The Next Xcelsius? RoamBI Provides BusinessObjects BI for the iPhone

The original creator of SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius has done it again. Santiago Becerra founded Infommersion in 2002 and the company developed Xcelsius, which provided a intuitive and interactive dashboard interface for excel spreadsheets, using Adobe Flash technology. Donald MacCormick and others quickly spotted the potential for corporate data sources, and Infommersion was purchased by Business Objects in 2005, and Xcelsius quickly became an integral part of the BusinessObjects enterprise platform.

Santiago’s new company is called Mellmo, and it recently launched a beautiful BI front-end for the iPhone called RoamBI. The dynamic visualizations were designed from the ground up to make the most of the mobile environment and maximize use of the iPhone’s small screen size, allowing you to access, analyze, and share data from just about anywhere.

 microBar

RoamBI does a great job of showing off the interface, with an interactive demo embedded directly into their home page, and a nice overview video:

 

Just like Xcelsius, you can use it RoamBI directly with your own Excel spreadsheets by uploading them to RoamBI.com, and this time around, Santiago has included corporate data sources from the beginning, with access to Salesforce.com, SAP Crystal Reports, and SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence documents (using the Enteprise version).

It’s early days, and the interface looks almost too good to be true, but the feedback from users of the application on the Apple App Store is bordering on the euphoric (the only complaints have been about trying to figure out how to do some things – which is presumably easy to fix with a bit more documentation).

  • “Most Amazing UI. This App is amazing. Beautiful UI, pie chart is awesome, I can see analyze data visually. Keep up the good work.”
  • “Talk about the Killer App!!. Can I just say WOW!! this tool is insanely functional, beautifully designed UI, easy & intuitive to use, and miraculously it seems to work work and work without flaws! I’m an exec producer in the film industry and think this app will make a huge impact…”
  • “Visualization fun at your fingertips!”
  • “WOW! RoamBI it is an Amazing application. I can’t believe how good the application is. I love it. I really like the pie chart and the viewer of the bar chart. My favorite chart type is the Catalyst. Good Job….”

Like SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, RoamBI is part of a new generation of BI front ends that require little or no training, yet still let the users “roam” freely through data with a minimum of setup, using data from “the cloud”.

So maybe the only question that remains is “how long before Santiago gets acquired again?!”. If you’d like more information, Shawn Rogers has written a great post on B-eye.com about the launch, and you can download the application yourself here (link opens in iTunes).

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9 Comments
  1. RoamBi is definitely an exciting proposition for organizations who want to get the most out of their mobile device and BI investments.

    For more information on best practices for using RoamBi and implementing data visualization on mobile devices, check out this new website- http://mobiledatavisualization.com.

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  8. While roambi does offer ease of app deployment and a nice interface, is it really geared for enterprise usage? It’s limitation on the sources it can consume and focus on Excel as that source will only create a new wave of excel spreadmart junkies. These are the folks that believe excel can be an enterprise data source, act as a true database or multi dimensional analysis tool (pivot capabilities) . What they choose to forget are those pesky and often fatal excel errors when multiple users edit the same shared spreadsheet, or worse, when enough errors occur to corrupt the file permanently. Yes, it plays nicely with portals like Sharepoint, for once off analysis or data dumps, it is by no means a scalable, secure enterprise grade data source.

    Microstrategy’s mobile BI app is also on the app store, and unlike their BI platform competitors, it isn’t just a copy of the existing platform forced to fit into the diminutive real estate of the mobile world. It was tooled with mobile in mind, therefore offering the ability to both design on the device ( better suited to the iPad) as well as present. Its interface is just as rich as RoamBI as well. In fact, MicroStrategy has paired with Apple Corp to create new trademark swipe like movements geared towards how BI users interact with data. For example, drill down is no longer check boxes or standard list selectors. Instead, it is a wheel which slides up and down to allow for ease of drilling up or down. They also offer the ability to ‘drill anywhere’ using IN-MEMORY cubes which do not take a rocket scientist like Essbase or Analysis Services to create or worse, to performance tune. I used to be a SSAS developer and can attest to this fact that slow cubes will kill front end BI tools because users what rapid response to queries or they lose interest and focus. All in all, RoamBI has its place. It is great for PoCs or internal demos that need to be created on the fly. But for scalability, security and long term reductions on TCO, look at MicroStrategy. It takes anywhere from 3 days to 10 days to create Apps, which meet the enterprise needs better than RoamBI. In the business world, what is the difference between a 1-2 day time to complete ( a roamBi, not fully substantiated statement, meaning substantiated by true enterprise grade (over $1 B in annual revenue) enterprises) vs. a 3 -10 day time to complete ( multiple fortune 1000 companies have provided positive testimonials about MicroStrategy’s mobile product) – In the business world, either completion time is shorter and faster than most decisions that are made. So why not go with the player that will cost less over time and meet the needs better of an organization? Just wanted to pose something more provocative than just agreeing with the rest of the quorum. I enjoyed reading your blog !

  9. Laura,

    I came close to hitting the “spam” button on this, since it’s really a sales pitch rather than a comment, but since you’re presales for Microstrategy rather than marketing, I’ll chalk it up to enthusiasm for your product, which I have no problem with, and thank you for your thoughts.

    One big thing you got wrong, though: RoamBI does indeed connect scalably to enterprise sources, via back ends like SAP BusinessObjects, IBM Cognos, and Microsoft. I’m not sure where you got your supposed emphasis on Excel from: it’s an option to use it with Excel, and a useful one at that, rather than a requirement.

    To be fair to Microstrategy, the company has a long history of promoting mobile BI, with a long-since-disappeared product called narrowcast server, launched 13 years ago, that was well ahead of the market need, and the “create an app” approach is different from the competition.

    I’m following with interest the “all mobile, all the time” messaging. I completely agree that current tablets like the iPad are much better adapted for BI consumption than a PC screen, and more “environment aware” in ways that will be very useful.

    But the division between “mobile” and “laptop” has already started blurring and will continue to do so (e.g. PCs with GPS, multi-touch pads, etc.), there’s a long list of rapidly-changing mobile platforms to potentially support, and all the major vendors (and most of the minor ones) now have credible mobile BI products.

    There have always been happy Microstrategy customers, and I’m sure there will be happy customers of its mobile products — but I don’t think it’s going to fundamentally change the market dynamics.

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