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Interactive Documents – Roambi Flow

Interactive Documents – Roambi Flow

One year ago I purchased my own iPad 2. When using it in meetings, it quickly became apparent how much potential there is to make presented information much more interactive. I posted last June about Interactive and Visual Information. In the meantime, more and more software is aiming at making documents more interactive, especially on the iPad to leverage mobility and touch.

In this post we will look at Roambi Flow, a product that lets you compose documents with interactive elements. Roambi is a set of business intelligence products by San Diego based company MeLLmo which has been designed from the ground up to take advantage of iOS features such as rich graphics and touch interface. On Roambi’s product website you will find detailed descriptions of each of these products.

Roambi Analytics Views

Roambi Analytics introduced a series of so called Views. Each of these views is interesting in its own and warrants a more in-depth coverage; I’ll just enumerate them briefly.

Blink gives you cube analytics displaying various measures in selected dimensions, swiping and scrolling through a data set.

Cardex is a visual metaphor for organizing sets of elementary reports and visually comparing them side-by-side like a mini comparison dashboard.

CataList lets you browse top-level lists and drill into a detailed view with sliders to see data points over time and display highlighted information.

Elements allows you to compose dashboards of connected, basic chart elements to explore multi-dimensional data.

Layers specializes on the display and navigation of hierarchically grouped data sets – such as continent, country, city – through the use of scroll, pinch and zoom gestures.

PieView is a variation of the Piechart theme. It’s main innovation is to allow the rotation of the entire piechart similar to the original Apple iPod click wheel. (It doesn’t eliminate the shortcomings of piecharts per se, but it makes them a little easier to live with and a lot more fun to explore.)

Squares is using the heat map concept in a very intuitive and easy to use way to display data organized along two main axes – such as the global sales performance of various products in various countries. Dragging along rows or columns highlights them one at a time, tapping on a row or column “explodes” its content to a matrix with more detail – in which one can again navigate, sort, etc.. Tap & Hold on the heat map generates a Fish-Eye view with more detail of the tapped element maximized. Moving while holding will move the fish-eye to areas of interest. (see image below)

SuperList is a generic view for lists with numeric information that allows to sort, filter, toggle between bars and numbers etc. Think of it as a starting point for tabular data display on the iPad.

Fish-Eye view in Squares, one of the Roambi Analytics views

Each view has a Help-style description with a short 1 min video overview in it. This goes to show that seeing these views in narrated action is much more intuitive and easier to understand than just reading about them. It’s literally leveraging some “show & tell”. The best way to explore these views is to download the free Roambi Viewer apps on the iPad and play with them. They come with stored sample data sets so you can visually explore the views even while you are offline. Roambi also features brief videos and tutorials on their website.

But back to Roambi Flow: You want your data to tell stories. This is best done through a combination of text explaining the context, perhaps some multimedia demonstrating the highlights and some interactive elements allowing the reader to visually explore on her own. This is where Roambi Flow comes in. It’s a publishing container that allows you to embed the above views (and other multi-media content) into regular text documents. The reader navigates the content at the top-level like a traditional book, either by clicking on the table of contents or by literally flipping through the pages. The app will even simulate the page turning like we are used to from Apple’s iBooks.

Page transition in Roambi Flow; Note the embedded, interactive element on the next page.

The individual elements can be double-tapped, which expands them to full-screen and then support their full visual exploration capabilities. The views can be linked to backend data sources to automatically stay in sync with up-to-date information. View displays can be bookmarked and shared with others. But the main point really is the fact that the reader does not only see a static image, but can interact and manipulate the views to obtain a richer understanding of the underlying data sets.

Roambi Flow page with two interactive view elements.

Given the rapid adoption of iPads in corporate environments it is straightforward to see such interactive documents spreading both within a company as well as in its external communications. Imagine reading the annual report, the sales pitch or the research paper when you can interact with the financials, the offered product or the proposed scientific model! With interactive content, reading will never be the same.

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Industrial

 

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Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study

Mobile Business Intelligence Market Study

Dresner Advisory Services publishes an annual study on Mobile Business Intelligence vendors, the latest in October 2011. It focuses on the mobile capabilities of BI platform vendors similar to those in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence we recently looked at.

The ~50 page document has a good executive summary and provides insight from industry surveys and changes between 2010 and 2011. In terms of data visualizations, it generally does a poor job of conveying the study findings. There is an abundance of pie charts and stacked bar charts with often very confusing color codes. For example, consider this chart on BI vendor mobile platform priority:

Mobile BI Vendor Platform Priority (source: DAS)

Rank information shouldn’t be conveyed by color (better by vertical position). It is very confusing to see which platforms gained or lost in the ranking. A data visualization should first and foremost make it easy to spot patterns and thus provide insight. Not every dataset makes for a good Excel bar chart.

All that said, I found one very useful chart which shows all vendor Mobile BI capabilities at a glance:

Mobile BI Vendor Scores (source: DAS)

Regarding the vendor scoring, from the study:

Using the data that was provided by twenty-four different BI vendors, we constructed a model which scores them based on mobile platform support, platform integration and numbers of supported BI features (Figure 33).

Please carefully review the detailed vendor and product profiles on pages 47 – 52 and to consider both dimensions (i.e., platform and features) independent of each other.

It should be noted that this model reflects only two dimensions of a BI vendor’s product capability and is not intended to indicate “market leadership” only a convergence of capabilities for Mobile BI. Readers are encouraged to use other tools to understand the many other dimensions of vendor capability, such as our own Wisdom of Crowds Business Intelligence Market Study ®.

The full report can be downloaded from the Yellowfin website here.

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Industrial

 

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Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence

Note: See also the more recent update on the Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence 2013.

The Gartner group publishes an annual report called Magic Quadrant of Business Intelligence. It compares various vendors in two dimensions: Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision. These two dimensions span up four quadrants (leaders, challengers, visionaries, niche players).

The key graphic in the Gartner reports is the so called Magic Quadrant diagram. Here is the 2012 version (click the image to see the full report):

Magic Quadrant of BI 2012 (Source: Gartner)

Similar charts have been published for 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 (source: Google Image Search).

From these snapshots in time one can create a time-series and compare relative movement of vendors. Here is an interactive version of such a chart created with Tableau Public: (Click on chart below to interact.)

Interactive BI_MagicQuadrant 2008-2012

Disclaimer: There are at least two caveats here: One is the limited quality of the data. The other is the limited applicability of this type of visualization.

Quality: I have contacted two of the authors at Gartner and asked for the (x,y-coord) data of those Magic Quadrants. However, Gartner’s policy is to not disclose these data. Hence I screen-scraped the coordinates off the publicly available images. This brings with it limited accuracy to measure the positions from the images and the possibility of (my) clerical error in entering that data in a spreadsheet.

Applicability: The contacted authors (James Richardson and John Hagerty) both emphasized that due to subtle changes in the way the dimension score is calculated each year such sequential comparisons are not supported by Gartner. In other words, the data may show misleading or unintended conclusions.

Discussion: Of course the original Gartner reports provide a tremendous amount of detail, both around the methodology (which factors contribute to Vision and Execution scores) and on the various vendors, their products and other relevant business aspects like sales channels etc. One also needs to bear in mind that some of these companies emerge or disappear over time.

That said, the interactive time-series chart has many advantages over the individual snapshots:

  • You can select a subset of companies (for example all public companies)
  • Companies are identified by label and color
  • History can be traced for consecutive years
  • Trends are more easily detected (see also Disclaimer above)

For example, smaller but rapidly growing companies like Tibco (Spotfire) and Tableau have somewhat vertical trajectories leading them into the “challenger” quadrant with strong increases in the ability to execute. Tibco and QlikTech are the only 2 (of 24) companies to change quadrants in the last 5 years, from visionary to challenger (Tibco) and leader (QlikTech), respectively.

MQ trajectory for Tableau, Tibco, and QlikTech

Some big public companies like IBM, SAP and Microsoft have invested heavily over the last years in the BI space. This has resulted in a more horizontal trajectory within the leader quadrant as they have increased the completeness of their vision, among others through acquisitions of smaller companies (SAP bought Business Objects, IBM bought Cognos).

MQ trajectory for IBM, SAP, and Microsoft

Some individual trajectories are more dynamic than others. For example MicroStrategy has had strong increases first in vision (2008-2009) and then in their ability to execute (2010-2012). By contrast, Actuate has fallen behind relative to others in both execution and vision in the first 3 years, only to stop (2011) and revert (2012) that trend in recent years.

MQ trajectory for Actuate and MicroStrategy

Bottom Line: Data presented via Interactive Charts invites exploration, discovery, and better understanding. Through Tableau Public these charts can easily be shared with others. The Magic Quadrant data is originally curated and presented by Gartner in the traditional snapshot moment-in-time format. IMHO, in this interactive time-series format the data comes to live and yields additional insight. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and comments on the caveats from the authors about the limited applicability of the time series animation?

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Industrial

 

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