RoamBI – Beautiful Mobile BI for the iPad

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RoamBI for iPhone, which I reviewed last year, has long been the best-looking mobile BI application available in the market. Now the folks at RoamBI have been one of the very first vendors worldwide to come out with an updated application for the iPad, and they provided me with one in order to test their brand-new version.

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First Impressions

It’s as beautiful as its predecessor, and the new document formats available use the new expanded workspace to pack in a lot more analytic ability. This video from Information Week shows Quinton Aslbury of RoamBI demonstrating what you can do, including additional data not included in the original documents, such as overlaid trending algorithms.

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There is a series of videos available on the RoamBI web site that illustrate the different document types available.

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View SAP Carbon Disclosure Data

SAP and RoamBI have partnered to provide easy access to information from SAP and the Carbon Disclosure Project. When you install the free application, it comes with a series of sample documents, including one that shows SAP’s carbon footprint data, showing progress towards SAP’s announced goal of reducing the company’s carbon footprint back down to 2000 levels by 2010.

It shows SAP’s carbon footprint for various categories (corporate cars, electricity for facilities, business flights, etc.), broken down by region (EMEA has to do the most work!)

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To use your own data with the application, you register for an account on to the RoamBI Publisher web site and choose one of the available analytics. The free version lets you upload your local Excel spreadsheets, the Pro version expands access to online sources such as Google Spreadsheets, and the Enterprise Server lets you access your corporate BI documents.

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Working with SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports documents

The RoamBI ES3 Enterprise Server option lets you use Web Intelligence documents and Crystal Reports from BusinessObjects Infoview as data sources for the analytics:

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You simple log on to the Roam BI publisher web site, log onto your enterprise BI portal, and import the documents you’d like to see on the iPad:

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Pricing

The basic version is free, the Pro app is $99 per user, and ES3 is $795 per user for a perpetual license with a minimum of 50 users.

Conclusion

First, if you’re the leader of a business intelligence project, this application is an essential part of marketing the value of your systems. I’ve had the pleasure of presenting in Stockholm and Copenhagen this week, and (like Xcelsius, where many of RoamBI’s staff came from), it is a great attention-grabber, with everybody keen to try out the tools. You may even want to consider buying your CIO or other executive sponsor an iPad just for them to be able to show off your project’s data…

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As an application, it’s particularly well-adapted for mobile users such as account managers, who typically need offline access to small sets of well-defined data, and could use it effectively not only for their own use, but to share key figures with their customers.

The enterprise version also supprts parameterized ad-hoc access to data, using standard Web Intelligence and Crystal report prompt definitions.

The only potential downsides to the product are:

First, that some setup is involved for enterprise use (choosing or creating an appropriate report, and choosing a form of analysis).

Second, that end user interaction, while very flexible, is set is advance (e.g. you can’t change from a pie chart to a time view, although most of the time you wouldn’t need to).*

Overall, RoamBI is an excellent “analytic consumption” tool for BusinessObjects and other data, that fits in perfectly with the iPad ethos.

If you have users that may sometimes need to venture out of prepared guidelines, a complementary solution would be BusinessObjects Explorer, which offers a flexible choice of dimensions, measures, and visualization types at run time (but which requires online access and doesn’t rival RoamBI’s look and feel)

Summary:

Pros

  • Beautiful, easy-to-use user interface
  • Fantastic marketing tool for your information systems
  • Now with added analytical power (trending, time slices, etc.)
  • The application and basic use is free
  • Works offline
  • Links to multiple personal and enterprise data systems including strong support for SAP BusinessObjects reports

Cons

  • Visualization type (type of analytic) has to be defined in advance, not changeable.
  • Report dimensions limited to the parameters already defined in the document*

* Section updated to correct earlier erroneous statement that you could only access data already in the local document — apologies…

8 Replies to “RoamBI – Beautiful Mobile BI for the iPad”

  1. Timo, good to see you’ve got your hands on RoamBI for iPad. What’s compelling here is mobile BI with a killer UI on the tablet form-factor. Imagine RoamBI on other tablet platforms, and you get the point… It’s really a portable UI for killer enterprise apps, which of course makes it… a killer app. Ping me if you want to explore further.

    1. A strong statement! I know of several large corporate customers that have their hands on it, and I’m hoping to talk to some of the real users soon..

  2. Hi Timo,

    Will you be there in Frankfurt to demonstrate this. If not, when will you be in Holland to give us a show of RoamBI?

    Greetings from Holland

    1. Yes, I’ll be in Frankfurt, and the folks in the Innovation Campus should have a copy, too (also the new Explorer for iPad)… My next Dutch event currently isn’t until September.

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