Why think about Mobile BI Dashboard Design?
More and more companies put efforts on Mobile BI solutions for monitoring key metrics. The physical boundaries of the office are not the boundaries of information usage any longer. It has also become clear that dashboards designed for a desktop computer are not suitable for those use cases without fitting them to the new environment. But if this is the case what are the key success factors for Mobile BI dashboard design so to get the most out of these new technical possibilities?
Along the internet you may find hundreds of guidelines and lists of best practices. This makes sense in some cases but this article should cover the topic in a more general way that enables you to implement your own guidelines that exactly fit to your specific needs. However I’ll come up with examples that show you how these guidelines could look like in the end.
I’ll start with characteristics of a Mobile BI use case. Based on this I determine the technical and business opportunities of this use case and how to best support those opportunities using Mobile BI dashboard design.
What are the characteristics of a Mobile BI use case?
Users have less control over the presented information.
Information is available at any place and at any time.
Mobile devices provide less space for the presentation of information.
The possibilities of interacting with the information are limited.
Users spent less time consuming the information.
Users can rapidly act on the information provided.
Using these 6 characteristics we can explore the special requirements for designing a Mobile BI solution.
Mobile devices do not only provide less possibilities for data output, but also the input of data meaning interaction with a human is limited. Therefore information has to be easily filterable and sortable. Searching for content by using text input may be less suitable as it is less comfortable to write things on a mobile device. User input should be the exception and not the desired behavior. The less input the user has to give until he is presented with the desired information, the better it is.
An important advantage of Mobile BI solutions is that the information is constantly available. Users can look up certain metrics at any place and at any time. Push notifications are one possibility to get the most out of this advantage. This lets users rapidly act on identified trends or abnormal behavior which can directly lead to value for the enterprise.
The smaller the display the more important is this point. Especially on smartphones an optimal usage of the provided space is crucial. This can be achieved by using clear and rapidly understandable messages presented to the user. This means you have to use well designed labels for diagrams, columns and axis. If possible the user is not forced to scroll to fully understand the information presented to her. The effective use of colors and fonts-sizes as well as the clever presentation of numbers (T€, …) can support those efforts.
As the possibilities of interaction are limited, mobile dashboards are less suitable for complex analysis or filter specific datasets based on a huge list of criteria. An effective reduction of the presented options allows you to create clearly arranged dashboards and helps to best use the limited space. The information should be aggregated in a useful way and should integrate different sources of information. Comparisons across several dashboards are much more difficult using mobile devices that on your desktop computer. This should not be a use case for a Mobile BI solution.
The average time a user spends on a mobile device in one session is no longer than several minutes. This is contrary to the normal BI use case where employees spent up to hours looking for information. Therefore it is necessary to present the user with the right information without long chains of interaction with the software.
Users of Mobile BI solutions are able to rapidly act on the presented information. This can be used for Operational BI applications aggregating and presenting operational data in real time. If there is a result of an analysis that requires an action to be performed next month, it is not mission critical to get this result while you are in the shop floor. But if a production chain will stop working if you are not able to act in the next 15 Minutes this can save a lot of money and time.
Evaluation and Adaption
All of these characteristics are user-oriented in the first place. Therefore it is important to constantly monitor and evaluate the Mobile BI application. User requirements are changing and adapting to those changes will secure a high level of effectiveness and efficiency. Tools for such a process are usage tracking functionalities, feedback mechanisms and workshops with the BI users.