Examining the ongoing challenges of delivering high-quality, value-added ERP services in Higher Education.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Oracle BI Mobile - Good, Bad, and Ugly

Oracle’s first attempt at BI Mobile was pretty weak; I remember telling the sales team that they needed to achieve parity with plain old Safari before we would pay incremental license fees for BI Mobile. Fortunately, Oracle transformed the iOS mobile application and repackaged it as Oracle BI Mobile “HD.” I recently spent a few hours experimenting with the app on my iPad2 and iPhone 4 (connected to our Exalytics sandbox and SIA proof-of-concept). Below are some initial observations.

The Good
Email Report: I am going to write another blog on this feature (and how I wish it were ported back to the browser) but suffice it to say that it is incredibly easy to email a dashboard as an attachment, as an image in the body, or as a URL.

Local Content: You can quickly “Save to Local” if you want to hold onto a report for later review when disconnected from the server. (NOTE: This feature can be restricted by the Administrator).

iPad BI Mobile: Major improvements in interactivity, gesture support, etc.

Interaction / Interactivity: The application supports many gestures (you really need to read the Getting Started Doc) so you can drill-down, view tool tips, etc.

iPad Prompts: The application is smart enough to pull user prompts into a special header region and it also renders sliders as tablet friendly drop down lists. (Now if only the iPhone version did the same…)

The Bad
iOS Only: Thus far, there is no Android mobile application. This doesn’t bother me since most of the user population at my institution
iPad BI Mobile Settings
Settings Page: It isn’t always easy to jump back to the settings page, which is problematic when certain options are not available “on the fly;” for example, the decision whether to send dashboards as PDFs, URLs, or in-line images is a universal one so you have to toggle the setting, then go to the dashboard you want to send, repeating the steps if you want to send differently next time!

The Ugly
iPhone Display: Ugh. By default the application shows reports in “Mobile Format” which is often worse than viewing in “Original Format” – in both cases, dashboards do not resize to fit the screen and you can’t pinch to shrink.
BI Mobile on iPhone: I can see part of my Scorecard...

In addition, unlike the iPad, prompts are not treated in any special way – they appear in the same location and format as the browser, which can be terrible. For better or worse, I think the only answer is that if you expect widespread adoption of BI Mobile on the iPhone, you’d better design specific layouts for that form factor. (Another blog on this soon.)

Catalog Contents: My suggestion is there should be a feature to flag Dashboards or Analyses as available to the Mobile App. Because unless you are diligent about segregating those tailored for BI Mobile, the users can open any report they want. This will result in support calls and complaints, at the minimum…

Synchronized Recent Activity: In theory this is a great feature. Right now if I pull up OBIEE on my table, phone, and PC the “recent activity” lists are identical. The problem is that as a user my expectation was to see the recent activity on each of the devices, especially if there are going to be specialized reports targeted for mobile!

Implementations of OBIEE should carefully examine the need for delivering dashboards and reports to mobile users and prioritize development of tailored versions for such use. While the iPad experience is maturing nicely, the iPhone remains a clumsy fit. Ongoing investment in the mobile application makes me optimistic; in reality, the bigger challenge (at least in my world) is about people and culture – no matter how perfectly the application works, do my users want to run reports on their iPads? Or would a suite of handsome iPhone-customized dashboards wither on the vine?


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