Boost BI adoption rates with mobile delivery & collaboration, part 2


In the first part of this series, I wrote about how mobility of BI and collaboration combine to get the right information, in actionable sizes, to decision makers on the go. In this part, we look at what I consider to be both the big win and the big challenge of BI delivered to mobile devices: enticing interactive visuals and finding the right information. Then, we will conclude with how this quartet of capabilities (mobile BI, collaboration, interactive data visualizations and search) can truly drive greater adoption of BI across the enterprise.

Interactive data visualizations
People won’t readily use interfaces they don’t like, whether for aesthetic or usability reasons. Mobile dashboards deliver a more engaging user experience. A typical browser-based dashboard offers mouse-clicks for interaction. But touch-screen based visuals may be more inviting. The user experience of tapping a bar in a bar chart to drill into data is more intuitive and direct--and perhaps more inviting to the data consumer.

Think about a retail sales manager, Jack, who works for a sporting goods company, Orion Star. From a Roambi Trends view on his iPad, Jack can quickly spot high- and lesser-performing areas, either by product line or geography. And without coding or selecting dates from a drop down, he can touch, pinch and slide to view performance data for a specific interval, as shown in the figure below.

To see this in action, visit the Roambi for SAS page and choose the demo link in the right most column. This is at 07:30 in the video

Inviting interaction is key. With traditional business intelligence, you typically have reports delivered either via Web or to a Dashboard, occasionally via a link in Email. Someone who knows the data has determined what you need to pay attention to. But with so many emerging data sources—social media, merging operational and transactional data streams, unstructured data—there may be valuable insights not foreseen by the report designer. Engaging visuals invite discovery. But where to look? That’s where Search comes in.

We are drowning in data. The volumes are ever increasing; the data is becoming more complex as new sources emerge, and its coming faster, with some sources in real-time. When we need to find information, we often turn to search. In her book, Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App, Cindi Howson states that the average manager spends 2 hours per day just looking for data, and half of that data is later determined to be useless.

The challenge with traditional BI is that search may be limited to structural elements of the data—the row and column headings, the data set names—but it may not include the contents of the data itself. The frustration of not being able to readily find data you need to support decisions can be a detriment to making fact-based decisions. Some niche vendors provide excellent add-on search capability to augment limited choices in some enterprise tools for the desktop. But for mobile, it’s essential that be search built in, directly where you’re working and available while you are on task.

In this example, I searched my Roambi library for reports containing the text “Michigan.” Even though the text does not appear in the title, I was able to easily locate the report I needed for medical costs by state.

Figure 2: Searching Roambi library for text contained within report.

As the volume of material available on the mobile devices grows – and with the costs associated with connectivity – being able to quickly find what you’re looking for is essential to user satisfaction with mobile BI deployments.

For two decades, the business intelligence enterprise adoption rate (the number of employees actually consuming the BI data compared to the number who could be using it to drive better business) has covered near 30%. Consider the substantial resources invested (money, time, people). One of the reasons most often cited for low adoption is uninviting or complex user interfaces. Mobile BI apps that are intuitive and attractive can draw users in. What can keep them there is proven value—enabling group decisions, being able to find desired data. If you can widen the pool of those consuming your BI data, you can expand the shared vision and involve more. By getting key indicators and near-real-time data to more employees, companies can better work across divisions to align to corporate strategies.

Much of mobile BI is still cool and fun. I would very interested to learn what use cases you’ve encountered and the value they’ve proven.

Cindi Howson. Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App. McGraw Hill: New York, NY. 2007.

Roambi product site.

Best practices for using Roambi Trends view described in Ryan Goodman’s blog.

Interactive Data Visualization also by Ryan Goodman.

Roambi™ ES for SAS®: mobile BI delivered instantly on BlackBerry, Apple® devices  


About Author

Lisa Pappas

global product marketing specialist

Lisa Pappas is currently a global product marketing specialist for SAS, focusing on business intelligence and data visualization. While in SAS Research and Development, she led SAS’ accessibility initiative, developing strategies to assess and improve conformance of SAS products to international standards for accessibility (accessibility means usability of technology by people with disabilities). Before joining SAS, Lisa's career in the software industry included engineering project management, web design and development, and technical communication of various genres. She has authored several papers, articles, and scholarly chapters on accessibility, information architecture, and web usability. She was a contributing editor on the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Application (WAI-ARIA) specification. An associate fellow of the Society for Technical Communication (STC), she has received several STC awards including Distinguished Technical Communication in the International Online Communication Competition (1999). A native of North Carolina, Lisa earned her Master of Science in Technical Communication from N.C. State University, with a thesis on socio-linguistics. She is an advocate of public education and volunteers with a charter high school and animal rescue organization.

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