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Steve Lucas fired off a couple of great blogs today (one on Forbes AdVoice, one on the Business Analytics blog) about the roadmap of Mobile Business Intelligence at SAP.

Among the highlights? All of the methods to deliver Mobile BI going forward, including:

  • Structured: SAP BusinessObjects Mobile (which is basically stripped down Webi on the iPad — pretty cool with Crystal to come someday).
  • Semi-structured: SAP BusinessObjects Explorer (which I’m in love with) and Exploration Views (which I will be in love with as soon as I get my hot little hands on it). Can’t wait to start hearing “high-definition analytics” in keynotes.
  • Completely open: Not much is public about this, but it’ll be a way for you to build analytic apps (and if SAP is smart, a way to build analytic apps that allow you to make and record decisions via some sort of write-back).
  • Back-doored: We finally have confirmation that there is an HTML5 version of Xcelsius on the horizon (which should totally be branded as ‘Xcel5ius’, or maybe ‘Dashboard De5ign’ which would have to be pronounced ‘Dashboard Define’). 

And those are just the SAP ones. There are also Roambi, GMaps Mobile, whatever Antivia is working on at present, and probably a host of others. And there are the Excel spreadsheets and pdf files that you can currently schedule from Webi or Crystal or otherwise just put into your current Infoview portal but that should be accessible from your mobile device. And of course there is also Streamwork which allows us to talk about our BI. 

That’s a lot of different apps, but I think we might be missing the most important app of all, and that is the Mobile BI Portal Application (which would no doubt be cleverly called ‘Mobile BI Portal Application Edition for iPad’). Basically an Infoview for the mobile device, something you can search through or allows you to browse your content by subject matter or functional role. We’d want to hide anything you can’t actually use on the device, but other than that, why wouldn’t we have a BI portal that would show you all of your available information spaces or scheduled Crystal Reports pdfs or Mobile BI reports or a Roambi visualization. Once you’ve clicked on one that you like, it opens up the appropriate app for viewing. And if it all “just works” by using your existing Infoview folder structure and security, all the better.

I would not be surprised if this idea has already come up at SAP and they’ve said “leave it to the ecosystem,” but I believe that would be a missed opportunity because this should be such a quick win and it really drives up the value of BI Mobile Services (assuming the connectivity would be bundled in with that license) because you wouldn’t necessarily have to have any Mobile-specific content created to expose scheduled pdfs to mobile users (which would be, in and of itself, a huge win for mobile adoption). It would also entice folks to invest in the other Mobile content types (Explorer, etc.) because they’d have what they need on the go, and it would make them want a more native experience.

In my experience, end users care very little about what app was used to create a report or visualization, but they care about what information is on it. The current mobile paradigm is very app-centric, but I think that if we really want mobile BI to be quickly adopted, we need to remain information-centric.

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5 Comments

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  1. Sylvia Santelli
    I think anytime we can take a minimalist approach and simplify our process, how we retrieve information, we all win.

    Thanks for the perspective (hope the right people are listening!)

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  2. Dallas Marks
    Jamie, I’m with you on mobile browser support.

    Steve Lucas’ recent mobile strategy statements accused Apple of wanting control as a rationale behind the existance of mobile apps. But the original iPhone shipped in 2007 with a browser-only third-party app strategy that was widely criticized at the time. Apps and the SDK to power them didn’t arrive until a year later in iPhone OS 2.0 (now known as iOS). So it’s not Apple strategy that’s forcing vendors like SAP down the app path instead of the browser path.

    Since SAP BusinessObjects has supported the Apple Safari browser on the Macintosh for many years, it seems perfectly reasonable to extend that support to iOS.  This support should theoretically extend easily to other mobile devices, since a majority of mobile browsers are based on the same WebKit that underpins Safari.

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    1. Former Member Post author
      Clearly Apple didn’t have an existing App community when the first iPhone came out (heck, Blackberry still doesn’t), but to say that they didn’t jump on the opportunity when presented or to infer that they have coddled it since they first could would seem to me to be a little naive. I mean, I don’t remember seeing any “There’s a mobile optimized website for that” commercials.

      That said, I’m not sure why Mobile browsers haven’t started making it to the supported platform sheets, except of course that theirs more money in selling the apps that giving you something under a “support” umbrella that you’ve already paid for.

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  3. Dallas Marks
    I’ve also wondered if SAP will resurrect the Xcelsius brand to smooth ruffled feathers in the community while reserving the name “Dashboard” for a mobile-ready future product.
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