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BO Mobile is ready for "Primetime"!

SAP has been having a two-pronged strategy and separate product lines for Mobile Analytics: BusinessObjects Mobile for enabling purpose-built BI content on Mobile devices and BusinessObjects Explorer Mobile for enabling data search and exploration via Mobile devices.

Recently SAP announced the next big enhancement to BO Mobile product - version 4.1.0, with many new additional features and enhancements. As someone who had used earlier versions of BO Mobile for BlackBerry and iPad, I found some of these new features really exciting, which I have discussed in this blog.

SAP has been having a two-pronged strategy and separate product lines for Mobile Analytics: BusinessObjects Mobile for enabling purpose-built BI content on Mobile devices and BusinessObjects Explorer Mobile for enabling data search and exploration via Mobile devices. There is a third angle to this as well, the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP). SUP is definitely SAP's principal mobile platform, and eventually Mobile BI will integrate with or fold into it. At this time however, details of SUP's integration with BusinessObjects are sketchy at best.

In this blog, we will discuss some of the enhancements and features that will be available as part of BO Mobile 4.1.0.

BusinessObjects Mobile has been around since BO XI R2, supporting interactive on-demand reporting via handheld mobile devices. There have been numerous enhancements and upgrades to this product since then. However, in my view, the biggest upgrade happened last year with the release of BO Mobile for iPad. This release enabled organizations to "render" BI content (only WebI) on an iPad. It was the first step to extend Business Intelligence into the hands of mobile workforce and senior execs, on a much more usable device than a smart phone. However, the initial feature set was limited and not much customization was possible.

Recently SAP announced the next big enhancement to the product - version 4.1.0, with many new additional features and enhancements. As someone who had used earlier versions of BO Mobile for BlackBerry and iPad, I found some of these new features really exciting:

Enhanced functionality on WebI documents -

  • Users can now drill into the reports - both from tables and chart
  • Input controls defined in WebI reports are available on iPad
  • If a WebI document has multiple sections defined in it for data grouping, those are available on mobile and users can switch sections easily
  • Multi-dimension charts are now supported. This was an issue earlier.
  • Content rendering on iPad was automatic, based on a pre-defined display rules. For example, if there are multiple reporting components on a WebI document such as tables, charts, etc., they were translated on iPad in an automatic mode. Now users have more control over rendering on iPad through what is known as flexi-layout.

  • Data visualization on geo maps. However, unlike BO Explorer Mobile, location awareness is not yet available.

New Collaboration features - There are some cool new features for collaboration and sharing of BI content via Mobile.

  • Users can add comments or annotations to the report, either using keyboard or simply scribbling.
  • Part of the report can be cropped and/or blurred.
  • It can then be sent to another user via email. The recipient can access the content via either a desktop or an iPad - separate URL's available in the email.

Security and admin features - These came up as questions/concerns in almost every client discussion. Glad that SAP has addressed to a large extent.

  • There is a new "Confidential" category that can be set for each report. If the report is tagged as confidential, users cannot download it to the device. It must be viewed online. The advantage is that there will no data stored on the device and moreover users will always get the most recent version from the server. On the flip side, users cannot view the report in offline mode and must be connected.
  • Instead of disabling report download individually, admin can disable report downloads completely at a global level also. However, in my view, to disable offline usage completely is not a great idea. (Note: Data on device is already secured using encryption.)
  • Another key security feature is to define validity time (TTL) for downloaded reports. After the TTL is over, users cannot use the downloaded version and will have to get the fresh data from the server. This is a great way to ensure that users always download and refer to the most updated data.
  • Admin can now also disable storing of password on the device. If disabled, users will have to key in the BO password every time. This again has its own merits and demerits. The control however is now in administrators' hand.

Other big additions to the new version are, support for Crystal documents and integration with Streamwork, SUP and Afaria. But more on these, next time.

However, there are some more features which I wish BO Mobile had....

  1. Some limited ad-hoc capability for users e.g. ability to add/remove table fields/dimensions
  2. Ability to change chart types on the device
  3. Report Personalization
  4. Some kind of simulated desktop environment for report publisher to "preview" the content before publishing
  5. Integration of BO Mobile with BO Explorer Mobile. May be a unified mobile app for both?
  6. And lastly, iPhone and Android support

SAP has already mentioned about some of these features, and more, in the future roadmap.  Nonetheless, the host of features and functionalities available in version 4.1.0 makes BO Mobile a compelling choice for organizations looking for options for Mobile Analytics. In my opinion, BO Mobile for iPad is now ready for "Primetime"!


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