Data visualization is core to business intelligence (BI), as it’s the means by which data is communicated to the user. Results, alerts suggestions, or even more controlled guidance—all of these elements are passed through the data visualization function of a BI application. No matter how much importance software providers give the aesthetics of visualization, all agree that a BI or business analytics application requires a visualization framework that is clear and simple and able to communicate the intended message. Here are three major trends of the last year that are reshaping the BI and analytics space:
The BI ecosystem is seeing major advances with respect to where data can be consumed. The application of mobile technologies to BI has enabled information workers and decision makers to consume data wherever they are. Smartphones initially posed a major challenge to vendors—to provide compelling visualizations on very small canvases—but with the emergence of tablet computers, the problem has pretty much disappeared. Now BI providers have bigger, more suitable canvases on which to provide their visualization tools to their data consumers. But new problems have arisen because of the great number and variety of mobile devices now in use: are these devices business or personal? As Wayne Eckerson has discussed on his blog, some organizations are changing their corporate strategies with regard to their mobile infrastructures to accommodate their employees’ mobile devices.
This individualization of mobile device usage is promoting the evolution of mobile BI products in two areas in particular: Device Transparency Mobile BI providers are making efforts to provide their users with access to different types of mobile platforms and devices. Some mobile BI providers rely on the massive adoption and dominance of a certain type of mobile device, such as Apple’s iPhone or iPad, or platform, such as Android. Such vendors include RoamBI, with its high quality and appealing visualizations and graphs; Yellowfin, which provides a diverse set of features right out of the box; and QlikView, with its new approach to in-memory analysis and BI. Other vendors take a broad approach to enable users to access their data from almost any type of smart mobile device. Such is the case of LogiXML, with its portable and adaptable design based on Web technologies.
Transpara, with a device-agnostic architecture, is ready to be installed on top of a wide number of BI systems. ComponentArt enables the development of mobile dashboards using Silverlight or Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and publication of data using HTML5, so organizations can create very attractive dashboards for almost any type of device. Server-side Architecture for Secure Data Consumption Going mobile presents a challenge for BI in terms of securing data at all stages of the analytic process, primarily for data transmission and device access. For this reason many vendors are opting for a mobile product that provides functionality via server-side architecture with the use of a Web infrastructure like HTML5. Information then can be stored, managed, and provided using a mobile BI server, where the risk of exposing sensitive data is lower than storing it on a mobile device that could be stolen. While this might represent a sacrifice of the flexibility provided by client-based applications that reside on the mobile device, many mobile BI vendors are confident that frameworks like HTML5 will soon provide flexibility and navigation capabilities equal to those of client-based applications.