I recently came across an interesting blog post by Curt Monash entitled “Visualization or Navigation.”  In this post Curt proposes that ‘navigation’ is more important than visualization, and that this capability is a product of the platform technology that underlies a BI product.  A quote from the article..

 

“It might seem that a lot of the action in business intelligence revolves around ever-better visualization… But I don’t think that’s exactly right — rather, I see navigation as being a much bigger deal. And unlike most pure visualization, navigation usually depends strongly on underlying platform capabilities.”

 

We at Qlik couldn’t agree more.  That’s not to say data visualization isn’t important.  In fact, we have invested heavily in our visualization capabilities in QlikView.Next.  It’s just that visualization is only one piece of a broader set of capabilities that enable discovery and insight.

 

What Curt calls navigation we tend to think of as interactivity.  This means giving the user a natural and effective way to go beyond the information they are offered in the initial set of charts and graphs.  No matter how good a visualization is, it can’t possibly tell the entire story.  And furthermore, a good visualization will prompt more questions than it will answer.  That’s why we see visualization as a starting point, not the whole picture.

 

Another recent trend has been around the concept of data storytelling.  Several vendors including ourselves are moving in this direction.  We see data storytelling as a way to collaborate and persuade with visuals and narrative presented in a manner that articulates insights and opinions.

 

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Again, interactivity is a key ingredient.  It’s not enough to publish static data stories that are still a form of one-way communication.  There is a need for interactivity and discovery even when telling stories.  The experience should be a dialog, not a monologue.  Data stories should allow for a user to seamlessly move between live, interactive analysis and presentation of pre-determined insights.

 

In the end, it all goes back to the strength of the platform.  Interactivity is only possible when the underlying technology supports it in a powerful and unique way.  QlikView’s Natural Analytics@ technology drives an interactive experience that is hard to match.

As we just released our new iOS app, I started thinking more about where the real value lies in QlikView on Mobile. In my opinion, it's about empowering the user.

QlikView users fall into a spectrum, from IT administrators and data analysts to line of business staff, managers, and executives. Each type of user has a different set of challenges and objectives for BI.  With mobile BI, the delivery vehicle may be different, but the goals are relatively the same:

  • Business users want to gain relevant insights to make better decisions, factoring in the variety of questions that arise in mobile environments
  • Power users / app developers want to rapidly and easily create analytic apps that offer needed information to a variety of business users on the go
  • IT administrators want to create a manageable and secure infrastructure that serves a variety of mobile user communities, while ensuring data quality and governance across devices and platforms

Pretty simple, right? Well not really. The word here that makes things complicated here is “variety.”

 

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Variety is the spice of life, but it can also make life challenging. Mobile environments are diverse in nature and BI users on the road typically face new and evolving challenges in their day-to-day lives. The unpredictability of users’ information needs in mobile environments affects everyone in the value chain including business users in the field, the developers that provide business users with analytic apps, and the IT staff that manage the data and infrastructure.

So the value that QlikView on Mobile offers is empowering all our user communities to better handle variety. A single QlikView on Mobile app enables a business user to answer a wide variety of questions and follow-up questions through simple taps. This means that a developer can deliver fewer apps that address more needs, replacing hundreds of limited-interactivity mobile reports in the process. IT administrators can deploy apps across mobile and desktop platforms,ensuring enterprise-class security and promoting data governance regardless of what device is used to access information.

With the new QlikView for iOS app on iPad, we address the need for disconnected mobile capabilities with a similar aspiration. Our approach is to enable business users to explore and discover all the data in the QlikView app when connected and then give them the option to take their unique views with them when disconnected. By enabling individuals to define QlikView bookmarks and then download these views for offline availability, we promote flexibility for large communities of users to serve their own needs. This means more relevant information and insight at the time and place of decision, even when Internet connections don’t exist.

For more information on the new QlikView for iOS app, check out the web page.

The “Mobility with Agility” theme of “QlikView.next” (the code name for the next generation of the QlikView Business Discovery platform) is about users having access to Business Discovery from any device. Mobility in QlikView.next delivers all the benefits of the overall platform. We are designing the user experience starting with a mobile and touch interface, rather than developing a desktop experience and then modifying it to work on tablets and smartphones. Therefore, all the Gorgeous and Genius, Compulsive Collaboration, and Premier Platform capabilities introduced in QlikView.next will be delivered on mobile devices in the same manner as desktops and laptops. This will create a truly beautiful and agile mobile Business Discovery experience – enabling people to ask and answer new questions while in new situations and contexts out on the road.

In addition to delivering all the new capabilities of QlikView.next on mobile, the “Mobility with Agility” theme is focused on two primary scenarios:

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  • Server-Based Development. With this product scenario we are embracing server-based application development as the default. Developers will be able to do their work anywhere, on any machine – including tablets. Wherever they are working they will always get the same interface and user experience. Server-based development will also facilitate collaborative application development more naturally than client-based development.
  • Take Your Data on the Road. With this scenario, we have in mind users who need access to specific QlikView apps while they are not connected to the QlikView Server (offline). Picture a pharmaceutical sales rep preparing for customer visits in a hospital, for example. Users will be able to access QlikView apps on touch-enabled devices regardless of whether or not they are connected to a QlikView Server. They will be able to sync server-based apps and views of data with their touchscreen devices before going offline.

To learn more about "QlikView.next," the code name for the next generation of the QlikView Business Discovery platform, download the white paper, "The QlikView.next Product Scenarios."

It was recently mentioned to me by a customer that there are some mobile BI products on the market that offer “complete functionality'” when disconnected. And this got me thinking... what does complete functionality really mean?

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In the world of reporting-based tools, data is usually pre-aggregated in some fashion. The result is that a user can access a finite set of high level data points, essentially answering the questions the report writer thought of in advance. Reports may include some degree of drill-down capability or interactivity, offering the illusion that the user is exploring data in their own way. But unless the report writer thought of the exact questions a user wanted to answer, the experience is limiting in terms of the business value it can provide.

So what does this infer for mobile BI? On mobile devices, reports are typically generated by the server and pushed down to a device, where they can be opened and viewed. Well, it's certainly not unreasonable to think that this approach works when offline. But I would offer that reporting-based architectures act like an entirely and always offline solution, meaning that even when a server connection is available the tool will still provide the same limited user experience. The only difference is that when online a user can update or download new reports.

“Complete functionality” for QlikView means something entirely different. QlikView offers the ability for users to explore data their own unique ways, following their own paths to discovery and better insight. However, in order to provide this combination of flexibility and power, QlikView needs to processes large data sets on the fly. This requires compute power that today's mobile devices simply can't offer. So that's why QlikView on Mobile runs “online” -- it relies on the QlikView Server to do the heavy lifting.

So when evaluating mobile BI solutions, make sure you are delivering business value. Don’t assume that because users are mobile they will be satisfied with a limited experience when a connection is available.  The need for true Business Discovery is critical in mobile environments where questions are variable – when people need to test hypotheses on the road, or have an observation on-location that sparks an insight.

We do, of course, understand that some users don't always have a connection, and that there is a valid need for some level of access when disconnected. We think there could be a “best of both worlds” solution.  Stay tuned…

In today's complex environments, we view cross-platform mobile support as a critical capability for our customers.  As more device types and mobile operating systems make it to market, it is becoming increasingly difficult for IT organizations to maintain control of their data and applications while still offering flexibility and support to their business user communities.

 

With QlikView 11, we have taken the next step forward in our strategy to offer seamless Business Discovery capabilities across desktop and mobile platforms.  With our HTML5 based web app architecture, we now support multiple tablet operating systems and offer a new optimized display mode for handhelds.

 

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For Tablets, QlikView 11 server is now enabled to recognize Android devices and tested to support them.  This means you can access the same QlikView apps, with the same multitouch functionality and security, on the Apple iPad, the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab and others.

 

 

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For handhelds, we have gone further by creating a new optimized presentation mode for small screens.  It leverages the same HTML5 based architecture as tablets, but presents the QlikView apps differently.  Instead of full dashboard layout, application tabs are represented by rows and individual objects on each tab are visible in tiles across the rows.  This allows for one handed scrolling, viewing of individual objects, making selections within objects, and assessing the results of selections.  QlikView server automatically recognizes touch devices and renders this mode with no additional configuration needed.  And of course standard layout is always available for those who prefer zooming in and out vs. the new tiled view.

 

 

So now QlikView apps can be hosted on a server and accessed from virtually any type of touch device through a browser.  Selection states can be saved between sessions, allowing users to pick up on a mobile device exactly where they left off on a laptop (or vice versa).  Users can utilize QlikView 11 features such as collaboration and annotations directly from mobile devices.  And IT organizations can confidently deploy and control business discovery capabilities in a centralized manner, without additional complexity around data provisioning, security, or mobilizing reports.

 

You can try out our new mobile capabilities at demo11.qlikview.com.  Simply point an Apple or Android tablet or handheld browser at the site to access the apps.  When you view applications, you will see a link in the top right that allows you to switch to small devices mode.   And check out our new white paper entitled "QlikView On Mobile: Beyond Reporting", and the data sheet “What’s New in QlikView 11.”

When Netscape Navigator gained popularity in the mid 90's, the web browser was seen simply as a tool for reading information on the internet. The user experience on the browser was limited at the time, but it served its purpose as the primary vehicle for web content delivery. By the late 90's, there were multiple browsers available for different computing platforms, that all shared the HTML standard.

Over time, developers and users realized that interactive applications could be delivered through the web browser. This approach offered a number of advantages for both consumers and businesses. Vendors ranging from web ecommerce to internal enterprise systems began to deploy end user functionality through web browsers instead of 'fat' clients.

Today, the web browser is the dominant form factor for many, if not most, applications. In some cases, it serves as the only way to access applications (e.g. Salesforce.com), and in others it serves as a fully functional alternative to desktop apps (e.g. Google Docs, Microsoft Outlook). With HTML5 and other technologies, browsers have matured to the point where applications can be delivered with the same rich user functionality as desktop applications.

Mobile applications are on the same path

In a similar fashion, mobile applications are in the early stages of the same path. Today, people view the mobile browser as a content delivery vehicle with most vendors opting to build native applications for mobile devices. This trend has largely been fueled by the overwhelming success of Apple's app store and their preference for vendors to build specifically for iOS devices.

However, with the proliferation of different types of mobile devices and form factors, the need for a cross-platform browser solution is once again becoming critical. In addition, mobile browser technology is reaching the level where it is fully HTML5 compliant and can deliver robust and appealing user experiences on par with natively built applications. Once again, we are seeing a shift towards browser technology and the advantages it brings.

The advantages of a browser based approach

A browser based approach offers many benefits when building and deploying enterprise applications:

  • Consistent, device neutral user experience - Allows the same applications to be deployed and experienced in the same fashion across not only different mobile devices, but laptops and desktops as well.
  • Server based processing and data access - Does not limit application functionality based on the limited power of the mobile device, instead leverages the server to provide fully capable applications with complete, live data sets.
  • Improved manageability - Promotes a 'build once deploy anywhere' approach for vendors and customers, eliminating the need to rebuild the same applications to work on different platforms.
  • Enterprise level security - Allows security to be handled on the server side, meaning that data and application entitlements and access restrictions are managed centrally, and work without additional effort across platforms.
  • Independence from third-party app stores - Eliminates reliance on third party approval processes for software updates, reducing supply-side risk for customers and allowing them to work directly with vendors.

QlikView

Given QlikView's emphasis on delivering simplicity, speed, and value, the browser approach is the perfect fit for our technology and customers. As the number of mobile devices on the market continues to expand, we foresee others in the industry following suit. What do you think?

The user interface for touch screen mobile devices such as iPad is different from the UI for laptop or desktop computers in two primary ways: screen real estate and user interaction mechanism (touch screen vs. keyboard and mouse). QlikView developers should take these important differences into account when designing QlikView applications. Timed with the release of our newest QlikView on Mobile functionality in QlikView 10 service release (SR) 2, we thought we'd share with you a few best practices for designing QlikView apps that users will access via iPads. These practices come to you courtesy of Shima Nakazawa, QlikTech's Director of Demos and Best Practices.

Design for limited space
Because of the limited real estate on an iPad, plan out which objects to place on a sheet and eliminate unnecessary objects. Build to the native iPad resolution - even though an iPad screen size is 1024 x 768 pixels, its native resolution is slightly smaller. The best resolution you can design QlikView application for is 980 x 590 with a tab row, and 980 x 610 without a tab row. Use portrait mode when your app contains mainly a long list of records in a table, and landscape mode to display visual charts and graphs. When including many charts in one sheet, put the charts in a container object so users can interact with one larger-sized object at a time. Use list boxes for the most frequently-used fields and a search object for other fields. If multiple charts are sharing the same field, use consistent colors so one legend can refer to multiple objects. Steer clear of too much text in charts and graphs; consider using a data table in these cases.

Make sure the most important information is visible
Because of the limited space, but you may have a tendency to use small font sizes to open up space for more objects. Keep users' reading comfort in mind. Make everything visible and easy to navigate. We recommend a minimum 11pt font size. Use Arial or other font faces that are supported in iPad browser?not fonts that can be found only on desktop computers. Also remember that people will navigate through the user interface with their fingers, which means that each touch point must be large enough to point at with a finger, not a mouse.

Focus on usability
On an iPad, there is no mouse pointer or right click. Be sure to implement only functionality that makes sense to use with the touch of a finger. Make sure all objects are easy to navigate and interact with. For example, always include an object that displays current selections (applied filters). To make it apparent how people should interact with applied filters, provide buttons for actions like "clear," "forward," and "back." Use search objects instead of multi-boxes. Don't require a "mouse-over" for charts and graphs, given that this is not possible without a mouse. Lastly, use standard icons on your objects, such as a "clear" icon for simple navigation in a list box and a "menu" icon for the full list of options for interacting with a field.

By taking these guidelines to heart, you'll be able to create QlikView on Mobile apps that are easy to navigate and easy to interact with, and take advantage of both the screen real estate of mobile devices and the touch screen user interaction mechanism.

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