Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
A Roadmap for Success




A White Paper

      by Rado Kotorov, Ph.D.
Rado Kotorov   Rado Kotorov, technical director of strategic product management for
               Information Builders, i...
Table of Contents
  1    Executive Overview


  2    Mobile Reporting – The Time Is Now
  2    Multifunctional Mobile Devi...
Executive Overview

     How organizations deliver and disseminate information is on the cusp of a new era. Several
     t...
Mobile Reporting – The Time Is Now

     The stars have aligned for mobile reporting. Technological, sociological, and eco...
this trend continues business is driven to evolve. Google, for example, recognized the increased
use of mobile devices as ...
No Barriers to Acceptance

     The paradox of mobile computing is that business – motivated by the desire to increase pro...
The Right Technology

     As with non-mobile applications, there are currently two predominant architectures that support...
Thin-Client Deployments
Thin-client – also known as pure browser-based – architectures rely entirely on Web technologies
t...
Secure, Accessible Content

     Providing mobile access to enterprise applications on small, sometimes personal, devices ...
Sometimes more security is required. Since data can be stored on a device, if the device is stolen
the information can be ...
Segments Promote Personalization

     Segmentation – breaking content into subsets relevant to different user groups – is...
This feature works in the same way that the My Favorites folder works (which works as any Favorites
folder in any browser ...
Design Considerations

     Report design, always important, is even more significant for mobile devices. Small displays a...
Mobile Analytics

     Making static reports, alerts, and other business indicators available on a mobile device is a gian...
Figure 10: The iPhone’s large screen makes viewing dashboard content easier.


Active Dashboards can be distributed to any...
Conclusion

     How an organization approaches mobile BI will inevitably impact the health of the entire
     enterprise....
Sales and Consulting Offices
North America                                             Europe                             ...
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Transcript of "Mobile reporting 2010 07 information builder"

  1. 1. Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting A Roadmap for Success A White Paper by Rado Kotorov, Ph.D.
  2. 2. Rado Kotorov Rado Kotorov, technical director of strategic product management for Information Builders, is responsible for emerging reporting, analytic, and visualization technologies. He is driving the adoption of RIA, AJAX, search, and other Web 2.0 and mobile technologies to make BI and enterprise analytics more accessible, intuitive, and collaborative. Active Reports, Magnify, and Power Painter are just a few of the applications created through his efforts. Prior to joining Information Builders he was chief financial officer with responsibilities in IMS and IT at DeBacker Management LLC. He was also BI Director at CMI Marketing, where he managed the implementation of BI and financial reporting solutions, data warehouses, and custom applications. Mr. Kotorov has developed analytic models and applications for the pharmaceutical, retail, CPG, financial, and automotive industries. He has a Ph.D. in decision and game theory, and economics from Bowling Green State University and has published on business processes, emerging technologies, CRM, KM, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
  3. 3. Table of Contents 1 Executive Overview 2 Mobile Reporting – The Time Is Now 2 Multifunctional Mobile Devices 2 Consistent User Experience 3 Improvements in Productivity 4 No Barriers to Acceptance 4 Standard Development Technologies 4 Rapid End-User Adoption 5 The Right Technology 5 Thick-Client Deployments 6 Thin-Client Deployments 7 Secure, Accessible Content 9 Segments Promote Personalization 9 User Segments for Tailored Mobile BI 9 Customize Content 11 Design Considerations 12 Mobile Analytics 12 BI on the Fly 12 Dashboards for Everyone 14 Conclusion
  4. 4. Executive Overview How organizations deliver and disseminate information is on the cusp of a new era. Several technological, sociological, and economic factors have converged to create a viral environment primed for the rapid adoption of mobile computing. Among them are: I Widespread adoption of multifunctional mobile devices, known as smartphones I Interchangeable browser interfaces on mobile devices and laptop computers I Improvements in productivity as workers make better use of their time The analyst community – recognizing these factors – believes that all applications should now be mobile-enabled by default.1 On the forefront of this trend are mobile business intelligence (BI) solutions. Yet, like any emerging technology, delivering on the promise of mobile BI poses risks, such as: I Which technology will best suit an organization’s needs? I Will the new technologies complement existing investments or render them obsolete? I Will users flock to the new solution or flee from it? I What is the total cost of ownership (TCO)? Answering these questions requires a complete view of the technological landscape and an understanding of mobile BI users. This paper helps by identifying key issues, highlighting paramount considerations, and mapping the necessary steps to successfully implementing a mobile BI reporting solution. 1 Gartner Symposium. October 2007. 1 Information Builders
  5. 5. Mobile Reporting – The Time Is Now The stars have aligned for mobile reporting. Technological, sociological, and economic factors have all come together to support the next phase of information delivery and dissemination. Multifunctional Mobile Devices On the technological front, mobile phones have evolved way beyond merely enabling voice communications. People now use their mobile phones to send and receive e-mail, take pictures, listen to music, watch movies, play games, and – most significantly for the topic of mobile reporting – connect to the Internet. As handheld devices become more powerful the list of supported applications increases. Assurance of this trend’s staying power is demonstrated in the fact that voice-only phones are disappearing from the market. A recent run down of the new cell phones being introduced by leading vendors – including Nokia, Motorola, HP, and LG – shows that basic units with only voice-calling capabilities are virtually nonexistent.2 Consistent User Experience From a sociological perspective, users are becoming more comfortable with their phone’s ergonomics and multitude of features, and are using them as full-functioning mobile computers. Phones and laptops are becoming interchangeable. Initial evidence of this convergence is the large volume of e-mails sent from BlackBerrys and other mobile Windows-enabled smartphones, as well as the proliferation of CRM mobile applications. Also, phones have an advantage over laptops because they can be carried anywhere and used anytime – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They don’t require mobile hot spots or other Internet connections and with Bluetooth they can be easily connected to printers and other peripherals making almost the entire office portable. Figure 1: Mobile devices are way more then just phones – rapidly replacing laptops as tools for users on the go. Mobile browsers now provide the same functionality of desktop Web browsers so users get a consistent experience regardless of device. More people are searching the Web, reading news, watching streamed TV, accessing Web applications, and making transactions on their phone. As 2 Info-Tech Research Group. “Corporate Mobile Phones Purchasing Survey.” August 2006. 2 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
  6. 6. this trend continues business is driven to evolve. Google, for example, recognized the increased use of mobile devices as a medium for Web browsing and made its search tool and productivity applications (Google Apps) available on mobile phones, setting the benchmark for usability. Smartphones are also forcing a shift in the paradigm of how information technology (IT) groups work. There are currently 1.5 billion phones in use around the world. By 2011 half of the world’s population will have mobile phones – 50 percent of which will be smartphones.3 This change clearly indicates that enterprises have to embrace smartphones as a primary form of communication. IT groups – for the first time in their history – have to adapt to consumer requirements instead of dictating their own agenda. If consumers can now access their Gmail on phones, why not access corporate apps too? Improvements in Productivity Economic gains from enabling mobile reporting are irrefutable. Currently one out of seven e-mail users is also a mobile e-mail user, having a BlackBerry or another smartphone.4 Early adopters, mainly executives, have seen measurable increases in productivity by being able to: I Work during times otherwise wasted, such as while waiting at airports and before meetings I Respond immediately to urgent messages I Be available to and connected with other key decision-makers 24/7 Gains in productivity outweigh the expense of mobile devices and applications – an estimated fixed cost of $2,500 per mobile user. A low-cost mobile BI solution that does not require additional infrastructural investments such as WebFOCUS Mobile Favorites from Information Builders drives up the per-user return on investment (ROI). Furthermore, as mobile computing spreads through the ranks to all employees, the ROI increases exponentially. Figure 2: For an increasingly mobile workforce, the value of instant access to information outweighs other inconveniences such as screen and keyboard size. 3 Jones, Nick. “The Mobile Scenario.” Gartner Symposium. October 2007. 4 Wipro. “Mobile Device Platforms: TCO Comparison of Enterprise Mobile Solutions.” May 2007. 5 Jones, Nick. “The Mobile Scenario.” Gartner Symposium. October 2007. 3 Information Builders
  7. 7. No Barriers to Acceptance The paradox of mobile computing is that business – motivated by the desire to increase productivity – historically encouraged the adoption of new technologies. In the case of moving applications to mobile phones, information consumers are driving the trend. Users are already accustomed to very advanced phones, which means that a technology adoption barrier to mobile BI is practically nonexistent. According to Gartner analysts Steve Kleynhans, “Most IT organizations are ill prepared to deal with this new environment in which users drive technology.”6 IT groups are often (and in many cases justifiably) leery of new technologies. Knowing the difficulties inherent in implementing unproven solutions, many would prefer to wait for other companies to provide successful case studies with clear user benefits. Yet, waiting until this technology becomes mainstream means missing out on years of productivity gains. WebFOCUS Mobile Favorites allow you to leverage existing report design and distribution tech- nologies to jumpstart a mobile BI initiative. Using this approach, many organizations are surprised to discover that implementing mobile BI may be easier than expected. With Mobile Favorites, for example, you can rapidly create a pilot program simply by setting existing reports to be delivered as mobile reports. Standard Development Technologies Reuse of existing report-design and development techniques – with no additional learning required – is the easiest way for developers to accommodate mobile BI initiatives. Mobile Favorites, for example, uses WebFOCUS Developer Studio for report development, the Business Intelligence Dashboard for management, display, and security of mobile content, and WebFOCUS ReportCaster for distribution of reports via e-mail. WebFOCUS shops already have these tools in place as part of their existing BI strategy. Thus BI reporting is easy to migrate to mobile devices. Rapid End-User Adoption Early implementation of a new technology often fails because the novelty of the solution intimidates users. Yet, if users are already familiar with both the device and the report format this is not a concern. Also, early adopters of mobile technologies have become role models. The first mobile devices – most notably BlackBerrys – were given to decision-makers in important managerial roles and have become highly coveted, status-bolstering tools. Leveraging this perception guarantees an almost instant acceptance of mobile reporting. For an increasingly mobile workforce, the value of instant access to information outweighs other inconveniences such as screen and keyboard size. Decision-makers know this and are inclined to maximize use of the device and application. The frequency of business travel among executives and other front-end users, for example, makes them appreciative of access to information and more tolerant of device shortcomings. Mobile reporting is in users’ self-interest and they are willing to make trade offs to get the information they need, when they need it. 6 Kleynhans, Steve. “Client Computing Scenario: Creating an Environment for Tomorrow’s Business Realities.” Gartner Symposium. October 2007. 4 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
  8. 8. The Right Technology As with non-mobile applications, there are currently two predominant architectures that support mobile BI deployments: the thin-client and thick-client approaches. To determine which better aligns with strategic and tactical goals, consider the following overviews. Thick-Client Deployments This approach requires IT to install software on each mobile device and maintain separate servers to manage the interactions with the device and/or the conversion of content. (See Figure 3.) The diversity of operating systems (OS) – all of which require unique client-side software – makes this approach difficult to maintain. Mobile Application Mobile Reporting Mobile Server Server Server Server Report Server Application Database Database Figure 3: An architectural overview of thick- and thin-client deployments. The benefit of this approach – used by Cognos and Business Objects – is that it gives IT control over the content display,7 and is good for organizations that have standardized on a relatively small number of mobile devices. But be forewarned, standardization mitigates some content-display problems but doesn’t eliminate them. Newer devices generally have different operating systems. Standardization is also difficult to achieve in far-flung global or national enterprises because every region has different service providers. 7 Control over the display was needed for first generation mobile browsers since they were rudimentary. Today’s browsers are much more advanced. 5 Information Builders
  9. 9. Thin-Client Deployments Thin-client – also known as pure browser-based – architectures rely entirely on Web technologies to deliver mobile applications. No additional technology investment is required and there is no risk of client-side software becoming obsolete. With a lower TCO, specific benefits include: I No additional servers needed I No client-side software upgrade costs One solution, WebFOCUS Mobile Favorites (see Figure 4), also offers the benefit of being device agnostic – any device with Web access can be used. Figure 4: From any Web-enabled device users can access their Mobile Favorites folder and easily navigate to BI content. Remember though, all content cannot be delivered to all browsers. But differences are diminishing rapidly. There is a race to deliver the greatest improvements in browser capabilities reminiscent of the Internet Explorer/Netscape war in the mid-90s. As consumers change phones and service providers they want a consistent user experience. With the release of the iPhone, Apple, Inc. – with its proven record in identifying lasting consumer trends – has upped the ante by leveraging a Web- based browser to deliver all applications. For organizations averse to undue technology risks, conscious of costs, and sensitive to users’ preferences, a pure browser-based approach is more appropriate than a thick-client approach. Used by Information Builders and consistent with the company’s overall strategy to deliver thin-client applications and development tools – it offers the most extensible solution. Phones and mobile browsers will continue to evolve. With a thin-client approach in place, organizations will be able to deliver more and more applications and content without having to change their underlying infrastructure. Proven to be low cost and extremely scalable, this approach makes content reusable across all computers and devices. A significant benefit when you consider the trend of moving away from one-use devices. 6 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
  10. 10. Secure, Accessible Content Providing mobile access to enterprise applications on small, sometimes personal, devices poses security challenges. IT can enhance security by controlling user options, standardizing on particular devices, and locking applications and mobile phones. But this approach severely limits user independence and increases management costs. Security should not become a deterrent for enabling BI applications on mobile devices. A key factor in the success of a mobile BI initiative is user adoption. If an application is too cumbersome or time-consuming to access, users will find other ways to get the information they need. Usually this means waiting until they are back in the office, which hurts productivity, or contacting someone who can get the information they need. Mobile BI application security should not make it more difficult for users to access reports than it would be to access information in e-mails received on the mobile device. Standard authentication methods achieve this level of security. From an architectural perspective, this means placing mobile BI applications behind the firewall. Analogous to current Web-security models, some devices automatically put the user behind the firewall while others require connections via a virtual protocol network (VPN). In both cases it is important to provide an easy login process. Information Builders’ solution, for example, sends users an e-mail when content is in their My Mobile Favorites folder. From a link in the e-mail, users launch the mobile login page to authenticate themselves. (See Figure 4.) The authentication is stored on the device to identify returning users thereby providing the same ease of use delivered in Web browsers. Users can now bookmark their Mobile Favorites launch page to easily access it. On the back end, standard administrative capabilities are in place to manage the authentication frequency and comply with security policies. When the Web cookie expires, users are prompted to re-authenticate their credentials. Figure 5: E-mails alert users of BI content and provide a link to a login page. 7 Information Builders
  11. 11. Sometimes more security is required. Since data can be stored on a device, if the device is stolen the information can be compromised. Client-based mobile reporting accommodates this by requiring users to log in each time they access the application. However, since the data is stored on the device, if the authentication is broken the data can be fully accessed. Web-based applications, on the other hand, do a better job at minimizing this risk. An administrator can change or deny access to an application immediately upon notification that the device is missing. Since the data is not stored on the device it cannot be compromised. If there is a special requirement to store the data on the device, as will be the case with e-mail attachments, Information Builders’ solutions offer an additional layer of security through encrypted Active Reports. The user will be required to enter their credentials and, once authenticated, the data will be decrypted within the browser. The browser-based decryption prevents unauthorized access if the report is accidentally forwarded or the device is stolen. Figure 6: Information Builders’ solutions offer an additional layer of security through encrypted Active Reports. 8 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
  12. 12. Segments Promote Personalization Segmentation – breaking content into subsets relevant to different user groups – is absolutely necessary for early adoption of emerging services and products. Most organizations have diverse groups of users, multiple BI applications, and a multitude of BI content, including static reports, interactive charts and graphs, and ad hoc capabilities. Getting the right information to the right users is critical to bolstering user adoption. To do this, organizations must identify their user segments and quickly enable the solution. User Segments for Tailored Mobile BI The first step in providing end users with information personalized to their needs is to break users into segments based on their attitude toward and acceptance of mobile devices. Then the BI reports and applications can be tailored to each segment. The type of personalized content each segment wants can then be outlined based on familiarity and comfort using the devices (segment) and how they access and interact with the content (BI skill). Four main segments are: I Nay-sayers, who will deny the benefits of mobile BI and resist its implementation – the screen will be too small, the keyboard ergonomically inconvenient, and the whole application too slow; their use of the mobile device is limited to e-mail and voice communication. Nay-sayers are most likely to use BI content provided to them via e-mail text messages; WebFOCUS alert capabilities and inline reporting, which puts data within a sentence in an e-mail, will meet their needs. I Minimalists, who will use information delivered to mobile devices either as an attachment or as a Web page but are not likely to navigate complex reports or interact with the data; Minimalists want static reports that fit within their device’s screen and require minimal navigation; Mobile Favorites gives access to this information and provides triggers to get reports via e-mail, which are consumable even when the device is not in wireless mode. I Personalizers, who want control over content and will choose which reports are delivered and in what formats; to capture their interest, provide easy-to-use management capabilities. Personalizers can control content from mobile-enabled business intelligence dashboards; here, they also select preferred formats, including Excel and PDF (if their device supports it) I Enthusiasts, who are likely to be both technically and analytically savvy will engage with BI content as well as consume and manage it. Enthusiasts want the full power of BI on their mobile device; with Developer Studio it is possible to offer parameterized reports, analytic reports, analytic dashboards, interactive charts and graphs, and multiple navigation tabs Customize Content Information Builders has taken a consumer-oriented approach to content management – give the advanced user full control over it but also allow administrators to manage it for the less savvy segments. Our solution provides new functionality to support mobile BI and gives users freedom to manage content while leveraging their existing knowledge. By extending our standard dashboard environment users manage their mobile BI content through the My Mobile Favorites folder. 9 Information Builders
  13. 13. This feature works in the same way that the My Favorites folder works (which works as any Favorites folder in any browser ) and allows users to customize what they see on their mobile device. Since there is no difference between My Favorites and My Mobile Favorites in how reports are added or the types of reports available no additional training is required. Any report can be placed in to the My Mobile Favorites folder. While some reports cannot be rendered on every mobile device, placing restrictions on what users can do may prevent them from using supported reports. This approach allows users to grow their mobile folders as they update and upgrade their devices, browsers, and applications. While the full freedom is most beneficial to mobile enthusiasts, for Minimalists who may not customize their My Mobile Favorites folders, content can be administratively managed on their behalf. In a mixed push/pull approach an administrator pushes content to the folders but the user retrieves it. This helps transition shy mobile users to the new technology and makes them more active and self-sufficient. Figure 7: From the Mobile Favorites launch page, users can run any report that is placed in their dashboard’s Mobile Favorites folder. 10 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
  14. 14. Design Considerations Report design, always important, is even more significant for mobile devices. Small displays and keyboards place significant constraints on the user’s ability to manipulate content. This shortfall can be compensated for with better design, which is what has made the iPhone so successful. Information Builders leverages all existing WebFOCUS development tools to deliver content to mobile devices. While there are design considerations specific to the mobile devices, there are no new development methodologies, templates, or tools to learn. WebFOCUS developers can design and deliver mobile applications without any additional training. The following consideration will help counter the small-form factor: I Use Post-it Notes as a template – if the report fits on a Post-it, it will fit on any device (see Figure 8); single-screen reports eliminate navigation I Long is better than wide – vertical scrolling is easier for the end user since context is lost in horizontal scrolling; for example if columns on the left contain categories and columns on the right contain numbers, users will not be able to tell what the numbers refer to as the categories move off the screen (this consideration is less important for browsers with an advanced zoom function, such as Safari or Opera) I If you are delivering wider reports to browsers with zooming capabilities, color-code distinct information areas I Drill-downs are better than surfing – present the information in small chunks instead of on large pages that don’t display on a small screen I Parameterize reports to deliver only the information that is needed – selecting a few parameters is easier than navigating a large report I Scorecard charts are loaded with information – packing a lot of information in a small space and displaying beautifully color-coded symbols, they can present multiple variables on the same chart and tell a full story that otherwise would require three or four charts (see Figure 9) Figure 8: Small, concise reports fit best on Figure 9: Scorecard reports are ideal since they mobile devices. pack a lot of information into a small space. 11 Information Builders
  15. 15. Mobile Analytics Making static reports, alerts, and other business indicators available on a mobile device is a giant step forward in productivity, but decisions are rarely made based on this information alone. To realize the full potential of a mobile business intelligence solution, users need to be able to perform analytics. BI on the Fly True analytics – the foundation of sound decision-making – takes place when users are able to explore BI content to identify trends, uncover anomalies, and discover hidden truths. Actionable reports, which include data and interactive capabilities bound together in a single file, enable this type of analysis. Information Builders enables portable analytics with WebFOCUS Active Reports (see Figure 8). This solution delivers reports to mobile devices with supporting data and relevant content in a single, self-contained HTML file that can be manipulated into diverse permutations. Users can perform analysis and forward their findings without any network or device constraints. This paradigm improves efficiency, facilitates collaborative decision-making, and positively impacts the entire enterprise by: I Minimizing the number of report requests sent to IT – users have the ability to access and manipulate the underlying data on their own I Reducing network traffic – data can be transformed again and again, without repeated connections and reports can be manipulated while in disconnected mode I Simplifying distribution – sophisticated reports can be packaged and sent to anyone, including people outside the firewall I Expanding analysis – the easy to use interface encourages analysis by individuals not highly skilled with spreadsheets Dashboards for Everyone The sheer volume of information available, however, means users risk information overload. Dashboards have emerged as a concise way to visualize information. Instead of analyzing multiple reports and the relationships between them, a dashboard offers an analytical perspective. All relationships and associated measures are presented in a single, prepackaged view. The key obstacle to mass use of mobile dashboards is the small screen on the device as well as the requirement to be connected to the dashboard infrastructure. Two trends are changing this: Better, larger screens with higher resolution are becoming popular, as on the iPhone, HP hybrid devices, and Nokia business phones. And, better browsers with advanced zoom functions, touch screen navigation, and interaction enhancers – such as zoom drop boxes for easier selection – display content in a useful way similar to dashboard displays. 12 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
  16. 16. Figure 10: The iPhone’s large screen makes viewing dashboard content easier. Active Dashboards can be distributed to anyone – on any device – either via e-mail, via the My Mobile Favorites launch page or by posting them on the Web, and users can interact with them online or offline. This robust and scale free distribution model benefits the entire enterprise by: I Improving user experience and enhancing decision-making – intuitive and easy to use reports are consolidated into a single interactive view and displayed in the format of their choice I Guaranteeing a single version of the truth – updated versions of the dashboard are distributed on a scheduled basis I Scaling to unlimited numbers of users – interactions are self-contained so a virtually unlimited number of concurrent users can analyze information in the portal environment, both inside and outside the firewall 13 Information Builders
  17. 17. Conclusion How an organization approaches mobile BI will inevitably impact the health of the entire enterprise. With more and more employees traveling and working remotely they are driving the trend and changing the face of business communications. Information Builders offers a unique, extensible solution that is: I Compliant with emerging mobile technology trends I Low cost since additional hardware is not required I Customizable to meet the BI reporting needs of all users I Easy to deploy by leveraging existing development and deployment skills I Robust enough to continue to meet mobile reporting needs even as devices and browsers become more advanced Organizations that meet the demand for mobile BI will benefit from maximized productivity by enabling users to get the information they need wherever they are, both while connected to enterprise resources and when wireless connections are unavailable. Organizations will also experience an increased return on investments in mobile devices and BI applications. 14 Mobile Business Intelligence Reporting
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