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The Power of Mobile Analytics

by Brad Surak | SAPinsider

July 1, 2011

As the use of mobile devices rapidly increases, so does the need to deliver business analytics in a way that mobile users can easily consume. In this article, Brad Surak, SAP's Vice President and General Manager of Mobile Analytic Applications, discusses the latest features of SAP's mobile analytic applications, including semantic zooming, and provides use cases to help illustrate the user experience.

The increasing use of business analytics is changing the way organizations think and act. Most SAP users are becoming more “data-driven” by leveraging the wealth of data collected across their enterprise to make more effective decisions.

The concurrent trend of enterprise mobility —more specifically, the emergence of the tablet device within the enterprise — is providing a new opportunity to put a specific set of business analytics in a mobile user’s hands. The ability to segment and even personalize intelligence and to provide guidance on how to best use that information on a mobile device is powerful. For example, imagine being able to drill down through many layers of data to determine why a specific product didn’t ship to a customer, simply by flicking your fingers across your iPad screen. 

Welcome to mobile analytics.

Key Concept: Mobile Analytics

Mobile analytics refers to the ability to access and act on business intelligence through mobile devices. This article provides an overview of SAP’s new mobile analytic applications that leverage the combined power of business analytics and Sybase Unwired Platform.

Setting the Stage

To leverage the power of mobile analytics and turn data into actionable intelligence for mobile users, a company must have a few building blocks in place. First, you need the right analytics engine to process the data on the back end and produce the intelligence in segments that mobile users can digest. Second, that intelligence must be produced and delivered quickly at a level that is directly applicable to the business unit — or the mobile user — requesting it. Third, the intelligence must be delivered securely in a format that suits the mobile device of choice and is easy to navigate.

For SAP customers, those prerequisites have been met. Mobile analytics is the point where SAP’s two most recent acquisitions (Business Objects and Sybase) merge with the development of in-memory processing via SAP In-Memory Appliance (SAP HANA) to create a powerful mobile analytics platform. SAP’s business analytics solution portfolio provides the “engine” required to turn a company’s flow of data into mobile-sized segments. The in-memory processing capability of SAP HANA streamlines data processing and delivery. And Sybase Unwired Platform allows for the secure and efficient delivery of intelligence to an increasingly mobile user base in a format suited for all new devices.

But all the back-end capabilities in the world are useful only if the final intelligence delivered is meaningful to the user. That’s where SAP’s investment in specific domain expertise and our co-innovation processes come into play to ensure our mobile analytic applications meet the specific needs of mobile users.

The Latest in Mobile Analytics

As we announced at SAPPHIRE NOW, SAP is developing a set of targeted industry and line-of-business mobile analytic applications planned for release at the beginning of 2012, extending and expanding the portfolio of business analytic applications we released last year.1 These prebuilt mobile analytic apps will focus on addressing top-of-mind business problems across many industries and lines of business on topics such as healthcare quality management, retail on-shelf availability, and trade promotion effectiveness (see Figure 1). After the initial launch, SAP and its partners plan to release additional mobile analytic apps throughout 2012.

For mobile applications to gain widespread adoption, they need to leverage the unique capabilities of mobility while accounting for a mobile user’s screen size and navigation controls. The user experience for mobile apps is very different than for desktop applications because of differences in navigation styles and the user’s location when interacting with the app. While these mobile analytic apps extend the capabilities of SAP’s existing solutions, they also abandon some of the long-held desktop user models and bring a decidedly mobile-centric approach to market.

Desktop users typically open an application and stay in it for hours while switching back and forth between other desktop applications. The new format of mobile tablets gives us the ability to create new user experiences that blur the lines between analytics, collaborations, and workflows.

From their inception, SAP’s mobile analytic applications were designed and built specifically for mobile devices through a very visual approach to the user experience. Before any technical development began, we created a set of drawings that visualized business processes and used them to develop wireframe mockups. Next, we showed those mockups to users in specific process areas to detail how they could optimally interact with and execute the decision-making process on a tablet. This step led to a significant feature of the mobile apps: semantic zooming. With pinch and zoom navigation tools, users can quickly drill into data; for example, they can look at a chart of yearly sales data and zoom in by months, weeks, days, hours, and ultimately to a single transaction — all with a simple sweep of a finger.2

How are SAP’s new mobile analytic applications different from their desktop brethren? For one, a user working in an analytic application on a mobile device can easily invoke a workflow to act on the intelligence he or she is viewing — there’s no need to move from one application to another. Or, a user can be in a workflow and easily access the analytics needed to make more informed decisions within that workflow.


Analytic application


What it does 


SAP BusinessObjects On-Shelf Availability Analysis


Gives consumer products companies near real-time demand data to minimize risk of stockouts


SAP BusinessObjects Trade Promotion Effectiveness Analysis


Provides consumer products sales teams with a measure of effectiveness for marketing and promotion activity


SAP BusinessObjects Sales Analysis for Retail


Provides retailers with visibility into demand data and analyzes reasons behind demand trends


SAP BusinessObjects Quality Management for Healthcare


Aggregates a healthcare organization’s quality data to determine risk areas


SAP BusinessObjects Customer Analysis and Retention for Telecommunications


Helps telecommunications providers identify at-risk customers and prospects for up-sell and cross-sell

Figure 1 Along with new applications, SAP plans to make these existing analytic applications available for mobile devices at the beginning of 2012; additional mobile analytic apps targeting other industries and functions will be released next year

Use Cases Tell the Story

These use cases help illustrate the user experience with SAP’s new mobile analytic applications.

Investigate Customer Churn Rate

SAP’s portfolio of mobile analytic applications allows users to go beyond just viewing analytic data, enabling them to drill down into the root cause of the issues highlighted by the analytics. For example, SAP BusinessObjects Customer Analysis and Retention for Telecommunications, a tool that enables visibility into consumer retention and growth, can alert a sales manager to a spike in the customer churn rate in his organization. By drilling down into the data, he can see that the churn rate spikes in a specific region

during a specific month. Further analysis on the app can indicate which type of customer in that region shows the highest rate of churn during that period. Customer satisfaction levels tell the sales manager that it’s not a service issue, so it must be a product acceptance issue. Now, he can focus corrective action in that area to quickly address the issue before it further impacts sales. A key feature of this root-cause analysis is the influence model, which allows users to graphically view and manipulate cause-and-effect relationships between various KPIs and metrics (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 With an influence model, a user can explore cause-and-effect relationships between metrics and variables

Drill Down into Supplier Risk

From a user’s perspective, mobile analytic apps must be smaller in scope and more directly applicable to his or her business function. For example, imagine that a purchasing professional receives an alert on her iPad indicating an elevation in a supplier’s risk rating. While that piece of information is important, she will want to explore why the rating has changed and what the possible impact and recommended actions are.

SAP’s mobile analytic applications are designed to intuitively understand causal factors for such alerts — credit score in this case — and interactively lead the user to problem areas. Here, it might be caused by issues with the supplier’s cash flow. When the user looks at cash flow, the app knows the relevant KPIs, such as liquidity ratios, inventory turns, and lead times, and directs the user there. So the user gets guidance through the analysis of the business problem. The user can also investigate various courses of action and perform what-if analyses by using a dial control in the app to extend lead times and find out how long it will be before production is affected. Then, the user can initiate a supplier audit workflow from within the analytic application.

Put It All in the User’s Hands: A Preview

The mobile revolution has taught IT organizations and developers that business users are driving IT today. It’s no longer an IT organization “push” out to the users, but a business-level “pull” model, with business users prioritizing both ease of use and empowerment to perform more sophisticated analyses themselves.

As specific as we try to get with our mobile analytic apps, SAP cannot develop one for every role and process in your enterprise. But you can. Imagine giving your business analysts the power to develop their own custom mobile analytic apps that pull and present data specific to that role. Well, that capability is in the works at SAP. In the near future, our customers will have access to a solution that will enable their business analysts to compose their own customized mobile apps, removing the filter (usually the IT organization) between the user and the information.

Analytics on the Move

As the use of mobile devices rapidly increases, so does the need to deliver business analytics in a way that mobile users can easily consume. By making analytic applications available on mobile devices, SAP enables companies to put the right information into the right hands — anywhere, anytime. Please visit to learn more.

Brad Surak ( is Vice President and General Manager of Mobile Analytic Applications at SAP. He has 20 years of experience leading software development and consulting organizations. While at Business Objects, he established a global consulting practice dedicated to the design and development of analytic applications to assist line-of-business (LOB) executives in detecting and diagnosing operational business problems. After SAP acquired Business Objects, Brad was a founding member of the Business Analytics Solution Unit. Following the Sybase acquisition, Brad was tasked with defining SAP’s mobile analytics strategy. He has a degree in computer science from Purdue University.

1 For more information, see “Improve Your Response to Opportunities and Challenges Through Business Analytics” by Brad Surak in the April-June 2010 issue of SAPinsider. [back]

2 The ability to quickly drill down into the data is enhanced by in-memory technology. [back]

3 Gartner, Inc., “Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2011 and Beyond” (November 30, 2010). [back]

4 Gartner, Inc., “Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management Software” (April 13, 2011). [back]

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