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
In my last article Encourage a Data Culture with Mobile BI, I shared Cindi Howson’s BI Adoption research that indicated you can potentially double the success of BI adoption in your company by delivering reports to mobile devices. In that article I shared Microsoft’s newly released native mobile apps for the Power BI Preview. Historically I have shared a variety of mobile BI options for Microsoft BI and even presented on this topic back in 2012.
What if you have older SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports, the most popular Microsoft BI solution ever aside form Excel, running in your environment? In that case, third-party apps currently are your best bet. There are multiple solutions available today including but not limited to Forerunner, Mobi Weave and ReportPlus. If your older Microsoft BI assets are not in Reporting Services then Datazen is a great option today. A few other players that can help you mobilize on-premises Microsoft BI and SharePoint BI include Mobile Entrée, Transpara and RoamBI.
Since I have heard really good things from a respectable peer of mine regarding Forerunner, I have invited them to provide a guest post on their solution. The remainder of this post is by Jason Carlson, Founder & Chief of Forerunner.
One of the key issues facing BI professionals and application developers is delivering consumable and actionable data to every device in today’s multiscreen world. Many applications are building mobile targeted or mobile friendly experiences, but when it comes to reporting, small screens are a big challenge. The biggest of these challenges is how to maintain context of the data on a 10 inch or worse on a 4 inch screen? Add to that needing to maintain interactivity so the users can drill and sort their data on these small screens. There just isn’t enough space to easily see the necessary dimensions to accurately understand the data.
One solution is to build special purpose reports for each device size and limit the amount of data based on the device. This solution works well except that it requires a lot of work to design, build and maintain because you now need to build and update at least 3 times as many reports. It also limits the usefulness of the reports because they can only show summary or limited details. So maybe you only do this for a select few reports. This also works, for a little while, but this list will continue to grow as users and managers want more information at their fingertips.
What is really needed is an automatic solution that will reformat any report and optimize it for any screen size. With this approach you only need to design, build and maintain one report and all of your users can get their actionable data on any device. At Forerunner Software we have solved this for you with our Patent Pending technology that will reformat any SSRS report and optimize it for any device size. We can do this because unlike the SSRS Report Viewer the Forerunner Mobilizer Report Viewer is a true HTML5 control that renders the report on the client. Combining the power of SSRS and HTML5 provides an ideal user experience with a fast, responsive solution on any device.
Many of you who have built special purpose reports to solve this may be skeptical. It takes a lot of work to convert a report to work on a small device, without losing any data or interactivity. Forerunner customers are amazed at how easy and powerful it is. The secret is a deep understanding of SSRS and sophisticated reformat engine that runs on the client. The benefit of doing this on the client is not only do you know the device size, it also enables the format engine to quickly reformat when the orientation changes without going back to the server, allowing the user to see more columns or more rows depending on the report.
So how does it all work you ask? Because of the power and potential complexity of SSRS reports the reformat engine is a multi-phase process.
First, all of the report elements that are not visible on the screen are moved to the left. Since SSRS elements are hierarchical they are moved from the outside in, keeping the formatting as much as possible. This means if you have a tablix or rectangle they are moved first, then only if the elements are still not visible will they also be moves left until all elements are visible.
Second, the engine restructures all tablices and hides all of the columns that are not visible in an expandable new row section under each row. In this way all of the data is available with the most important data visible by default. To determine the most important data the report designer can prioritize the columns to tell the engine in which order to hide columns. Where it get really complicated is determining what data is headers and what is data. With the combination of the report definition, and report desirer hints it is possible to make any report work great on any device.
What’s even better is even though the elements and columns are moving they still maintain all of their interactivity. If a drilldown or sort column is hidden ,then each new expandable row section has the ability to drilldown or resort the data. If you want to deliver mobile Reporting Services on mobile devices, nothing is better than a hands-on FREE evaluation with your own reports.