The Mobile BI Rat Race

When it comes to updating mobile BI apps, Tableau isn’t leading the race.

Although I rarely use their products, I signed up for the free mobile apps from several major BI vendors. Seeing their updates pop up on my Apple iPhone is one way that I can keep up with what’s going on in the industry.

Unlike on-premise software that requires a project plan and an off-hours maintenance window to push into production, mobile software is nearly as easy to update as cloud-based software because the vendor assumes a majority of the upgrade risks. But it seemed to me that SAP was updating their mobile BI app at a much slower rate than their competitors.

To back up my hunch with facts, I built a quick model in Microsoft Excel using product versions and release dates from the Apple iTunes store and loaded the data into SAP BusinessObjects Lumira.

As you can see in the chart below, Microsoft clearly updates their Power BI mobile app at a frequency greater than SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI or even (gasp!) Tableau Mobile (click images to enlarge).

Mobile BI Release Comparison by Release Date

Microsoft Power BI, a recent entry into the BI marketplace, was introduced on July 24, 2015 and has been on a rapid release schedule ever since. The Apple iTunes store had release history going back to September 5, 2015 and contains 44 releases through February 2017. Oh sure, many of the releases contain only “bug fixes” or “performance enhancements,” but so do many of the releases from Microsoft’s competitors.

Since January 1 of last year, Microsoft has updated their Power BI iOS app a whopping 35 times. Contributing to most SAP users’ Tableau envy, Tableau updated their iOS app 11 times, almost twice as many updates as SAP’s.

Mobile BI Release Comparison Number of Releases

Microsoft releases a new version of Power BI for iOS on an average of every 12 days. SAP actually beats Tableau on this metric, releasing a new iOS version every 39.41 days to Tableau’s 42.58 days.

Mobile BI Release Comparison Average Days between Releases

These are quantitative measurements and one could certainly argue that Microsoft’s numbers are padded with frequent “bug fix” updates that don’t introduce any new functionality. In terms of qualitative measurements, which are a bit more subjective, only Microsoft Power BI has a native interface for the Apple Watch. Not even Tableau can boast that. And only Microsoft Power BI boasts “conversational BI” with the ability to ask questions about data in plain English.

Ironically, none of the three Lumira charts I prepared for this article could be viewed on my Apple iPad, even though I’m using the latest versions of SAP’s BI platform and mobile app.

Unsupported Lumira charts in Mobile BI 6.5

The SAP Mobile BI team is likely hard at work preparing updates to support the forthcoming Lumira 2.0 release. Or perhaps they’ve been reassigned to help roll out a new version of the separate SAP BusinessObjects Cloud mobile app. Or both. But I hope SAP will be able to increase the release frequency and deliver bigger analytic innovations in its core Mobile BI app.

Related articles

Is SAP Mobile BI Ready for iOS 10?

It’s tempting to upgrade immediately to iOS 10, but SAP Mobile BI users should wait. If they can control themselves.

Today, Tuesday, September 13, 2016, is the day Apple officially releases its latest mobile OS, iOS 10, to the public. Although SAP’s recently acquired Roambi apps received iOS 10 updates yesterday, we’re still waiting for an iOS 10 compatible update for the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI app, which historically arrives about a week after Apple updates its OS. It’s likely that Apple may have some iOS 10.1 fixes ready by then.

Today is a good day to remind your SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI users that they should avoid updating to iOS 10 until all of your organization’s mission-critical apps support it.

Today is a good day to remind your support staff to confirm the iOS version during any support calls, as there are frequently small glitches that occur until vendors release a fix for the latest Apple mobile OS.

And lastly, if you haven’t yet implemented a mobile BI strategy, it’s time to take a fresh look at both SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI and SAP BusinessObjects Roambi, which are complementary, not competitive solutions from SAP.

UPDATE: SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI version 6.4.13 was released September 16, 2016 with iOS 10 support (see related SCN article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile now supports iOS 10). Assuming your other enterprise mobile apps are ready for iOS 10, feel free to update your iPhones and iPads.

RoamBI (If You Want To)

Roam if you want to
Roam around the world
Roam if you want to
Without wings, without wheels

the B-52’s

Yesterday during the SAP Insider BI2016 keynote, Jayne Landry, SAP Global VP and GM for Business Intelligence announced SAP’s acquisition of RoamBI with a single slide, then quickly moved onto other announcements. RoamBI Co-Founder Santiago Becerra stepped down as CEO in November 2014 and passed away a few weeks ago. He was, in the words of InfoSol’s Paul Grill, a true BI visionary, seeing the business potential of first Adobe Flash and later the Apple iPhone (an ironic combination, to be sure). SAP customers may also recognize Santiago’s name as one of the founders of Infomerssion, the company that created Xcelsius. Xcelsius was sold in 2005 to BusinessObjects and continues to live on rebranded as SAP Dashboards.

What does the RoamBI acquisition mean for SAP analytics customers? It’s simply too early to tell. The first iterations of RoamBI’s signature mobile product only worked with the SAP BusinessObjects suite, although support was later added for other on-premise and cloud-based data sources.

SAP’s lack of an acquisition roadmap is probably an indicator that the deal came together quickly, with Santiago’s passing potentially acting as a catalyst. It’s likely that the technology gained from the RoamBI acquisition will benefit both classic SAP BusinessObjects on-premise customers as well as users of SAP’s new Cloud for Analytics offering.


BI to go at SAP Insider’s BI2015

Join me at SAP Insider’s BI2015 conference in Las Vegas.

In March 2015, I’ll be speaking at SAP Insider BI2015 in Las Vegas, a WIS Publishing conference. It’s actually four conferences in one, as HANA 2015, HR 2015 and SAP Admin 2015 will all be going on at the same time. EV Technologies is an event sponsor and I’ll be joined by several of my co-workers (see related EV Technologies article, Viva, Las Vegas!).

SAP Mobile BI to Go at SAP Insider

BI to go! A guide to mobilizing SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 5:00 PM – 6:15 PM
Web and formatted reports track

This comprehensive session teaches you how to create SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence reports, as well as tailor existing reports, for tablet and smartphone devices. After a brief overview of how to make your BI environment mobile-ready, you will explore:

  • Techniques to master new mobile-exclusive capabilities, like bullet graphs and scorecards
  • Important differences between card view and page view
  • Methods to distribute bursted and personalized content to users via their mobile devices

You can learn more about these events on the SAP Insider web site or follow the BI2015 conversation on Twitter.

See you in Vegas!

Sampling the Mobile BI Samples with BI 4.1

SAP has really done mobile-curious customers a big favor with such a useful starting point.

Two years ago, I took a look at the Mobile BI samples in BI 4.0 (see related article, Sampling the Mobile BI Samples with BI 4.0). Those samples were focused on older mobile devices like the Blackberry and not newer devices like Apple iOS and Google Android phones and tablets. Today, SAP includes tablet-ready samples as part of SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 (also in later support packs of BI 4.0), but you’ll need to complete a few simple tasks to see these reports on your mobile device.

Take a look in the Web Intelligence Samples folder and look in the Mobile Samples subfolder.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples

Inside are six reports: Chart Demo, Drill Demo, Geo Analysis Demo, Input Controls & Filter Demo, Mobile – Table Demo, and Sections Demo.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples

Many of these reports look pretty plain in the BI Launch Pad, but they come to life on a mobile device. Out of the box, the documents won’t show up on a mobile device because the categories required by the Mobile BI app do not exist. So take a couple of minutes to create the categories (see related article, Creating Categories for SAP Mobile BI Documents). Next, tag each of the six mobile samples with the Mobile category (at first glance, none of the samples fared better with MobileDesigned, but feel free to compare these two categories yourself).

With the category applied, you should now be able to see these Web Intelligence documents on your mobile device. I’m using my trusty Apple iPad 2 and SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 6.1.9 (the most recent release) and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.1 SP5. Keep in mind that both the version of the mobile app and the version of the BI platform can affect how Web Intelligence documents are displayed.

Chart Demo

The Chart Demo demonstrates how various charts using the new BI 4 visualization engine (aka CVOM) appear on a mobile device. There’s several reports within the Chart Demo document- I’ve chosen one of the more colorful ones here. Notice the bubble and waterfall charts, which we never had in XI 3.1 or earlier.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples Chart Demo

Drill Demo

The drill demo demonstrates how to drill down with tables.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_01_600

 

It also shows how to drill down with charts. Clicking on a column of the top chart…

 

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_02_600

 

…causes it and the pie chart beneath to drill to the next level of the hierarchy.

 

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Drill_Demo_03_600

Geo Analysis Demo

The Geo Analysis Demo demonstrates how to visualize multiple metrics by latitude and longitude. Mapping is only available on a mobile device- this report looks like a bunch of boring tables in the BI Launch Pad.

SAP BI 4.1 Mobile Samples Geo Analysis

Input Controls & Filter Demo

As the name suggests, the Input Controls & Filter Demo demonstrates how input controls and filtering are very nicely supported via the mobile interface.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Input_Controls_600

Mobile – Table Demo

The Table Demo demonstrates how horizontal, vertical and crosstab tables appear on a mobile device. There’s multiple report tabs showing various capabilities- I chose the most colorful one here.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Table_Demo_600

Sections Demo

Just a simple report showing how the mobile user experience allows users to navigate sections.

SAP_BI41_Mobile_Samples_Sections_Demo_600

These screen shots only show a fraction of the features SAP has demonstrated with these six samples. I was a bit surprised that there’s no bullet graph in these samples and I hope that SAP will continue to enhance this mobile-ready collection in future releases.

SAP has really done mobile-curious customers a big favor with such a useful starting point. Don’t forget that the mobile app itself has its own samples. But these samples effectively demonstrate what a Web Intelligence developer needs to do. I hope you’ll be encouraged to use the same techniques in your own mobile-ready Web Intelligence reports.

Are you currently using mobile Web Intelligence? I’d love to hear any success stories.

All I want for Christmas is an iPad Air 2

Thoughts on Apple’s latest mobile devices.

Apple released iOS 8.1 yesterday along with a smaller update for the Apple TV. I updated my iPad 2 and iPhone 5, both previously running iOS 8.0.2. Both of my devices have struggled with Apple’s new mobile OS, so my wife’s iPhone 5 and mom’s iPad 2 remain on iOS 7. I’m grateful that iOS 8.1 arrived so quickly after last month’s release of iOS 8. Last year, Apple mobile users had to wait until March- several months after iOS 7.0 was released- for iOS 7.1 (see related article, Still Waiting for iOS 7.1). But this year there was urgency to introduce Apple Pay, Apple’s new mobile payment system. I’m hopeful that iOS 8.1 also contains some performance and battery life improvements.

2014 Apple iPad Air 2

For the second year in a row, I’m on the fence about replacing my aging iPad 2. Last year, I avoided the iPad Air due to its lack of Touch ID sensor and stingy storage capacity (see related article, Why I won’t buy this year’s iPad). This year’s new iPad models add Touch ID, but the storage on the base models is still a puny (by 2014 standards) 16 GB even though the storage has been doubled in the mid-tier and top-tier models, just like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The situation is even more pronounced if you want a smaller iPad Mini 3. While updated with Touch ID, the new Mini has the same A7 processor as last year’s iPad Mini 2, not the new A8 processor available in the iPad Air 2. Three years ago, I spent $499 US on an iPad 2 with 16 GB of storage and am just a tad bitter that today $499 US will get me an iPad Air 2 with- sigh- still a whopping 16 GB of storage. I’ll look for loose coins in my sofa so I can spend an additional $100 US for an iPad Air 2 with 64 GB, but expect me to complain (loudly) about it.

Enterprises should be thrilled that Touch ID is now standard across new iPhone and iPad models. And I’m hopeful that SAP will soon release updated apps like Mobile BI that eschew clunky application passwords in favor of Touch ID authentication. But developers such as Allen Pike have lamented that customers can still buy new products like the iPad Mini and iPod Touch that still use the three-year-old A5 processor designed for the iPad 2 (see his related article, The iPad Zombie). There’s a huge gap in performance between the A5 and A8 that app developers will have to manage for several more years. And I’m personally starting to notice increasingly sluggish performance from the apps I use every day.

Traditionally, Apple keeps older models on the market at lower prices. And this year is no exception. The two-year-old iPad Mini is $249 US to introduce iPad to a larger, more budget conscious set of consumers. But this year is the first that Apple’s new models have been deliberately crippled to encourage customers to upsell to pricier models. Whether it’s the iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, or even the new Mac Mini, the low-end models of each product have been designed like an automobile parked in the dealer showroom. You know, the standard model with the attractive price that the salesperson tells you to avoid because it has a lackluster engine or no air conditioning. John Gruber had a similar reaction on his Daring Fireball blog:

16 GB iPads work against the foundation of Apple’s brand, which is that they only make good products. Apple has long used three-tier pricing structures within individual product categories. They often used to label them “Good”, “Better”, and “Best”. Now, with these 16 GB entry-level devices, it’s more like “Are you sure?”, “Better”, and “Best”.

I’m an Apple shareholder and I love hearing about gross margins during quarterly analyst calls. But it seems that this year’s margins will grow not only due to increased sales volume, but due to Apple’s new upsell strategy. Apple Store employees will no doubt be coached to display more tact than “Well, you could buy the 16 GB model. If you’re an idiot.” But regardless of the tone of the messaging, I believe that is the message.

Will you purchase a new iPhone or iPad this year?

Other voices on the new Apple iPads

Is SAP Mobile BI Ready for iOS 8?

Still waiting for iOS 8 support for SAP Mobile BI.

Last week, on September 17, 2014, Apple released its latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, to the world. The previous week, Rick Costanzio, SAP executive vice president and general manager of Global Mobility Solutions, announced at Super Mobility Week that “SAP is excited to announce day-one support of Apple’s new iOS 8” (see related SAP Newsbyte, SAP Provides iOS 8 Support to Enhance the Mobile Enterprise Experience). Srikanth Rao, product owner for SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI, acknowledged that SAP tested Mobile BI with the iOS 8 gold master and submitted a minor version 6.0.9 update prior to iOS 8’s launch date (see related SAP Community Network article).

It’s been exactly one week since Apple released iOS 8, but SAP Mobile BI users are still waiting for a compatible update. SAP customers have been in this predicament before with last year’s iOS 7 and previous iOS 6 (see related articles, Is SAP Mobile BI Ready for iOS 7? and Today is iOS 6 Day, but not for you). The gap between iOS and SAP updates seems to get smaller each year- and we’re grateful- but we’re still not at “day one” availability. With over 45% of Apple iOS users already using iOS 8 (see related MacWorld article, iOS 8 adoption nears 50 percent after just 6 days), it’s still an important target to hit.

As an armchair iPhone developer, I’ll speculate that part of the issue is that SAP waits for the gold master of iOS while other popular business apps like Dropbox, Evernote, and LinkedIn are patched using iOS betas. I think Rick Costanzio has set a fantastic and obtainable goal for SAP and its customers. I say with all seriousness that I hope that they’ll use SAP Lumira to visualize and analyze the entire inventory of SAP mobile apps to determine which apps were truly ready on iOS 8 Day One. Then SAP can apply Design Thinking to create project plans and processes that meet the cadence of Apple’s annual iOS updates.

According to SAP KB 2069700, SAP Mobile BI 6.0.9 will be released tomorrow.

UPDATE: SAP Mobile BI 6.0.9 appeared in the Apple iTunes Store on September 27, 2014- 10 days after the launch of iOS 8 and 2 days after iOS 8.0.2 was released.

How is SAP’s iOS support policies affecting your Mobile BI initiatives?

Additional Reading