Mobile Content Creation

Microsoft Office helps shift tablets from consumption to creation.

Apple iPad Tablet

The big news from Microsoft this week was the announcement of Microsoft Office apps for the Apple iPad (a more limited app is available for the iPhone).

Sidenote: does anyone else find it odd that Microsoft so openly trashes Google as a competitor then posts cute little Google Vine videos on their Twitter feed?

The apps are “free” but an annual Office 365 subscription is required if you want to modify and not just view Office documents. My primary home computer is now a Mac (I avoid using my secondary Microsoft Windows 8.1 laptop whenever possible), so my family relies on Apple Pages and Keynote. We also have Apache OpenOffice on stand-by, if necessary, and my children submit school assignments using Google Docs. I have a license to use Microsoft Office at work and therefore have no need to send Microsoft a subscription fee every year.

 

I know that many people are excited about these new apps, but I’ve owned an iPad 2 for three years and have never missed Microsoft Office. As you can see from the iTunes screenshot below, there are many Microsoft Office alternatives already in the iTunes App Store.

Microsoft Excel in iTunes App Store

I use my iPad and iPhone to type out short emails or 140-character tweets using HootSuite. I use the WordPress app to moderate comments or fix the occasional typo that finds its way into my blog post. And I love Evernote for storing small bits of information that I may want to later cut and paste into a larger document. With Dropbox combined with Apple’s Keynote, I can either edit or present Microsoft PowerPoint presentations from my iPad. Presenting tethered with the iPad’s VGA adapter is a bit of a challenge for me. I’ll practice with my iPad in a hotel room but prefer to give presentations from my MacBook Pro and a wireless remote. I’ve never bothered to add a Bluetooth keyboard to my iPad because if I need to type something serious, I’m going to head straight for my laptop with a full-size keyboard.

I love showing off location analytics from my iPad or bullet charts from my iPhone. But I’ve never had the thought “gee, wouldn’t it be great if I could build a universe from my iPad?” or “when will Data Services Designer run on my iPad?” The SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI app (updated yesterday to version 5.1.9) already supports prompts and Web Intelligence input controls (although I’m not sure I like the implementation of the latter).

 

But I would like to be able to use a universe query panel from the Mobile BI app, if not a full-blown HTML5 version of Web Intelligence similar to Tableau’s fully-mobile web framework (see related article, Tableau 8 Roadshow).

ASUG is sponsoring a webinar entitled What’s New in BusinessObjects Mobile (ASUG membership required) on June 18, 2014, just a few weeks after SAP SAPPHIRE North America. No doubt we’ll see the next chapter of SAP’s unfolding Mobile BI story.

What mobile analytics innovations do you want to see SAP deliver in 2014?

Resources

The Price of Early Adoption

There’s always a price to be paid for early adoption of technology.

Earlier this week, MG Siegler wrote an article entitled I Got Bugscritical of the quality of Apple iOS 7.

I remain convinced that in just about every way, iOS 7 is a huge upgrade over the previous iterations. Except one. And it’s a big one. The software is so inexplicably and inexcusably buggy.

I experience some minor issues with iOS 7 on both my iPhone 5 and iPad 2. But the experience has been largely positive. Besides, like everyone else I really wanted to be an early adopter to start using new features, assumming Apple would fix anything “critical”. They have – we’re on 7.0.4. We haven’t seen iOS 7.1 yet (although it’s now in beta) because it’s a more substantial release. And like most companies, Apple slows down for the US holidays in November and December. We don’t hear as much about Android bugs because so few Android devices are running the latest Android 4.4 OS (aka KitKat). And there’s not enough users of Microsoft Windows Phone, Microsoft Windows RT tablets, or Blackberry 10 devices to bother writing about.

Apple iOS 7 Adoption Is Unprecedented

But we hear about Apple iOS 7 not only because of the volume of users but also because of the velocity of their adoption of the new OS.


Apple iOS 7 Adoption

Apple’s own statistics, posted on the Apple developers web site, show that iOS 7 adoption is at 78% as of the end of December 2013. That’s very impressive for an operating system that was only released in mid-September. Although there is criticism of iOS 7 and the new versions of iWork applications, Apple is to be commended for how much hardware, software, and iCloud services were shipped last September. Due to their tight integration, everything from iOS 7 to OS X Mavericks‎ to Safari to iTunes and iWork apps had to be released simultaneously. I’m sure there are many in Cupertino grateful that no “antennagate” (see related Daring Fireball article, Antennagate Bottom Line) or iOS 6 Maps fiasco (see related Daring Fireball article, Pogue on iOS 6 Maps) has emerged from this year’s updates (I’m not sure iWork frustration counts as a fiasco). Although adoption is very high, it’s still not 100%, with 18% of users still on iOS 6 and 4% on an even earlier version (the latter most likely due to device incompatibility, such as the original iPad).

Count my mom among the iPad users still using iOS 6. Although I updated her MacBook Air to Mavericks 10.9.1 over the Christmas holiday, I’m keeping her iPad 2 on iOS 6 until iOS 7.1 is released. My mom will appreciate the automatic app update feature, but I’m waiting for a more stable version before having to explain to her the nuances of the revised multitasking, notification center, and command center features.

Consumer Adoption vs. Enterprise Adoption

There are no parallels for the rate of user adoption seen with iOS. Consumers largely remained on Windows XP, avoiding Vista in favor of Windows 7. But many users are staying on the 12-year-old OS even though it will be officially retired in April. Enterprise adoption tends to be even more conservative than consumer adoption. “Dot-zero” releases are routinely shunned until not only the “dot-one” release appears, but enough early adopters have taken the plunge and given their blessing. (Although most Microsoft users are sticking with Windows 7 even though Windows 8 recently received a “dot-one” 8.1 update).

SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Adoption

Consider SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0, the first major release of the platform since SAP’s 2008 acquisition of BusinessObjects. The product went through a lengthier than usual ramp-up period during 2011 before becoming generally available on September 16, 2011. The product received a lot of new features with the introduction of Feature Pack 3 on June 15, 2012. Originally intended to be called BI 4.1, I’m still unsure if the release was renamed “Feature Pack 3” to increase adoption or to suppress it until the more stable BI 4.1 was released on August 29, 2013.

As a consultant, I’ve been grateful to work on several BI 4.0 projects instead of being stuck on XI R2 or XI 3.1. But there have been adoption hurdles. And although any customer is frustrated when a project is delayed due to software bugs, most adopters of BI 4.0 understood the risk and perceived enough benefits from upgrading to take that risk.

But the “dot-one” release isn’t always a panacea for user adoption. Although BI 4.1 has both more stability and features than it’s now two-year-old predecessor, it isn’t without issues. After releasing a glowing endorsement of the new Support Pack 2 on Monday (see related article on the EV Technologies blog, State of the SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0 Upgrade, January 2014), I discovered on Tuesday that even the most basic of publications using the sample eFashion universe won’t work properly, let alone mission-critical publications (see related article on the SAP Community Network, Publications Fail). And no scheduled documents, publications or otherwise, can be sent to the Mobile BI Inbox (see related SAP KB 1967424- Reports scheduled to BI inbox not visible in SAP BI app for iOS in BI 4.1). Ouch!

Should customers kicking off BI 4.1 migration projects apply the brakes? Absolutely not. There’s a lot of work to be done regressing testing existing content on a BI 4.1 development platform, which will most likely be patched between project kickoff and go-live anyway. (By the way, EV Technologies Sherlock Inspector Suite can be an enormous help in cutting the scope and duration of your BI 4 migration projects). And administrators, developers, and power users need at least a BI 4.1 sandbox to start exploring the new platform’s features. But unfortunately, BI 4.1 is starting to show more in common with Windows 8.1 instead of iOS 7.1.

The introduction of iOS 7 brings an extra adoption wrinkle for both SAP and the organizations that deploy SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI (see related article, SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI 5.1 for iOS). Because iOS 7 can automatically update a user’s apps, mobile app quality has to be guaranteed on day one of its release. And the product documentation should be ready, too.

There’s Always a Price for Early Adoption

Bottom line, there’s always a price to be paid for early adoption. In many cases, it’s a price worth paying. But always be prepared for the risks, seen and unseen.

Are you an Apple user on the iOS 7 bandwagon? Or a SAP BusinessObjects user on the BI 4.0 or BI 4.1 bandwagon? Would love to hear your comments, as always.

I Can Live Without Apple’s Latest Glass Rectangle

Sure you can buy the latest Apple gadget. But you don’t have to.

As a “fanboy” who’s doing just fine with a 3-year-old 2009 iPhone 3GS, late-2010 Mac Mini, and 2011 iPad 2, this recent article about planned obsolescence by New York Times technology writer Nick Bilton really bothered me.

It’s part of a strategy that Apple has perfected. How else can the company persuade people to replace their perfectly fine iPhone, iPad, iMac and iEverything else year after year?

From Disruptions: You Know You Can’t Live Without Apple’s Latest Glass Rectangle

It’s true that Apple (and “other vendors”, but hey, let’s rag on Apple because it gets more page views) create sexy new products each year that make the old ones look obsolete.  But I’ve purchased Apple products knowing that they will have a long and productive life, not just a 12-month lifespan until the next model is released.  Not only will these products be supported by Apple, they’ll be upgraded as well.

My late-2010 Mac Mini is running Mountain Lion 10.8, the latest version of Apple’s Mac OS X operating system.  In contrast, the $500 Dell i3 laptop that I purchased last year barely ran Windows 7 well and is now struggling to run Windows 8 (see related article First Impressions of Microsoft Windows 8).  But PC’s are cheap and Macs are overpriced, right?

My 3-year-old iPhone 3GS and 2-year-old iPad 2 are both running the latest iOS 6.  In contrast, many Android tablets and phones neither ship with the latest Android OS or ever get upgraded to it.  And the iPad 2 is so great, Apple continues to sell it even though it recently discontinued the 3rd generation iPad in favor of a much better 4th generation model.

And while PC vendors are shamelessly copying most of Apple’s designs, nobody is copying the great Mac Mini.  Yesterday, I took a quick stroll down the desktop PC aisle at Best Buy (where I purchased my Windows 8 Pro upgrade). There’s nothing but over-sized yet underpowered traditional PC enclosures. Sorry, Nick, the Cadillac fins are stuck on PCs, not Macs.

This year, I’ll be replacing my iPhone 3GS with an iPhone 5. My 3GS runs iOS 6 surprisingly well, but the battery on my beloved 3-year-old phone is toast. Eventually, I will also want to replace my Mac and my iPad with newer models. But I’ll be handing them down to my children, not to the local recycling center.  Which is a different fate than Nick Bilton’s article will have.

SAP BusinessObjects Mobile 4.2 for iOS

SAP extends mobile support to the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.

Over the weekend, SAP released SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iOS 4.2 to the Apple iTunes App Store.  The app requires iOS 5.0 or higher and is the first version of the app to support the iPhone (iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S) and iPod Touch. This development could be either good or bad news, depending on your view of Thomas Wailgum’s ASUG News article “iPads, Email and Business Apps: Enjoy Your Summer Work-cations!”

What’s New in Version 4.2.0
• Display of hierarchical content from data sources supported in SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence
• Support for iPhone (iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S)
• Enhancements to home screen for better organization of BI content
• Application password for secure offline data storage
• Support for authenticated reverse proxy deployment scenarios

 

You can find all the documentation on the SAP Help Portal or via the following SAP Notes in the SAP Service Marketplace (S-ID required) :
SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iPad User Guide: SAP Note 1696768
SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iPad Administrator and Report Designer’s Guide: SAP Note 1696764
SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iPad Release Notes: SAP Note 1696771
SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iPad Security Guide: SAP Note 1696770
SAP BusinessObjects Mobile for iPad Error Messages: SAP Note 1696772

I’m surprised by the support for iPhone/iPod Touch. Anyone else?  I must have been sleeping through the roadmap presentation.  It made total sense to me for SAP to focus only on tablets as phones have too small of a work area for something like a Web Intelligence or Crystal Reports document. Still, the phone is an important form factor and I’m glad to see SAP extend support to it.

I really appreciate the SAP notes and the fact they are referenced right in the iTunes App Store.  The SAP Help Portal has turned into a bloated mess and it’s really difficult to figure out which category from the drop down list will produce the desired documentation.  I’ve been told that the Explorer mobile app team will begin putting SAP Notes in their App Store documentation beginning with Explorer 4.0.8.

Notice that the app doesn’t have an “Administrators Guide” but an “Administrator and Report Designer’s Guide”, so you might find the “Users Guide” a bit thin.  It may be a bit unintuitive to your report developers that they need to thumb through the Adminstrator Guide, but Web Intelligence and Crystal Report designers should definitely read through it.

Keep in mind that if you’re using SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 Feature Pack 3 or higher (for example, Support Pack 4), the old mobile infrastructure no longer exists in favor of the new mobile architecture originally introduced to support this application.  SAP Note 1713028 contains all of the interesting details. Also, certain features such as support for Crystal Reports require Support Pack 2 Patch 14 or higher.

I’m still trying to locate an SAP Note similar to 1738007 – Which versions of SAP BO Explorer Mobile are compatible with which version of SAP Business Intelligence? (Hint: it would be nice if this Explorer note cross referenced the BI Mobile app and vice versa). And I’m trying to track down a supported platforms document that confirms compatibility with iOS 5.1 and 5.1.1 rather than the vague “5.0 or higher”, as minor iOS upgrades are still sometimes a challenge for SAP’s development teams.

I’ll continue to update this article as I learn new information and get the opportunity to put the application through its paces.

Chart Soup for iPhone & iPad- Review

Should you spend three dollars on Chart Soup or a Latte?

Several months ago, while downloading the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and Mobile BI apps in the Apple iTunes store, the “genius” recommended that I take a look at an app called Chart Soup. It was a whopping three dollars- about the price of a typical Starbucks visit. But I couldn’t bring myself to download it.

Chart Soup was created by international man of mystery John Wakley. Despite the fact that he created the software, the link to his “company” web site is blank (honestly, I wonder how this got past the guardians of the iTunes store). Mr. Wakley also seems to have an affection for Campbell’s Soup, Andy Warhol, or both.

Since I couldn’t find a corporate web site or any reviews on Google, I decided somebody should spend three dollars to check out the app. So I did. I learned that Chart Soup is essentially an RSS reader for a collection of data visualization web sites. There is also some integration with Wikipedia and rudimentary bookmarking capability.

While Mr. Wakley is to be commended for putting together a universal app for iOS that looks great on both iPhone or iPad, there’s no original content by him on the topic of data visualization nor a clear roadmap of where this app is going. My guess is that Mr. Wakley created the app as a student for some kind of college computer science project.

The web sites referenced by Chart Soup are interesting and worth bookmarking. But they focus on the broader topic of data visualization, not the narrower topic of business intelligence dashboards. More Edward Tufte and less Stephen Few, if you get my meaning. Here’s the complete list:

But should you spend three dollars on Chart Soup or on a Starbucks Latte? It probably depends on how much you love coffee.

Chart Soup 1.2 was released April 30, 2011 and is available in the Apple iTunes Store (download here).

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer – What IT Needs to Know

Just like a political talk show on cable, the truth about SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is somewhere in the middle.

I’ve been busy talking about SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and helping customers deploy it.  I’m really excited about next month’s release of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 4.0 as part of the BI 4.0 suite, but there’s lots of reasons to start using the current release, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer XI 3.2.  Explorer is a unique business intelligence application aimed at the casual business user.  People generally have two reactions to it.  The first is that it’s a silver bullet that will magically solve all of their organization’s information delivery challenges.  The second reaction generally comes shortly after the second.  “Oh, it’s just a toy” or  “Our users would never use that”.

Both of these reactions are the extremes.  Just like a political talk show on cable, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Explorer brings business intelligence to an audience that desperately needs it but isn’t willing to sacrifice the time to access it.  I frequently hear from IT that “Explorer needs to add XYZ feature,” but remember- its beauty is in its simplicity.  SAP BusinessObjects Explorer requires almost no training.  Adding new features cannot come at the expense of complexity, and I appreciate that Explorer’s product managers carefully guard which features go into the product.

Explorer is great because it addresses the “I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for” business requirement.  Giving key users access to corporate data via Explorer helps them discover new insights.  These insights will lead to more specific business requirements to address specific business problems.  That’s where the more traditional tools for dashboards, ad-hoc query, and enterprise reporting come into play.  Explorer augments these tools.  It doesn’t replace them.

Explorer allows you to start small with your existing universes, then grow into in-memory analytics with either SAP BW Accelerator or HANA.  You don’t have to begin with a large investment.  Many customers are already licensed for Explorer, they just haven’t deployed it because it’s a separate install.

I challenge you to give Explorer a try.  Remember, it helps users find what they didn’t realize they were looking for.  Therefore, they’re not going to come asking you to deploy a tool that they don’t realize they need.  Take the first step and put Explorer in front of them, either on their desktops or their mobile devices.  Then step back and see what happens.

My 2011 SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Tour (so far)

April 29, 2011
ASUG Ohio Chapter Meeting
Cleveland, Ohio

June 24, 2011
ASUG Kentucky Chapter Meeting
Northern Kentucky University
Highland Heights, KY

July 14, 2011
St. Louis BusinessObjects User Group
St. Louis, MO

Your hometown???

Have you deployed Explorer in your organization?  Share your thoughts below.

Quiet update for SAP BusinessObjects Explorer for iOS

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 1.02 for iOS

In preparation for this week’s SAP SAPPHIRE event in Orlando, SAP has quietly updated the SAP BusinessObjects Explorer app (click to download) in the Apple iTunes App Store.  The previous version (which, thankfully, does not get overwritten by the update) only required a link to the Explorer server, such as http://[servername]:[port]/polestar.  The new version has some additional requirements that are ruffling feathers at customer sites.

Note: To use SAP BusinessObjects Explorer app with your business data, you must have installed SAP BusinessObjects 3.2 SP2 release of SAP Business Explorer and SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 3.1 FP 3.4 including the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile Server.

In BI4, SAP has integrated the mobile servers into the Central Configuration Manager (CCM) and installs them by default.  However, in XI 3.1, the mobile servers aren’t as well-integrated.  Plus, requiring customers to embrace a Fix Pack for new functionality instead of a Service Pack is an interesting move, as conventional wisdom is to only install Fix Packs to correct problems.

Thankfully, SAP has released Explorer 1.02 which has a new “Connect via Mobile Server” switch on the Settings screen. Simply leave it in the default position (OFF) and enter the Explorer Server URL, http://[servername]:[port]/polestar.

 

Explorer using Explorer (polestar) URL

If Mobile BI is in use, simply flick the switch and enter the URL for the mobile server.
Explorer using Mobile URL

If you have configured BI Mobile, the URL for the Mobile Server is brain-dead simple.  Just http://[servername]:[port number] and the Explorer app does the rest of the work to find the mobile directory on the web application server.

SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is a great application that extends your organization’s BI to casual users and mobile devices.  It’s ready to deploy on the XI 3.1 platform today and will soon be available with the rest of the BI 4.0 suite.  I’m anxious to learn more about mobile BI at this week’s SAPPHIRE conference.  And I hope to report in a future post how to install and configure the BI Mobile XI 3.1 servers for Explorer on iOS.