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Real-Time Mobile BI & Analytics

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Visual KPI aggregates multiple real-time data sources (big data, historians, databases, apps, services and more) and adds context with KPIs, alerts, and geolocation. It also gets your critical data in the hands of more users without the need for extensive training, and it can be deployed in hours, not months. Want to see how we do it?

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Mobile BI on Browser, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, Palm
What is it?

Visual KPI is mobile dashboard software for any device. It reads existing data sources and delivers KPIs, scorecards, analytics and alerts in real-time.

Who uses it?

Decision makers. Operations. Remote workers. Data Junkies. Anyone who values knowing what's happening right now, regardless of their device.

Why use it?

Mobility is no longer optional. Visual KPI presents problems and opportunities before it's too late. Oh, and there's no six-month project that "might" pay off.

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About Transpara

Transpara are the developers of Visual KPI, a mobile and web application for monitoring operations data from any device in real-time. Learn more…

Authors
Michael Saucier
Lead Vocalist & Band Manager
Robert Hylton
Exec. Producer & Percussionist
Collected thoughts on transparency, mobile monitoring and Bl,
operational intelligence, great software. . . and occasionally golf. 
Monday
Aug292011

What do Mobile BI and the Weather Have in Common?

2011-08-18 072

Mobile business intelligence continues to grow as a hot topic in almost all industries, but we see just as many people screwing it up as we see people getting it right.  One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is putting the wrong data on users’ devices.

The best way to understand this problem is to look at what you already do on your mobile phone and compare that to what you do on your PC or Mac. Can they do many of the same things? Yes. Is that how you use them? Probably not. Here are some of the most successful mobile applications:

  • Calendar and reminders
  • SMS and BlackBerry Messenger
  • Email
  • Twitter, Facebook and other social networks
  • Maps and directions
  • Foursquare
  • Stock market apps
  • Weather
  • News

So what characteristics define success on mobile vs. success on other devices like your PC?

  • You use your PC when you need to type a long document like this one, or do some heavy number crunching or detailed research. It’s just plain better, and not just because it has a keyboard and a bigger monitor. It’s also better because you are usually sitting down, in a somewhat controlled environment and you have the time to focus.
  • You use your mobile when you are doing things that are meant for the ‘here and now,’ such as telling someone you are late, sending a text message about something you just saw, or looking up directions to a restaurant when you are on the way. Most of these things are either time or location sensitive, making them uniquely mobile.
  • Location. People use their mobile device is because it is just that – mobile. Other than email and a few other activities, the types of information you interact with when you aren’t at your desk are often different and for good reason. If you drive a truck and maintain power lines and fix outages all day, you are truly remote and you have much less of a need for heavy data processing – you need answers so you can make decisions regardless of your location.

Here’s the problem: many people consider mobile BI just a mobile version of traditional BI. They approach a mobile BI project as an effort to cram their existing BI tools and reports onto the nearest device as it it were a clown car, and this most often fails.  They are different, and should be treated as such.

So what are the key types of data that are truly meant for the mobile device? While the answer is very broad and is unique to every business, there are some key characteristics that can help us narrow down what we should be looking at:

  • Operations data – things that stop the “trains” from running on time.
  • Time-sensitive information – If you need to know quickly when there is an issue or an opportunity.
  • Mission-critical data – many of our customers use our software in mission-critical environments where decision support with key metrics can help avoid major disasters.
  • Remote data – are your subject matter experts fewer than your locations, and are your facilities and assets distributed. Extreme examples of this include wind farms (where the farms are remote, and the turbines are even remote within the farm) and oil & gas refining (pipelines, oil rigs, etc.).

Just like defining the right role, choosing the right data to put in front of people is critical to the success of any mobile business intelligence deployment. Taking your existing business intelligence data (which is often more focused on longer-term planning and reporting) and trying to shove it onto a mobile device can be not only painful, but also highly ineffective.

Want to know more?  Download our free Mobile BI guide to read about several other key mistakes and how to avoid them.

Thursday
Jul142011

BYOD and the “Consumerization” of Enterprise IT

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Maybe it’s time for Enterprise IT to learn a lesson from the Consumer space. 

In a previous post, we argued that a backlash is brewing in the enterprise because the consumer App Store model just won’t work in many businesses.  Consider this the other side of that story…

Enterprise IT has long held the notion that the data they sequester behind corporate firewalls, tokens and cumbersome multi-factor authentication is so valuable that draconian measures are justified when allowing access to the data by the business users.  Business uses regularly tell me that they are tired of IT and its weary “no soup for you!” approach.  These business folks are not interested in all the reasons why their reasonable requests for data access are “difficult” or “impossible,” they simply want to use the data stored in corporate systems to help them make timely, fact-based decisions which ultimately serves their company more effectively. 

These business users can’t understand why they easily have secure access to their personal digital media from anywhere in the world (and on any device they wish) and yet have almost no access to corporate data once they leave the confines of their cubicle and its wired-in desktop.  It reminds me of the early factory-worker days when time clocks and micromanagement ruled the day; where being seen sitting at your desk like Bob Cratchit was more important than getting something accomplished.  Those days are long gone but certain Ebenezer Scrooge attitudes linger in IT to this day.

The workplace has been increasingly democratized as information began to flow more freely between peers as well as up and down the management hierarchy and the supply chain.  Today’s workers are expected to analyze situations and make intelligent choices about solving problems on a daily basis.  Workers at all levels now routinely use information about their company, its operations, strengths and weaknesses to more cleverly deliver results to feed the maw of analysts and the quarterly earnings-driven world of Wall Street.  These workers NEED this corporate information to do their jobs, yet they are rarely sitting at their desk pondering their flat screen. They are offsite at planning sessions, or they are traveling to another site, or they are on call on a weekend. Regardless of what took them away from their desk, every hoop we make business users jump through means less time actually devoted to problem solving!

The tail has been wagging the dog for long enough.  It is time for Enterprise to IT take advantage of the advances in consumer-facing security and data delivery to help business users accomplish their work faster and with better information at their fingertips.  In fact, they may not have a choice in the very near future since many of our large customers have stopped issuing company-provided smart phones and started adopting a corporate policy of “bring-your-own-device (BYOD).”  Essentially companies are lowering operating costs by shifting the burden of accounting for corporate use of smartphones to the employees, and using a reimbursement model to repay employees for business use of their personal devices.  Some people have even speculated that the primary reason for BYOD is to break the stranglehold that IT has on corporate data.  This has significant implications for Enterprise IT:

  • First: Clinging to the idea of a “corporate standard” smartphone has always been a fantasy, since new devices ship every week and management has always done whatever they want regardless of the approved model list.  Now this fantasy is completely destroyed by opening the choices to literally hundreds of devices, and having the device selected primarily for its consumer-oriented features.  While Blackberries once ruled the enterprise, they are now but one choice in a tidal wave of new, feature-rich smart phones.
  • Second: Demand for access to corporate data will increase exponentially as the smart devices become pervasive in the enterprise.  A quick look at the IT news will tell you that mobile BI, mobile data monitoring, mobile alerts and mobile analytics have all become hot topics.  Once a status symbol of the executive management team, accessing real-time corporate data will become commonplace among the rank and file, using their web-enabled smartphones pointed at corporate servers.
  • Third: Forget about “web-enabling” existing applications.  This slippery slope has been tried for years with only large, unfinished projects to show for it.  Business users have never wanted their desktops on their smartphones, they simply want access to the data.  Smart IT organizations will realize this and find ways to “repurpose” corporate DATA (not applications) in a safe, secure, timely and scalable manner.  It won’t take them long to feel the “app backlash” we wrote about earlier this year, and quickly turn to web apps to solve their immediate and future problems in a proven way.  

This “consumerization” of the business will happen whether Enterprise IT is ready or not, so smart organizations are gearing up for this.  They are focusing their IT gurus on delivering secure web access to any portable device, on demand and driven by business needs, not corporate paranoia.

Monday
Jul112011

Identity Crisis: Mobile BI, Dashboard, Monitoring or Something Else?

MP900382665[1]Look across the world of mobile business applications and all of the people that write/blog about them and one thing becomes clear, “mobile BI” has a buzz right now.  So does “mobile dashboards,” “mobile operations monitoring,” “mobile alerts” and a few others.  This has prompted the obvious questions of late: “which one are you (meaning Visual KPI)?” 

The question doesn’t come from customers very often because a) they make up their own terms and don’t seem to care what we or “the industry” seem to call this stuff, and b) they are always right.  It comes more often from analysts, bloggers, partners and competitors.  Either way, it has been on our mind lately so I thought it deserved a few words.

The easy answer is d) all of the above.  This is correct, but let’s look into it in as simple a way as possible:

Mobile BI:

Home-Page-Phone-Collage-2Why we fit this definition: at its most root level, BI is all about decision support.  Getting great data to help you make better decisions.  Add mobile to it and it’s all about getting the right data to the right person at the right time on the right device and in context.  This is our bread and butter.  It’s what we live for.

Why we don’t fit this definition: from an industry perspective, BI has a long history in software and a set of applications have become synonymous with BI, including data warehouses, OLAP cubes, and sophisticated data processing.  Each of these implies you are the master source of data, and this is where Visual KPI is different.  We say leave your data where it already lives, get the most from it and do everything to avoid a huge deployment project.

Verdict: Visual KPI is mobile BI, because mobile business intelligence is not just traditional BI on mobile devices.

Download our free guide - avoiding the most common mobile BI mistakes

Mobile Dashboards:

Why we fit this definition: The literal definition of a dashboard is a panel of instrumentation and controls which is basically the same as decision support.  In the software world, this usually means a screen or set of screens with graphical representations of data that can give you the information you need at a glance.  ipad-2-4-KPI-Map-FlatOn all of these fronts, Visual KPI is a clear fit.  Scorecards, heat maps, KPIs, roll-up/pie charts, etc.  Traditional dashboard software often pulls data from many sources which is also something Visual KPI does.

Why we don’t fit this definition:  As with mobile BI, dashboards have some legacy baggage they bring with them into the mobile world (right or wrong).  In the world of traditional BI, dashboard software was usually a toolkit that you could use to design a dashboard as a front-end to your data warehouse or other data source.  Dashboard implementations still involved coding and a multi-month project, etc.  Visual KPI is not a toolkit but a finished application.  It is all data driven with no screens to build, and it uses Microsoft Excel as its design environment so there is no coding.  If a customer knows what they want to see and where to get it (data source), and how it is arranged (hierarchy), a Visual KPI deployment can happen in hours.  This is why we can deploy an enterprise-class server application on a free trial.

Verdict: Visual KPI is mobile dashboard software.  It sheds the big project, custom coding a design work and was built for mobile from the start, but it delivers a great dashboard experience for operations or other parts of a data-driven business.  We also don’t require a local app on the phone, but that’s another story altogether.

Mobile Operations Monitoring and alerts:

iPhone-4-3-AlertWhy we fit this definition:  This one is much easier.  First, everything about this is a fit.  We are mobile.  Our sweet spot is operations and fast-moving and fast-changing data.  We always show the most current data and alert you when things go wrong, or right, or whenever you want us to.  Like other monitoring tools, we can read data from the source (or many of them) and we present results clearly for making fast decisions with context.

Why we don’t fit this definition:  For the most part Visual KPI is clearly an operations monitoring and alerting application, but like the terms above there is already a monitoring software industry that might have some opposing views on it.  The most obvious monitoring scenario that comes to mind is data center monitoring or Network Operations Center (NOC) monitoring.  Much of this software is tailor-made for large screens, involves huge projects to deploy and often includes 7-figure price tags.  We clearly differ on price, deployment time, and mobility.

Verdict:  Visual KPI is mobile operations monitoring, and could also be called lightweight operations monitoring software if you use it on the desktop.

Mobile data visualization, mobile MES, mobile SCO, and many others. There are a host of other terms we could do this analysis on but really, what’s the point?  As I mentioned at the top of the article, the customer is really the only one who matters.  One of ours even calls us “Blackberry PI” because they use Visual KPI to put OSIsoft PI System data on their Blackberries.

The real questions is: what do you think?  We would love to hear some other opinions on this.

Wednesday
Jun222011

Enterprise App Backlash on the Horizon?

Mobile BI on iOS or AndroidWe were just notified that a recent guest-post was published on Dashboard Insight today.  In it we discuss something our customers have brought up many times: Mobile “apps,” and more importantly the app-store model currently used for consumer apps is starting to look way less exciting in the enterprise.  Consumers, who are effectively running their own IT department, have found amazing value in this model.  Businesses who have their own IT shop and the associated standards, security requirements, compatibility issues, procurement rules, regulatory requirements and application management issues are quickly learning to hate the app-store model.

We put our customers’ and our own thoughts together and you can read it here: http://www.dashboardinsight.com/articles/new-concepts-in-business-intelligence/mobile-bi-and-the-coming-enterprise-app-backlash.aspx

Thursday
Jun162011

New Video: Visual KPI – A conversation

A few weekends ago, Michael and I were gathered here at the EMEA HQ in Basel, Switzerland and we were waiting patiently for some UI changes in the new Visual KPI v4 so we could make a real product video.  That’s a lie.  We aren’t patient about anything.  To pass the time, and to avoid the hundred other things we needed to accomplish (like finishing our still unfinished cool new demo – coming soon), we created this fun little video.

Special thanks to the folks at xtranormal for making such a fun tool.  Enjoy!

Transpara Visual KPI–A conversation

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