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.
Accessing information from mobile devices is becoming second nature for business users and executives who need to be connected to performance data 24/7. We’ve seen predictions from Gartner heralding 2012 as the year of mobile BI explosion, where employees will bring their own smartphones and tablet PCs into the workplace. As the number of organizations that have implemented (or are planning to implement) mobile BI increases, there are mounting concerns about mobile security. Lack of control of downloaded applications, lack of centralized server management, and virus protection are some of the concerns that come to mind as business users tote their shiny new personal tablets to work.
Let’s examine more closely how your IT team can handle these issues:
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon. Understandably so, many of us (myself included) have begun taking our own devices to work. Tablets and smartphones can be remarkably efficient for business users on the go, and sometimes it’s just easier to have your personal and business information on the same device. Since the company doesn’t own the device, there is no legal way of controlling what apps an individual can download. However, exposure to malicious software (malware) can pose a tremendous threat to business information. One way to address this concern is to whitelist applications so users have a selection of applications to choose from that IT approves. Employees can still use their devices at work, but within IT-sanctioned limits. IT may also ask users to install a mobile security package to help detect and remove malicious applications.
Mobile device security. Data breaches are a very real threat to data stored on mobile devices. This risk may seem obvious, but accidents do happen. Employees may inadvertently leave their smartphone or tablet in a cab, or at a Mexican restaurant while on a business trip (the arcplanner responsible shall remain nameless), complete with company confidential information.
In our previous article on the topic of how to make your BI reports better in 2012, we presented 5 ways to take your reporting to the next level by making design a priority, enhancing system performance with in-memory capabilities, delivering reports directly to users, capturing comments that provide context, and using cloud data to provide users with new insights. There are about a million practical pieces of advice to improve BI reporting, but I’ve polled the experts at arcplan who have been designing and implementing reports for companies all over the world for nearly 20 years, and this is our top 10 list. Let’s get into items 6 through 10:
6) Include unstructured data. Uncovering unexpected insights is the crown jewel of data analysis, and many companies are not tapping into the data sources that can provide them with this opportunity. By collecting and analyzing social media data, for example, alongside the rest of your corporate data, you get an enhanced view of the people who purchase (or don’t purchase) your products and services. Social data can help you spot early trends that can drive product development, product delivery, and marketing messaging.
7) Go mobile. Gartner predicts that by 2013, 33% of BI functionality will be consumed via handheld devices. Executives and road warriors are becoming increasingly comfortable with receiving reports on their smartphones and tablet PCs and are pushing for data access when they need it, wherever they need it. The easiest to push to mobile first are your existing reports, slightly redesigned to incorporate large fonts and easy finger navigation to facilitate drill-down. Mobile reports are not just about viewing data – interaction needs to be taken into account.
8) Empower users through self-service.