APRIL 2015 UPDATE
SQL Server Enterprise Edition customers with version 2008 or later and Software Assurance are freely entitled to the Datazen Server mobile BI software at no additional cost. See Microsoft Official Announcement and Downloads
Did you know that you could potentially double the success of BI adoption in your company by delivering reports to mobile devices? I did not until last year when I saw the BI adoption research shared by Cindi Howson. In her 2014 findings, “BI adoption as a percentage of employees remains flat at 22%, but companies that have successfully deployed mobile BI show the highest adoption at 42% of employees.” Thus if you deliver BI, you’d better take mobile BI seriously.
Loyal readers may already recognize that I am a bit of a mobile BI fanatic. Over the years I have shared all sorts of cool and crazy ways to mobilize BI content. I literally was playing with WAP 1.0 (Wireless Application Protocol) and ancient Windows Pocket PC back in late 90s/early 2000 timeframe. Report consumers don’t want to stare at their computers all day long while chained to desks nor do they have the ability to do that in many professions. To reach the largest information audiences, I often used push subscription models in my projects. Those were great for gaining initial report availability awareness but over time I found recurring emails would get ignored. However if I made reporting available on demand from anywhere on any device, I noticed more folks logging in when and where they had a spare moment to see their metrics (especially executives).
In the next few months I will share several newer options that I have not reviewed here before including other third-party mobile BI apps like Forerunner SW, latest Datazen (formerly Component Art shown in my 2012 Mobile BI session) and more for various different deployment environments.
New Microsoft Native Mobile BI Apps
To kick off this series, I am thrilled to introduce Microsoft’s native Power BI mobile apps.
In December 2014, a new native iPad app for the HTML5-friendly Microsoft Power BI Preview was released. Several weeks later, an iPhone mobile app was also rolled out. These apps are freely available for download today in the Apple App Store. The mobile apps are fully responsive meaning that they automatically display properly regardless of device direction and size for build once, deploy anywhere BI. Also the iPhone app today has fantastic personalized alerting features. Alerting is a fairly rare yet super requested feature. Bluntly, I feel alerting is a critical mobile BI need for getting information to folks when they need it. The new mobile BI apps provide actionable insights while on the go with support for annotations and rapid sharing.
To get a better hands-on understanding of the new Mobile BI app capabilities, I recommend testing them with your own BI content. Although there are several samples that you can view, those samples are restricted in functionality. For instance, you won’t be able to explore the underlying reports like you could if you browse your own content. To evaluate them you can create a free account at PowerBI.com and create your own dashboard in a matter of a few minutes. Then after installing Power BI app on your iPad or iPhone, you can log in by tapping the Sign In menu to see and explore your own content with the current fully released features. Note that the engineering team is delivering mobile app updates a few times a month.
Viewing iPad and iPhone Dashboards
To view your dashboard, open the Power BI app and tap the Dashboards menu item on the bottom bar. Thumbnails of available dashboards will be displayed. When you see the specific dashboard you want to explore, simply tap on it to open it up. At this point you should see a fully responsive view of dashboard tile content.
Tiles are views of your data that were pinned to a dashboard. To explore a specific tile, tap on it. A larger, touch optimized, mobile view will be displayed. In this larger view you can drag the bar to view the values for specific parts of a visualization and related data labels.
If you are using a live connection to an SaaS data source such as Salesforce, Dynamics or Google Analytics, on-premises Analysis Services or streaming data via Azure Streaming Analytics or pushing live app data with the Power BI Developer API, your field staff will see the latest and greatest information with these new apps.
Exploring Reports on iPad
The iPad app also supports drill-down into reports. To drill-down into report level details of a tile, tap Open Report. If the Open Report option is not available, most likely the tile was not created from a report. With your report open, you can tap the chart to select, sort, drill and filter results. If you want to quickly navigate to a different page of a mobile report, swipe down from the top menu and a slide view of available report page thumbnail images will be shown for selection.
If you’d like to share findings with another member on your team, you can tap the share snapshot camera icon in the lower-left corner of the enlarged tile. You can optionally add annotations to the shared view with the pencil icon, text balloon or emoticons to point out an area of interest or concern for action. Once you are done adding annotations, merely tap the green checkmark in the upper-right corner and then tap the mail icon to send your message.
In the real-world, dashboards are often used to monitor the pulse of a business across different operational business processes and data sources. If you want a quick glance of your favorite metrics without having to skim through numerous dashboards, tiles and reports, the favorites feature should delight you! To choose a view to add to your favorites, tap the Favorites menu at the top right. Now the next time you log into the Power BI Mobile BI app, you can view your selected favorite items in a rapid glance by tapping the Favorites on the bottom menu.
What about Android and Windows Devices?
Fair question. Microsoft announced on January 27, 2015 that these features are also coming later this year for Android and Windows devices. Finally we are seeing cross-platform mobile native apps for Microsoft BI created and delivered by Microsoft. Granted these new apps only work with the latest Power BI Preview, it is a fabulous free offering that can’t be overlooked. If you do have older Microsoft BI environments, a couple of the third-party apps that I will be covering soon may be a viable alternative to increase your BI adoption and encourage a data-driven culture.