Collaborative and mobile technologies continue to influence business intelligence (BI) software products. The recent release of Yellowfin 6 embraces these innovations in a visually appealing, end-user-oriented BI product. Yellowfin is an independent BI software vendor based in Australia that was recently recognized, along with its customer Macquarie University, as a Ventana Leadership Award winner for the use of location–based aspects of its technology for effective planning and student acquisition initiatives.
As I’ve written previously in “The Consumerization of Collaborative BI Has Arrived,” we have begun to see more collaborative capabilities incorporated into BI applications and process. Our firm will soon launch a benchmark research program on this topic to develop understanding of how collaborative and mobile capabilities can enhance an organization’s BI activities.
Yellowfin 6 has a well-integrated set of collaborative and mobile capabilities designed to enhance BI processes. This release incorporates an inbox and activity stream, which enable users to comment on and subscribe to relevant analyses. As consumers move from email-based to collaboration-based communications that use social networking tools, we expect to see the same shift in enterprise communications. Yellowfin incorporates these concepts in its proprietary collaboration technology; I would like to see the company support commercial tools as well, because that would broaden the dissemination of the information. Users can subscribe to analyses based on a time interval, such as every day or week, or based on values crossing a certain threshold. For example, users can have the software send a report if the average hold time in the customer support center exceeds 60 seconds.
Release 6 provides dashboard syndication so that entire dashboards can be embedded in other Web pages. For example, an intranet or wiki page can display a Yellowfin dashboard of relevant information if you copy and embed in it a code snippet, in much the same way you can embed a Google calendar in a Web page. Since Yellowfin’s architecture is entirely Web-based, users have full access to all dashboard functionality, not just to a limited subset.
The new drill-down capabilities in this release will be important to existing Yellowfin users, but these capabilities are common in other BI tools. The company has put some effort into exposing drill-down capabilities in a way that end users will understand. As the designer of a dashboard, you can decide what types of drill paths will be exposed, including a new “drill anywhere” option that lets users pick from a pop-up menu of relevant options. Other elements of the interface have been enhanced, and present a clean and user-friendly experience. In particular, I like the series selection tiles used to display and pick dimension values. They include a sparkline, a value and a trend indicator that provides a lot of useful information in a compact representation. Report previews, another nice feature in this release, show a thumbnail of each report along with its description when a user needs to select one report from a list.
This release also includes native iPad application support. You can try it for yourself here. Not all Yellowfin 6 features are supported in the version currently downloadable, but the company says it will make a new version available early next year that supports the drill-anywhere features, which will greatly aid navigation on the iPad version. Yellowfin also expects to provide a native Android version. In the meantime, the browser-based version of the product runs on mobile platforms.
Though it offers many enhanced features, Yellowfin still has some gaps in product functionality compared to other BI products. For example, Yellowfin does not support planning and what-if analysis. Nor does it support brushing, which would enable users to select a subset of data in one part of the dashboard and see the relevant selection reflected as a subset of the other portions of the dashboard.
Despite these limitations, I expect we’ll see more of Yellowfin. It has amassed 500 customers and more than 100 OEMs and resellers. If you are looking for a user-friendly tool with collaborative and mobile capabilities that I refer to as the next generation of BI software, take a look at Yellowfin.