Mobile devices are moving very quickly to replace computers and laptops as the new productivity tools for execs and employees. We all use our iPhones and BlackBerrys constantly. We check email, play with apps, chat and talk, whether we’re in the office, or outside. We are constantly connected. The BI vendors have been slow to respond to this trend, but are gaining traction and stepping up. BusinessObjects faces a particularly delicate problem as its main dashboarding platform (Xcelsius) is Flash based and will not run on Apple iPhone and iPad devices.
To respond, BusinessObjects released an iPhone/iPad app that is based on its Explorer product. It’s a great and intuitive way to explore data. However, it lacks the ability to configure navigation, or control high level of refinement, as you would expect from any dashboard or BI application, mobile or not.
I have spent some time exploring alternative options to the Explorer web app, and none proved to be very easy to use and effective. Web Intelligence, the reporting flagship product for BusinessObjects has many interactive features that would have made developing mobile applications terrific, but many don’t work on the iPhone platform. For example, using a table block as an input control to filter another report block, did not work on iPhone. After much experimentation, I found the best approach for designing your own reports based mobile application to be using Crystal Reports. Crystal Reports provide a nice drill down capability “out-of-the-box” that works on iPhone. The charts are image based, so will display on any mobile device, Apple’s included. And using report part navigation along with group down drills, you can create some very nifty reporting capabilities, “on the go…”