Birst Data Discovery

BI Solutions, Cloud BI, Data Visualization No Comments

Have just been watching a webinar replay “Data Discovery Beyond the Desktop” presented by Birst. Apart from looking like a very good  BI tool, I was impressed by their knowledge of data visualization principles. As most of you know, I have been rather outspoken about the poor design inherent in most dashboard and visualization tools provided by even tier 1 vendors. It’s such a relief to finally come across a vendor providing a data visualization tool that actually does understand how to format the presentation layer. Congratulations Birst. I was impressed – so just had to give your team a shout out 🙂

Suggest you check out the webinar:

3 Considerations for Mobile Dashboards

BI Theory, Dashboard Design, Mobile BI No Comments

I was just reading an interesting article on Harvard Business Review called The Future Isn’t About Mobile, It’s About Mobility. It prompted me to remind you that if you are designing dashboards not to fall into the trap of just replicating desktop dashboard for mobile. Users of mobile dashboards are experiencing the dashboard in quite different environments, and I am not just referring to the small device screen. It’s not about making desktop dashboards mobile – it is about understanding the specific needs of users during mobility.

Here are my top 4 considerations when designing mobile dashboards:

  1. Lighting conditions – vary considerably and this can be especially difficult for those starting to feel the effect of aging eyes, where the range of light in which they have clear visibility is far narrower than for someone without presbyopia. Design dashboard backgrounds and fonts for fast reading. This is often completely opposite to what one considers ideal design for desktop dashboards. Viewing white letters on a black background is often easier in bright light, than black letters of a white background – but in desktop we use the exact opposite. Subtle colors get washed out in bright lights – but are ideal for desktop etc
  2. Time constraints – often users have just a moment to quickly glance at a dashboard – they don’t have time to dig down three levels to get to the combination of information they need. I read recently [I would credit the source if i could remember] a great description of the difference between mobile and desktop dashboards where mobile dashboards are for leaning out [just glancing], whereas desktop dashboards are for leaning in for analysis
  3. Security – think carefully about storing data locally on mobile devices. If you remember the above, that mobile dashboards are not a lean-in activity, there is little reason for cached data. Doing so creates a security risk worthy of close consideration.

That’s it for me – there are many other considerations, but the main one is to not be tempted to just replicate the desktop to the mobile. As the HBR article says, its not about mobile, it’s about mobility.

Great Story for Mobile BI

Mobile BI No Comments

Wanted to share this great video on mobile BI – it is a quick 2 minute reminder of the essence of mobile BI – and I just love seeing someone draw freehand with level of skill


Key Reminders

  • Make users curious with new information on new devices
  • Mobile communications are only suited for companies that have 100% correct information every day
  • Need the right content for the device – and it still needs to be in context and from the right perspective for the user
  • A small screen is no excuse for not telling the best story
  • If your are going to provide interactivity through mobile devices, you need good security

BI Analytics – Force Multiplier or Transformative?

Analytics, BI Solutions, SAS No Comments

Just read an interesting blog by Leo Sadovoy on software used in business today. I liked his categorization that some software is merely a force multiplier – it helps to get the work done faster, using less people. Other software is transformative.

According to Leo, BI Analytics falls into the transformative category. Its non-linear, transformative characteristic that helps leaders transform their organizations, and may well concurrently change the business model and the rules of the game for their industry as well.

I agree.

Read Leo’s article

Mobile Making is Mark in Retail

Mobile BI No Comments

Mobile marketing and mobile POS is nothing new – what is new is the growing support by retail organizations to use mobile as a commercial and operational tool across a broad range of functions. A recent survey of retailers by research firm Aberdeen found that “while 13% of retailers are using mobile as an enterprise-wide commerce and operational tool, 63% of retailers plan to use mobile as an enterprise-wide tool for commerce and operations in the next two years”.

One of the key drivers appears to be the wide availability of tablets – making access to POS, stock locations, promotions, product information and a range of other retail operations anywhere in the store.

The back room is also experiencing an increase in use of mobile devices with activities such as customer support for cross-channel customer orders, access to in-store information, merchandise buying, procurement, inventory management, and marketing.

Dashboard Layout Flexibility

BI Solutions, Dashboards No Comments

One of the frustrating things about many dashboard development software programs is their rigid grid structure that constraints good dashboard design. One might be able to size portals to suit, but are burdened with set margins and spacings. Set grid patterns are a nightmare when you want to size and position KPI to demonstrate relative importance and interrelationships.

Line spacings are also a drag, along with limitations on font formatting – the whole line has to be the same font type, size, weight. This doesn’t work well if you have a dashboard chart title, with a subtitle that adds some required extra information. Read the rest…

MicroStrategy Business Intelligence In the Coud.

Cloud Computing, Microstrategy, on Demand BI No Comments

Being passionate about both BI and Cloud it’s exciting for me to see Microstrategy launch their Cloud-based BI solution. The platform is designed to support rapid development of business intelligence and mobile and social applications.

So just ho does MicroStrategy’s Cloud solution meet our expected features: Read the rest…

Tableau Leads the Field in Overall Success Magic Quadrant

Analyst Reports, BI Solutions No Comments

Gartners Magic Quadrant for BI reports have become the default quarterly benchmark for BI vendors to assess their products against their rivals. Following 3-4 years of consolidation in the BI market, 2010 was more noted for the ability of BI solutions to combine an ease of use and flexibility with meeting IT standards. This was an attempt to overcome the greatest objection to BI applications – their complexity and difficulty in use. Its not always an easy compromise to provide a ‘simple, easy to use’ solution that still has all the required functionality. This is where User Interface design really becomes the driver – and sadly, an area that many solutions, not just BI fall down. Read the rest…

BI Solution Leaders Getting A Push From Below

BI Market, BI Solutions, Cognos, Microsoft, Microstrategy, SAS No Comments

Since the BI Vendor shakedown a few years back where a raft of mergers saw the Big 3 [IBM, Oracle and SAP] take hold of the majority of the market, the BI Vendor assessment grid has been somewhat predictable. Things actually got a little bit boring there for a while, as these mega vendors worked through how to apply their in-house talent to make the best of breed third tier BI solutions even better. Fast forward to 2010 and we started to see things get stirred up a little more. Whilst the Big 3 were busy trying to out-do each other with maintaining BI Solution independence, yet merge it more successfully with their respective ERP solutions, a few other major contenders have pushed through the market from below.

Without doubt SAS Institute was always a close contender, and of more recent time Information Builders held a respectable position, MicroStrategy was building solid support for its elegant BI user interface and Microsoft managed to maintain a reasonable market position based more on its partner and vendor channel strength, rather than anything stunning about its applications.

In the recent (Q4, 2010) Forrester Wave vendor assessment, all of these four vendors are now seen as BI Solution leaders.
IBI, Microsoft, and MicroStrategy have solid implementation success with BI platforms.

IBI’s WebFOCUS reporting platform [predictive analytic, data quality, master data management, and light data visualization capabilities] together with its iWay data integration connectors provide a near full stack solution.

Microsoft has improved its solution recently with the launch of SQL Server 2008 R2, with a much improved version 3 ReportBuilder tool support for Excel and improved event processing. Whilst I continue to maintain that Excel is not a suitable BI tool – the solution does offer a midground option for those not yet financially committed to a full BI investment. The other obvious benefit of using a Microsoft solution is the integration and interoperability with the popular SharePoint portal. However it is not that difficult to integrate a third part BI solution into a portal. The other element of Microsoft is in Master Data Management [MDM] with its simple to implement Master Data Services platform working well in a BizTalk environment to offer a full Service-Oriented model for improvement in data quality management, orchestration and data governance.

I don’t quite share Forresters overall seeming ‘equality’ between this group of BI vendor solutions. Whilst each are still struggling to differentiate their products at a technical level, business users still struggle to get to grips with the user interfaces, and dashboard design is still very lacking in supporting good design principles and the more effective graphical elements. However, progress is refreshingly swift overall, considering the complexity of the overall solution. I just wish there would be one application level solution that had all the components I wanted.

I am looking forward to the IBM event in a couple of weeks to see the new Cognos 10 release. I have always been a supporter of Cognos, so enjoy catching up with the latest demos – I’ll post my findings following.

MicroStrategy Mobile for iPhone and iPad.

Microstrategy, Mobile BI No Comments

The use of BI on mobile expands the value and usability of hefty investment in business intelligence.  Mobile BI empowers executives, workforce, suppliers, and business partners with actionable information anywhere, anytime. This has proven to reduce decision-making time, streamlines business processes and enhance collaboration.

With the more recent powerful ap-phones and tablets that support GPS and large  touch screens, it is now easier than ever to query vast volumes of data quickly and precisely. The previous limitations of “small screen devices” and low processing power have been largely overcome. Enterprise reports and BI dashboards are now readily available to the iPhone and iPad – and such technologies will rapidly expand the business intelligence market.

MicroStrategy Mobile is a logical extension of business intelligence and is engineered to support higher demand for improved speed and scalability of mobile BI applications. Microstrategy claims implementation takes only a few days, with applications assembled in a point-and-click fashion and no coding required. iPhone and iPad-optimized displays and controls are readily deployable across multiple applications.

MicroStrategy Mobile infrastructure supports new mobile app, leaving application developers to focus on creating the user experience.  Using a metadata-driven design approach enables rapid, point-and-click portability of reports between platforms, including iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, web browsers, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Windows.

For more on Microstrategy Business Intelligence

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