations are challenged to support multiple devices for accessing business information while providing the best mobile experience for end users. Seamless mobility is now an expectation for many knowledge workers who rely on smartphones and tablets to do their work. With arcplan 8, our latest release, we offer unparalleled flexibility for mobile business intelligence deployments for developers and users alike. arcplan 8 was designed with the principles of Responsive Design in mind. Developers can use our HTML5 client to build state-of-the-art BI applications that only need to be designed once, yet can be deployed on any mobile device. Let’s examine the 5 principles of Responsive Design – design principles that are simple and effective, and can be used as a guideline for developers to create responsive mobile BI applications:
1. Design with mobile in mind.
Designing with mobility in mind leads to a better user experience across all devices and platforms. When designing a BI dashboard application, think of the charts as modular tiles. These tiles will need to be rearranged depending on the device’s screen size and orientation, so it helps if they are designed with similar widths and heights. Desktop monitors and tablets in landscape orientation can accommodate all the tiles arranged in two rows, but smartphones and tablets in portrait mode will be better served by tiles stacked on top of each other so the charts are large enough to be understood without too much zooming.
2. Start with the smallest device first.
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.
Business intelligence is evolving in ways that improve efficiency, productivity, and the bottom line for companies of all sizes. Combined with major innovations like real-time data access and mobile technology, BI is truly driving the success of leading organizations. The Aberdeen Group’s recent report, Decisions on the Move: Mobile BI 2013, surveyed the state of mobile business intelligence and found that “leaders” enjoy benefits like a 2.3-times year-over-year improvement in sales revenue and customer retention, and a 70% improvement in operating profit over “followers.” The benefits of mobile BI are both practical and tangible, but some companies are still standing on the sidelines, not taking advantage of the mobility that their BI platform likely facilitates. So let’s address the misconceptions that keep some organizations lagging behind when it comes to mobile BI:
It can wait ’til I get back to the office…
The proliferation of mobile devices has opened the floodgates for an “always-connected” society. We can argue about whether or not that’s a good thing, but it is the state of business these days. Allowing yourself to think that business questions can be tackled once you’re back at the office is a mistake – one your competition may not be making. Mobile BI empowers your executives, field teams, off-site workers, and sales managers to be productive, attending to time-sensitive information and making impactful decisions no matter where they are. Certain decisions – or at the very least, status checks – can’t wait until these road warriors get back to their desk, especially when dealing with vendors and customers in different time zones. The work day isn’t confined to 9-to-5 if you’ve got coworkers, customers and vendors spread across the country, or if you’re global like arcplan. Leading organizations realize the value of mobile BI’s ability to give workers access to decision-relevant data day and night. I’d never suggest that you tether yourself to your corporate metrics 24/7, but for the times you really need that information away from the office, mobile BI is invaluable.