As the use of business intelligence (BI) software has spread to less technically inclined users, a natural result is strong demand for BI capabilities on the mobile devices business people increasingly favor. BI vendors are responding, but in doing so they must grapple with the challenge of making their software comfortable for users of these mobile platforms to work with while providing a full array of capabilities. In this regard, Oracle’s Business Intelligence Mobile on the Apple iPad and iPhone comes up short. The company makes configuration unnecessarily complicated and has not implemented some standard iOS features such as autosizing and hand gestures. The product also isn’t intuitive in how it handles BI features such as drill, pivot and sorting, filtering, and ranking of selections. In short, this release seems premature, and we advise organizations to hold off on adopting it until Oracle makes it competitive with other options available in the market.
Our hands-on evaluation of Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile on the Apple iPad and iPhone found significant challenges in configuration, usability and functionality that make the software less effective than it could be. Configuration requires a two-pass setup where you must register with Oracle to get user authentication and access to database-level configuration for the demonstration database. This was a more complicated process than that used by most other BI vendors, which simply provide an integrated demonstration database when you download the application. This approach has been standard for demo applications over the last several years, and it makes sense to show people that accessing mobile technology is simple.
Any business intelligence application ought to support basic interactive user needs, from drill, pivot and page to sort, filter and rank selections. Oracle BI Mobile does some of these but not in an intuitive manner. For instance, any level of sorting, filtering and ranking is impossible unless you go into the full product and build the output, which then can be accessed by the mobile tool. You should be able to easily save views, make notations and share your findings, but you can’t, except for emailing the URL you are looking at to someone else. After interactions the application is slow to refresh, which is surprising in a demonstration, since most metrics and analytics could have been precalculated. Our business analytics research finds that search and navigation are the top two requested capabilities of business users, but Oracle BI Mobile does not support these operations simply.
If Oracle wants to compete on mobile platforms with other vendors of analytics and business intelligence, it must change its approach. It must also determine how to deliver incremental updates every quarter; the pace of traditional enterprise software releases and updates every year or so will fail with customers of mobile environments like Apple’s.
Oracle BI on Apple mobile devices compares poorly with the delivery of comprehensive and usable BI in mobile environments by other products, including those from Actuate, IBM, Information Builders, MicroStrategy, Qlikview, Roambi and Yellowfin. The difficulty of using the app makes it unclear whether the Oracle developers have spent much time personally using Apple devices. We conclude that at present it is not positioned to compete well against others in the market.
If there is any advantage to using Oracle BI on Apple mobile devices compared to other vendors’ software, it is not clear from the demonstration version. Current Oracle BI customers will have to upgrade to its 18.104.22.168 release to use the mobile application, and potential new customers will have to determine if they want to allot IT resources to install and configure it. At this point only die-hard Oracle customers hungry for mobile BI should consider this as an option.