@ca_nicholls threw out an interesting tweet on August 1:
In memory capability will make dashboards obsolete, statement just made by SAP CEO Aus & NZ. Do you agree? I don’t.
This tweet has certainly piqued the interest of more than just a few at this point. It’s a pretty bold statement. Could it be a misquote? It’s possible. I definitely do not mean to discredit or disrespect @ca_nicholls in any way by that question, but let’s consider that he got it spot on…
For the record…I don’t think dashboards are going anywhere, but let’s talk about it.
Is it possible that the convergence of not only in memory, but mobility, can spell the end of dashboards as we know them? I would say that mobility as an evolving platform means it is possible if you consider the audience. The proliferation of mobile and in memory means a few things:
- Real speed
- Real interactivity
- Really connected
I’m not here to oversell the capability of HANA. For a reporting guy that has grappled with large databases, I personally welcome my in memory overlords. Can I really get super fast results on bajillions (technical term) of rows? I hope so. Want to get the latest of HANA? I highly recommend listening in to Jon Reed’s latest podcast on it. This post really isn’t all about that.
This is hands down where Xcelsius SAP Dashboards has brought us new levels of capability, and in my opinion, brought inspiration on what’s happening in the latest Web Intelligence. Interactivity is a generalization I’d like to break down. Consider the ability to drill down, change screens, dynamically filter results, dynamically sort (even if with third-party products or SDK code), or even do awesome what-if stuff. Sure, most of that is doable in Web Intelligence, but SAP Dashboards gave us a great tool to not only visualize the data, but also externalize it beyond InfoView (and do it in a really sexy way). I see new capabilities in BI4 like the ability to drill across to other blocks and charts and can’t help but think “huh..that’s kind of dashboard-y and I like it”.
Each discussion I seem to have around organizations that have iPads in house seem to indicate that chiefly, leadership team members are the ones that have the iPads, not those further below in the org chart. Is there any coincidence that this is the same audience we primarily promote dashboards to? It is highly likely that this trend is going to continue to change as the work force goes mobile and even personal devices are allowed on corporate networks. Not only that, but operational dashboards will become more prevalent. Are you like me? My iPhone never leaves my side. Really. On top of that, it’s a device that connects to my corporate network now so I can get to my intranet anywhere I go, any time. SAP is already riding this wave with BI Mobile, Explorer Mobile, and the Sybase Unwired Platform.
Change or Die
Ok that was overly dramatic and stolen from Greg Myers who stole it from someone else and doesn’t really fit here.
At some point (soon I’m guessing), dashboards are heading to mobile devices on the SAP platform and not just from some third-party product that figures out how to get Adobe Flash rendered on the iPad. On top of that, no one should be surprised to see a consolidated strategy in which mobile devices can run Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports, and Dashboard content on the same device. Further, thanks to the inherent visualization capabilities on iOS (just for example), building “dashboard looking” reports on mobile platforms is going to be easy.
How Close Are We?
I think folks at SAP are drinking the same Kool Aid. Maybe it’s just me. Comparing these three screen shots, you can compare a simple SAP Dashboards dashboard (plucked from Google Images), a Roambi sample mobile report, and a BI Mobile version of a Web Intelligence report. Notice any similarities? Dark and brooding? Yes. But visually appealing, definitely. I think while visually they are starting to dwell in the same playground the capabilities of BI Mobile make the lines blur. After all, what defines a dashboard, and what says that Web Intelligence isn’t a good fit as a dashboard? I totally admit the BI Mobile piece is not as polished here. However, it has a good start I think and I have pretty high hopes for where it is heading next.
So what do you choose? As Web Intelligence matures on/off mobile AND in terms of interactivity, and SAP Dashboards reaches the mobile platform, which will give us the most desirable development platform for a dashboard? What about when the same user just wants to consume information on a mobile device, drill through to various bits of data, and at the end of the day, run a better business as fast as HANA will let them decide to?
All that said, the dashboard is going to live on. I just don’t think it’ll be as we know it today.