Thursday Mar 13, 2014

BI Mobile: What’s the Deal with Android?

Android devices make up 80% of the worldwide mobile market. So if companies are promoting BYOD to work (bring your own devices), why haven’t we heard anything about Android Business Intelligence (BI) apps? Matt Milella, a Director of Product Development for Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile Apps, recently joined me on an Oracle Podcast to discuss a new Android BI offering and described why Android apps are special and not just Apple App clones.   

Matt started the conversation off by talking about what can be done with this new Android version of the Business Intelligence Mobile App. I asked him if it is basically the same as the Apple iOS version. His response was interesting -- “Well, Yes and No.  Yes, in that you can consume all of your OBIEE content including BI Mobile App Designer content just like the iOS version, but it is not the same exact thing.  When we decided to build an Android version we wanted to make sure that we delivered an ‘Android’ experience, and take advantage of specific Android features.”

That piqued my interest. If they are just both mobile operating systems, why would you want them to be different? Matt explained that it was important for Android users to feel comfortable in the application, so they wanted the app to look and act like other Android applications that the users have become accustomed to, such as Gmail or Google Now.  Users are then able to focus on what is being delivered – Business Intelligence.  

But that was just the beginning. Matt told us that they included a ‘card’ layout concept for browsing content just like YouTube or Google Now apps.  They have also taken search abilities to the next level, with search suggestions, support for voice search, and voice commands.  So now, users can open a dashboard by saying, ‘open’ and the dashboard name - or even part of the name.  “Android has really great voice controls that we were able to leverage, and this works really well.  We think that users will stop browsing the catalog and most if not all reports and dashboards will be opened with search,” said Matt. The last big item he told us about is the ‘tap-to-share’ feature using near field communications (NFC).  This works just like in the Samsung commercials!  

Tap and Share

Apparently, tap-to-share has a great use case for Business Intelligence.  Just think - you’re in a meeting discussing some numbers, a report, or a specific KPI, and everyone wants to look at them more carefully.   Typically this might be done manually (sharing a URL or report name) or by email, or everyone sending each other a link.  According to Matt, “now you literally can just tap someone’s Android device and ‘POW’ the same content opens, and of course it opens with the correct security context for that new user.”  Matt mentioned that they have more great ideas around sharing and getting on the same page with colleagues, and to stay tuned.

According to Matt, the new Android release will work on any sized Android device.  The application adapts to the screen size and for Android there are a lot of screen sizes. Android pioneered the Phablet  (phone/tablet) category, and they wanted to be sure to support devices like the Galaxy Note or the HTC One Max.  The BI content looks amazing on these larger screen phones.  Matt said, “With BYOD in full swing, we have broad support, and this now has to include form factors or screen sizes of devices.”

Matt emphasized that with Android’s world market share now at 80% in a BYOD world, you just cannot ignore this operating system.  Oracle wants to be the mobile leader, therefore they have to offer world-class Android and iOS apps, no exceptions!  So expect more cool features and innovations to follow for both Android and iOS.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.
To learn more about Oracle’s BI Mobile Android Release, click here.

Friday Jan 31, 2014

Modernizing Business Intelligence

Business intelligence is no longer a luxury; it’s a crucial component of business today. But what’s changed so much that we need to modernize now? Nigel Youell, Senior Product Marketing Director for Oracle Performance Management Applications, interviewed Barry Mostert, a Director in the Global Business Analytics Product Group for Oracle, about Business Intelligence modernization, what it’s all about, and why it needs to be addressed now.

Nigel got right to the heart of the interview by asking Barry why there was even a need to modernize BI, and what exactly that means. Barry told our listeners that Business Intelligence is continually evolving and, like any technology, it’s driven by current industry trends. Organizations are now looking to analyze valuable information sourced across vast stores of distributed and varying data types – commonly called Big Data – to extract important business information to be competitive, and to keep costs low. Using mobile analytics (consuming analytics on mobile personal smart devices) is gaining more and more momentum as our culture begins to see these personal smart devices as part of our everyday lives.

Barry told our listeners that a recent study demonstrated that about 80% of business users are already using their smart devices for work. The dropping price of random access memory (RAM) chip has widely enabled the use of in-memory analytics. There is also a strong push for user self-service that Gartner is calling the “consumerisation of IT,” which means users can’t wait for legacy tools and traditional processes to deliver their information. Users need to be empowered to take action for themselves. This includes the use of predictive analytics (using historic information to help foretell the future) to enable business people to make the best decisions possible. Just like in life, it’s a case of learning from your past to do better in your future.

In fact, every business is already affected or will be affected shortly by these trends - hence the need to move to a modern analytic platform that is capable of addressing these new data types and analytic methods. In fact, most older BI platforms were built and implemented before these trends even existed.

Nigel recapped Barry’s full explanation for the listeners this way. The benefits of modernizing your BI system are:

High performance analytics with no limits – more granular data for more accurate decisions without sacrificing performance

Robust and reliable backend architecture – to ensure availability on what is a critical business system

Employees that are empowered to quickly discover insight and then take action – and have less reliance on IT

Business activity that matches the corporate strategy to maintain organizational focus and direction

Improved user productivity and efficiency – enabling business users to work smarter

Nigel and Barry discussed the fact that modernizing a platform appears to be a big undertaking. Nigel asked Barry to break it down for the listeners and outline the main components of a modern BI platform.


Barry explained that it could be broken down to the 5 pillars of value, or potential gains where users stand to get significant and tangible benefits:

Mobility. A hot new analytic trend affecting users at all levels in the modern enterprise. Oracle has made significant investments in this area.

Advanced User Experience. How users interact with the analytic platform. New analytic techniques, not previously possible.

The Connected Enterprise. Connecting business strategy with operational execution. Better navigate the business using all relevant data available and modeling the future to reduce risk.

Engineered Systems. Promise of hardware and software working better together. Blinding fast performance with in-memory analytics and scalability without the bottlenecks.

Ironclad Architecture. A reliable, robust backend to support business critical systems, while reducing Total Cost of Ownership. Components are completely integrated allowing administrators to do more in less time.

As always, it’s the bottom line of moving to a Modern BI System that will excite executives to pursue the move. Barry explained to our listeners that it’s all about being able to do more with less. Empowering business users to satisfy their own analytic needs will lead to a more agile business. At the same time, this ability will free up IT resources. By optimizing and simplifying your business analytic platform, not only do you gain better Total Cost of Ownership, but you can begin to innovate. Innovation leads to doing business in new and better ways than your competition; being more competitive in this economy ultimately leads to a more successful business; and successful businesses are generally better off financially.

To listen to the entire podcast click here

To learn more about Business Intelligence at Oracle, click here

Wednesday Jan 15, 2014

Create Analytical Mobile Apps in Minutes With no Coding!

Just imagine -- being able to create analytical mobile apps in minutes without coding. Think of the efficiency. Think of the effectiveness. Think of the FUN!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kan Nishida, Director of Product Development for the Oracle BI Mobile App Designer Product during a podcast about the challenge of today’s “Continuous Work” lifestyle in the post-PC era. We discussed how organizations can not only adapt, but also transform, to empower their employees by delivering and sharing enterprise information anywhere, anytime, and using any device securely.

One of the issues facing our increasingly mobile workforce is the need to use multiple devices with a single application to take care of business. Kan and I talked about a new product offering from Oracle Business Intelligence, called Oracle BI Mobile App Designer, which enables business users to easily create interactive, analytical mobile apps and share them with any mobile device.

Kan told our listeners that one of the biggest reasons for creating this product was to enable business users, who do not have access to a group of excellent engineers to create apps for them, to create apps for themselves – for any device or screen size. BI Mobile App Designer is a browser –based application that uses drag and drop technology to create mobile apps.

With the emerging Bring-Your-Own-Device trend, organizations are having to support multiple mobile platforms like Apple’s iOS, Android, and Windows, because employees are using all of these platforms to complete their work. And of course, we can’t forget about PCs like Windows and Mac. A majority of people in Enterprise organizations still use PCs to access information and, according to Kan, will likely continue do so.

So, as it turns out, this mobile transformation thing is not about the transition from PC to Mobile, but to a “Continuous Work” lifestyle for business. For example, when you get up in the morning, you might be to check email on your iPhone, browse news on your iPad while having breakfast, check email again in the office - but this time on your PC. At the office, you might want to attend a meeting with an iPad, and check your iPhone while waiting for your co-workers to arrive. So, basically, we want and expect to access information anytime, anywhere, and with any device or screen.

Next we talked about why multiple devices and screen sizes are a challenge. Kan told our listeners that apps or reports need to be optimized to touch-based interaction and be responsive to any device and screen size so that your audience can open them from any mobile device as well as PCs. An app on an iPad requires much less pinching and squeezing because there is more physical space for display, and buttons and data entry fields are big enough to touch and enter data. A phone has less screen real estate, so you need to optimize the small space to make the experience working on it easy and comfortable. It’s also really important to deliver the app with a single and universal URL. This way, you don’t need to worry about which device or platform your audience might using or opening a report from. They can access the same information while it’s presented in the best optimized way, according to their device type and screen size. And this is exactly what Oracle BI Mobile App Designer does.



Kan also told us that customers who already have Oracle BI can take advantage of BI Mobile App Designer.
They simply need to ensure they have upgraded to the latest version of Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, then install Oracle BI Mobile App Designer on top of it. It’s very simple and quick. Then you can start creating awesome apps right away.

If you would like to try out BI Mobile App Designer, Oracle has just released a “Trial Edition” -- a light version of the product that is meant for product evaluation purposes. You can download it from the Oracle Technical Network page in minutes, double click an installer, follow a few steps, and -- BAM – you now have it up and running. You can start creating mobile apps with Excel data, or sample data that comes with it. There are both Windows and Mac versions - and it’s free!

So, you really can create analytical mobile apps in minutes – with no coding!

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about BI Mobile App Designer, click here.

To download the Trial Edition of the Mobile App Designer, click here.

Friday Nov 08, 2013

Security and the Mobile Workforce

Now that many organizations are moving to the BYOD philosophy (bring your own devices), security for phones and tablets accessing company sensitive information is of paramount importance. I had the pleasure to interview Brian MacDonald, Principal Product Manager for Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Mobile Products, about this subject, and he shared some wonderful insight about how the Oracle Mobile Security Tool Kit is addressing mobile security and doing some pretty cool things. 

With the rapid proliferation of phones and tablets, there is a perception that mobile devices are a security threat to corporate IT, that mobile operating systems are not secure, and that there are simply too many ways to inadvertently provide access to critical analytic data outside the firewall. Every day, I see employees working on mobile devices at the airport, while waiting for their airplanes, and using public WIFI connections at coffee houses and in restaurants. These methods are not typically secure ways to access confidential company data. I asked Brian to explain why.

“The native controls for mobile devices and applications are indeed insufficiently secure for corporate deployments of Business Intelligence and most certainly for businesses where data is extremely critical - such as financial services or defense - although it really applies across the board. The traditional approach for accessing data from outside a firewall is using a VPN connection which is not a viable solution for mobile. The problem is that once you open up a VPN connection on your phone or tablet, you are creating an opening for the whole device, for all the software and installed applications. Often the VPN connection by itself provides insufficient encryption – if any – which means that data can be potentially intercepted.”

For this reason, most organizations that deploy Business Intelligence data via mobile devices will only do so with some additional level of control. So, how has the industry responded? What are companies doing to address this very real threat? Brian explained that “Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) software vendors have rapidly created solutions for mobile devices that provide a vast array of services for controlling, managing and establishing enterprise mobile usage policies. On the device front, vendors now support full levels of encryption behind the firewall, encrypted local data storage, credential management such as federated single-sign-on as well as remote wipe, geo-fencing and other risk reducing features (should a device be lost or stolen). More importantly, these software vendors have created methods for providing these capabilities on a per application basis, allowing for complete isolation of the application from the mobile operating system.

Finally, there are tools which allow the applications themselves to be distributed through enterprise application stores allowing IT organizations to manage who has access to the apps, when updates to the applications will happen, and revoke access after an employee leaves. So even though an employee may be using a personal device, access to company data can be controlled while on or near the company premises.

So do the Oracle BI mobile products integrate with the MDM and MAM vendors? Brian explained that our customers use a wide variety of mobile security vendors and may even have more than one in-house. Therefore, Oracle is ensuring that users have a choice and a mechanism for linking together Oracle’s BI offering with their chosen vendor’s secure technology.

The Oracle BI Mobile Security Toolkit, which is a version of the Oracle BI Mobile HD application, delivered through the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) in its component parts, helps Oracle users to build their own version of the Mobile HD application, sign it with their own enterprise development certificates, link with their security vendor of choice, then deploy the combined application through whichever means they feel most appropriate, including enterprise application stores. 

Brian further explained that Oracle currently supports most of the major mobile security vendors, has close relationships with each, and maintains strong partnerships enabling both Oracle and the vendors to test, update and release a cooperating solution in lock-step. Oracle also ensures that as new versions of the Oracle HD application are made available on the Apple iTunes store, the same version is also immediately made available through the Security Toolkit on OTN. 

Rest assured that as our workforce continues down the mobile path, company sensitive information can be secured. 

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about the Oracle BI Mobile HD, click  here

To learn more about the BI Mobile Security Toolkit, click here 

Tuesday Oct 08, 2013

Going Camping with Mobile Business Intelligence

The mobile market is changing user expectations for consuming data, and those expectations are out-pacing available desktop and laptop software. Matt Milella, Director of Product Development for Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile Apps, joined me in an Oracle AppCast to discuss this phenomenon.

Instant access to critical business data on mobile devices is changing how and where people are making business decisions. I see people all the time waiting for planes, shopping for groceries, sitting in a cab or walking down the street (dangerous, don’t do this) using their mobile devices. In terms of business, what is going on here? It can’t all be email and YouTube! Matt told us, “Users no longer distinguish between mobile and desktop, they want to start something while they are riding on the train and pick up where they left off on the desktop at work. Apps like “Evernote” do a great job at this. We need to move towards that and are [Oracle] thinking about this deeply…. For example, a sales rep on the road might be working on a deal on their tablet in a taxi or on a plane – and may want to complete the work on a desktop when they arrive at their office or home. Executives on the road may start some analysis on plane and perhaps make annotations – and when they arrive at the office want to continue their train of thought.”

Oracle has released two exciting mobile Business Intelligence (BI) products, one called “Oracle BI Mobile App Designer” (launched recently), and “Oracle BI Mobile HD.” Matt provided some guidance as to the purpose and use for each. “BI Mobile HD is our iPhone and iPad app that allows customers to leverage their investment in BI. It allows users to consume existing BI content that was largely built for the desktop. The BI Mobile App Designer allows business users (not IT) to create mobile experiences, designed for devices. The apps are all responsive, which means the features are all accessible, so regardless of your phone or tablet size, the app will just work. The BI Mobile App Designer opens up the types of purposeful apps that can be delivered to the end user in an organization. It goes beyond traditional Business Intelligence; -- think dashboards focused on mobile with a specific flow. And these apps are developed in minutes with zero code.” I found that amazing.

It was also interesting to hear that mobile apps are not just the reincarnation of the desktop application in miniature for mobile phones or tablets, but rather apps designed with the purpose of the device in mind. Matt told us, “Let’s be realistic, you would not write a novel on a phone, or take your tablet camping. You could, but likely won’t. When building an app you really need to think about the user and which device is truly their mobile device. You may have noticed that our HD app is now a universal app (iPhone and iPad). We have a new focus on the phone, and we think this form factor is just as important as the tablet because they are typically always on and with the user. In fact I always have my phone, when I am out for a bike ride, or even out camping. The office walls have been blown up.” Matt talked about mobile functionality being dependent upon what the user would likely want to do with a particular device, and then building the app to suit the device. For example, receiving a status message on a watch, or being able to select from a short list of options to perform on a phone.

Matt further explained that one of the reasons that Oracle can keep up with the mobile market is that they changed the way they approach the mobile world. “We are an enterprise software company and we traditionally thought of release cycles as being long. For mobile, we are changing that cadence to one that is in line with the mobile market. Just this week I got an update for my BI Mobile HD client on my phone, and we will continue to release both features and patches at a much faster pace. In fact, over the last 2 months we have released two Mobile HD updates with a major leap in experience and functionality. We also just released Mobile App Designer, and I really think it is going to be a game changer.”

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about Oracle BI Mobile products, click here.

Thursday Aug 22, 2013

DIY Mobile Analytic Apps with Oracle BI Mobile App Designer

Introducing Oracle BI Mobile App Designer! 

With Oracle BI Mobile App Designer, business users become self-sufficient in creating stunning analytical mobile apps - all without writing a single line of code. Why wait for IT to create interactive mobile apps for your line of business, when you can do it yourself? If you can use common office productivity tools, you can use Oracle BI Mobile App Designer.

Watch this video to learn more, or visit the Oracle BI Mobile App Designer blog to learn more about this exciting new mobile analytical application design tool.


Friday Jul 22, 2011

Data Visualization and Mobile BI

I flew up to the OAUG Connection Point BI & EPM event in Seattle this week to deliver a keynote presentation, and was lucky enough to catch Edgewater/Ranzal consultant Iain Curtain’s awesome presentation on data visualization. The topic has been on my mind lately for several reasons. Now that Oracle is delivering BI capabilities on the iPad, I’m finding that my favorite dashboards are those that spotlight the visuals, and are lighter on the numeric tables. The bright, crisp resolution of the iPad, combined with its’ smaller than a laptop display area, make charts, maps, and pictures especially important for mobile dashboards. Those killer new visualizations that are in the Oracle BI 11g release look fantastic on the iPad! Iain shared some best practice design principles for data visualization, informed by his years of field experience and a few healthy doses of Edward Tufte and Stephen Few.

If you missed the OAUG Connection Point event in Seattle this week, odds are good that you’ll get another chance to catch Iain at the OAUG BI SIG Meeting at Oracle Open World on Sunday, October 1st, or at the next OAUG Connection Point event in November in Atlanta. And if you just can’t wait until fall, Iain has written a short blog on the topic.

Speaking data visualization, Louis Columbus, a longtime friend, industry colleague, and maniacal blogger about all things related to business and tech, tipped me off to comScore Data Mine, a web site that is chock full of visualizations that render a million fascinating factoids about global adoption of technology and other trends. I highly recommend giving it a quick look. You’ll probably end up bookmarking it.

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