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Live from the SAPinsider Studio: Chris Hickman on Mobile Analytics

A one-on-one interview recorded live at BI 2014 in Orlando

May 2, 2014

Chris Hickman, Principal Consultant with Decision First Technologies, joins SAPinsider's Ken Murphy at SAPinsider Studio during BI2014 in Orlando, Florida, to discuss mobile analytics, particularly in the SAP Business Intelligence environment. Hickman also touches on building infographics using SAP Lumira.

View the video, and read the edited transcript of this conversation with Chris Hickman here:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and I’m reporting live at BI 2014 and HANA 2014. Today I’m pleased to be joined by Chris Hickman. He’s principal consultant with Decision First Technologies.

Chris, thanks for joining us.

Chris Hickman, Decision First: Thanks for having me.

Ken: To start, can you introduce your role with Decision First and your area of expertise?

Chris: Sure. I’m a principal consultant with Decision First Technologies.  I’ve been with the company for about seven years now. I specialize in the front-end tools, Web Intelligence, Crystal, developing visualizations through the dashboarding applications, Dashboards, the Design Studio applications, also dealing with Lumira, and connecting to the back-end data sources.

Ken: So you’re here today to talk about mobile analytics. Lots of interest today, obviously; we heard a lot about that in the keynote. In your estimation, how effective has SAP been, overall, in the last year or so in this area?

Chris: SAP has become incredibly effective, in my opinion. Because what I’m seeing, especially in the mobile space, is that with the proliferation of these mobile devices, that everybody wants to take their data mobile. They want to break away from the desktop.

So SAP has responded to that, and they’ve really led the way with their SAP BI mobile application, and in that application you can access all of your reports - your analytics, Explorer spaces, Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports, Lumira, any of the Lumira visualizations you built --  it’s all accessible within one single application. So while you’re on the go, you’re able to pick up your mobile device, answer a question that you might have, or respond to a customer request, or respond to a text message or an email that you got, straight from your mobile device.

Ken: So, if I’m an organization that’s kind of set in my ways, for lack of a better phrase, I have this existing toolset of desktop visualizations. Now I’m interested in mobile, for, obviously, all the benefits it brings. Can I expect the same look, or that it will be as effective, because I’m working on a smaller device?

Chris: Yeah, you certainly have to take form factor into consideration whenever you’re building mobile applications. But the idea with the mobile device is you can have it both ways. You can have your analytics and reports appear the way that they appear on the screen. For instance, Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence: If you build a report that answers a question or suits a need, you can see that same report in the same format on your mobile device as you can on your desktop. Keep in mind that it looks better on a tablet device as opposed to a phone form factor, if you’re looking at, say, a WYSIWYG report or a PDF version of a report.

On the other side, you can also take that same report and format it for mobile, so then it’s touch-optimized based on the device on which it’s deployed or on which it’s accessed. So when you look at it on say, an iPad or an Android tablet, it’s optimized so that you can touch it, you can look at it, you can access the data a lot more easily, and you can see it a lot more easily than if it were something that appeared on a desktop.

Same thing with a phone: You can take the same analytics, the same reports that are mobile formatted; they’re optimized for touch on a smaller device. So if you’re looking at it from an iPhone or an Android device, or if you’re looking at in on that form factor, it’s optimized for that size.

Ken: And that includes a whole set of tools that are all optimized like that? Does that include Lumira?

Chris: It does, the SAP BI application now includes Lumira. SAP, in my opinion, has done a really good job of consolidating the tools, because before we had the BI application, we had Explorer, we had even at one point the Exploration Views application. They were all separate applications that you’d have to install on your mobile devices. Now we have a single application at the latest 4.1 platform that consolidates all that into a single application, one-stop shop.

Ken: I see. So now I’m an organization that has an existing tool set of, say, BusinessObjects tools and other Business Intelligence tools, and I’m hearing a lot about Lumira. What is the value-add of Lumira as opposed to, say, Explorer and other tools?

Chris: The biggest value-add that I’ve seen so far is the ability to tell a story about your data, as opposed to looking at a report that gives you charts, it gives you tables, it gives you some information, detailed information about your data.

When you look at Explorer, Explorer gives you the ability to explore your data, look at your data in new and different ways. Lumira lets you explore your data, but Lumira also lets you tell a story about that data, so as we saw this morning in the keynote, we saw the new infographics that came through.

That’s a new feature that I’m excited about because that truly tells a story about your data, you’re able to go through the flow of that data, see how your data relates to one another> You’re able to not just drill down farther into the data, which you can do with the infographics, but also look at it from an overall perspective. So you’re able to go from your stockholders, your CEO, your CFO, and give them a view of the data, a view of the business through these new sorts of visualizations, and also deal with your managers, your business analysts, your users, and let them see the same data, but then see  data that pertains to them. So storytelling is a really great feature.

Ken: From a user perspective, though, if I’m that storyteller, and I’m using Lumira to tell these stories, what sort of a technical know-how do I need to have to be able to you know, format something in the most effective way?

Chris: That’s the beauty of Lumira. It has the tools which are basically just drag-and-drop. So when you’re able to connect to your data sources through the Lumira tool you’re able to access the visualizations that make the most sense for the story you’re trying to tell, and you’re able to just drop your data elements into those visualizations. There’s not a whole lot of technical knowledge that you need. So users, if they have technical knowledge, great, it’s not required for Lumira.

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