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Analysts are predicting strong growth in mobile business intelligence. For example in their 2011 report, “Emerging Technology Analysis: Mobile Business Intelligence” Gartner predicted that 33% of BI functionality would be consumed via handheld device by 2013. Dresner Advisory Services in their 2012 study, Wisdom of Crowds Mobile Computing found that 70% of companies stated that more than 11% of their BI usage will be exclusively mobile by 2014. Whatever the number, there are compelling reasons for having access to your data anywhere but before you under take building a mobile dashboard you need to keep some principles in mind.

The mobile dashboard will only be seen as successful if it is widely adopted by the business users.  Business users have experience consuming iPad and iPhone applications in their personal life resulting in expectations of fast, simple and user-friendly applications on their mobile devices. So how does IT make sure they deliver a dashboard that will have a true connection to the everyday decisions that people need to make on the fly and be as appealing and engaging as any consumer iPad app?

The First Tip: Simplify and Aim for Only for Mobile Use Cases

Get behind the users eyes and understand how they are going to access and use the dashboard. In general the business user is going to be accessing their mobile device when standing rather than sitting down. This impacts the amount of data they really need or want to access – the mobile device dashboard doesn’t have to cover all angles as the business user is not likely to do more analysis type of activities on the go. Have conversations with your end users to determine exactly what information would provide business value on their device. Mobile devices have limited memory capacity and this limitation needs to be taken into account when designing your dashboard. Don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to build a dashboard that is all things to all people – this is definitely a situation where less is more. Start by focusing on a few key things that will add value to the user on the go and once you have that first success based on simplicity you can build on it.  The added benefit of this is that your dashboard will be faster and more stable.

 

The Second Tip: Using Fingers for Interactivity on an iPad

Think about how they are holding the iPad in a portrait or landscape position and therefore how they are going to interact with the dashboard.  How will they touch easily and comfortably the drop downs or buttons for interacting? If they use their thumbs to do so then perhaps the bottom left or right corner are where you would want to base the controls depending on what hand is dominate. If they use their finger, with which hand are they maintaining a good gripe on the iPad for easy interaction?

 

The user must find it simple and hassle free to engage with the Dashboard. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to get a menu or chart to drill down and having to tap multiple times with big fingers trying to make it work. To avoid this issue you should start with a minimum of 44 pixel size so your users can easily interact with drop down menus. This applies even to the size of charts – for example each bar needs to be large enough so by holding down on a bar the numbers appear.

                          Example of tooltips numbers                                                            

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          Example of interaction with drop down menu

photo 3.PNG

                                                   

A few specific tips for SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards:

  • Check for supported components and connectivity for mobile
  • Make sure to download SAP Business Objects Mobile 4.4 and onwards
  • Use the NOVA theme, it is the only one supported for mobile
  • Set the designer canvas size to the same as the iPad: 1024 x 768
  • Ensure you use only iOS supported fonts
  • Use efficient excel logic and review other performance tips to ensure you don’t overload the limited capacity of the device. Test performance early and often on device. 

To successfully build an engaging mobile dashboard – study your business user’s needs and focus on a 1 to 3 specific priority decisions that they need to make on the fly. Start with a small dashboard, turn it around quickly and on once you’ve got a well adopted, successful dashboard you can extend or build out from there.

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11 Comments

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  1. Rahul Muraleedharan

    Hi Anita Gibbings

     

    This is indeed a well written blog and informative too, congrats!

    Recently I happened to see a Mobile Dashboard developed by one of my collegues running on an Ipad and I was amazed at the look & feel of the UI and the quality of work. Mobile Dashboard are really the next big thing.

     

    Regards,

    Rahul MB

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  2. AVIK SANYAL

    Just to add, on a mobile device, use of graphs and images should be done smartly as the attention level on a mobile device is generally shorter than on a PC or a Mac. So as mentioned above, vital stats presented in a smarter way is an important thing to keep in mind while designing dashboards for mobile.

     

    Good blog!

     

    Thanks

    Avik

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  3. Colin Haig

    In some industries, like Retail, I’m noticing people are starting to really get it, when it comes to making usable dashboards for their colleagues. A broader audience needs to see these kinds of tips – will help adoption and improve the user experience. Thanks for this one!

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    1. Anita Gibbings Post author

      Colin,

      Glad you found this post useful. I’m hoping to find some customer stories to illustrate use cases like retail that everyone can learn and benefit from for future blog posts. If you know anyone who might be willing – send them my way.

       

      Best Regards,

      Anita

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  4. Mitesh Vijayvargiy

    Thanks Anita for sharing and I would like to share few of my views elaborating more on your points –

     

    • Screen Resolution / Responsive Design: It is important to consider which specific handheld device is going to be used by the Business Users. If there is a specific device, say iPad, then you have the fixed screen resolution for which you develop your Dashboards or screen content. But there might be a wide range of devices in use, say iPad, iPhone, other brand tablets and smart phones. When having a mix of devices, the UI might not be compatible with all variety of screen resolutions. In such a scenario, developing a responsive design is very important aspect.

     

    • Dashboard Testing: Using Dashboards on PC/Mac is different than using on handheld devices in a way that handheld device would use Wireless network for connectivity to server. This is one of the important aspects as network connectivity might not be good and consistent while Users are on move. Additionally, there might be variety of features in Dashboards like drill down, slice & dice, etc. which would depend on the source database and data workflow. Having said so, it is important to simulate this testing environment for multiple Users (load testing) as well as to test network performance on wireless networks (whichever the User would be using) to make sure the response time is optimal.

     

    • Options for Offline mode: There would be times when there might not be network connectivity and if Users still want to access Dashboards / reports on their handheld device, than there might be a need to view the Dashboards in an offline mode. For example, Sales Representatives might be using handheld devices for various reporting and they are always on the move. At times they might be travelling to distant locations where there might not be network connectivity or say poor connectivity. In such a scenario, it might be wise to have Dashboards / Reports available in offline mode. With this need, there come certain other considerations, like size of reports for offline availability as there is limited storage on handheld devices. Also there cannot be interactive Dashboards in offline mode.
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  5. Twain Taylor

    To add one more to Mitesh’s tips…

     

    Theme manager: Having themes for your mobile dashboards can make it a lot easier to customize a dashboard for a particular audience. Strategic dashboards differ from tactical dashboards. So, while a sales executive would want to access contact details, and customer profiles of his clients, a Sales VP would want to see charts about the sales pipeline. With a theme manager, you can easily build themes for each type of dashboard, and deploy them at scale.

     

    However, not many solutions support themes on mobile dashboards. RazorFlow, and Antivia are two HTML5 dashboard solutions that do themes.

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