From conversations with SAP customers and from the buzz at the recent ASUG SAP BusinessObjects User Conference in Anaheim, it seems that the mobile (HTML5) capability which was added to SAP Dashboards in SP5, late last year, is finally gaining momentum as increasing number of organizations are planning to deliver their dashboards out to iPads and Android devices.
However, if you are thinking of heading down this route then from projects we have already been involved with there are three things to be wary of (over and above a normal Dashboards implementation).
1) Interactivity is even more important
We have been preaching the value of interactive dashboards for a long time now, but the migration to mobile places dashboard interactivity front and center. Once you make a dashboard available on an iPad or other tablet device, your users will judge your dashboard against the other apps they use on their device. These other apps, almost without exception, are interactive.
Whether it is a banking app, a train timetable app, a stock portfolio app or one of thousands of others, the de facto standard is to be able to navigate over a range of related information to gain a complete insight into the task at hand. And, dashboards which are restricted to providing a static overview of the current situation stick out like a sore thumb against all that interactive content.
2) Poor tap-to-tap performance is more than just frustrating
Business information usually comes in significantly greater volumes than personal information. So, whilst it is possible to get away with refreshing data on the fly for an updated weather forecast or for the next 10 transactions in your bank account, business information is a different matter. Not only are data volumes higher, but the questions end-users ask tend to be more free–flowing (I wonder what that looks like in or other geographies, how does that breakdown by region, or by product, …). And, on a poor network, trying to refresh data each time one of these questions occurs results in a user experiance which is frustrating at best and unusable at worst.
Mobile interactive dashboards which don’t provide consistent click-to-click (or rather tap-to-tap) response times, because they are constantly round-tripping to fetch more data from the server, are destined to fall into disuse.
3) Access to offline data is essential
If information is useful then it must be available all the time.
Imagine how irritating it would be if neither your calendar nor your email stored data locally on your mobile device. Not only would this mean frustratingly slow performance over the network, but it would also mean that this information was unavailable when you are off network (e.g. while travelling or visiting a far-flung customer without a guest network, for example). This is why all calendar and email applications (amongst many others) cache data on the mobile device, so that you can continue to work whilst offline.
Mobile dashboards need to do the same thing, allowing end–users to view, navigate and interact with their dashboards independent of connectivity back to corporate servers. And, as you would expect these issues are magnified all the more for the typically senior users who are the targets of mobile dashboard roll-outs.