Last year, SAP announced its acquisition of dashboard and data visualisation firm, Roambi. This clearly aligns with SAP’s focus on the end-user’s experience in enterprise software. So what does Roambi offer to its customers?
An introduction to Roambi
Roambi, launched in 2009, may have been a small organisation but its ideas are far from small. Despite the fact there are numerous dashboard tools on the market, Roambi has managed to diversify in a way which could really compete with the more established tools in the market. The unique selling point being that its user interface and layout is designed from the ground up with mobile devices in mind.
Mobile devices have become commonplace in today’s digital age and SAP has recognised the need to utilise this. By adding Roambi to the BusinessObjects portfolio, SAP is allowing organisations to help their mobile workforce interact with the large amounts of data available to them.
Up close and personal
Recently, I was able to get my hands on the software for the first time. The brief was to create a complex dashboard which incorporated 20 KPIs. This would have been a time consuming task with many other dashboard tools, but Roambi provided a template which enabled me to design a dashboard that met the requirements of the client.
Users are given a number of templates from which to choose from, resulting in a dashboard which is extremely user friendly, efficient and effective. Sadly, if you don’t like the style of this dashboard there is no way of changing its look and feel. Nevertheless, the app’s versatility in displaying the data dramatically outweighs this negative. The visualisations look good on whatever device they are viewed: Chrome browser, tablet, mobile, Windows app, Android etc.
Figure 1 - Desktop view of KPI dashboard
Figure 2 - iOS view of KPI dashboard
Not only are the dashboards designed to be displayed beautifully on almost any device, they can actually be built on a mobile device while taking data from a flat-file or SAP in the cloud.
One advantage I found really exciting whilst trialling the software was the ability to throw together a sample dashboard from a template, using a flat file for data. We were then able to run the dashboard on a tablet device to show a prospective client something they could interact with to view visualisations of KPIs they recognised from their business (albeit with dummy data). This usually is something that is exceptionally time consuming to create.
This is not to say that Roambi doesn’t come with some disadvantages, however. To ensure a dashboard will display well on any device, the parameters within which you can work can feel restrictive at times. If users aren’t happy with how a dashboard looks, there is little that can be done. Luckily, the templates are well designed with numerous ones to choose from.
Another drawback is that some of the dashboards lose some of their functionality when viewed via the Android or iOS apps on a mobile device. The example pictured shows the 12-month bar chart becomes unavailable when not viewed on tablet or desktop. However, it does make the data more readable and it is difficult to see an easy way around this while keeping a continuous look and feel of the dashboard across different devices.
Mobile-focused design outweights the negatives
The aim of SAP’s acquisition of Roambi was to bring to organisations easy mobile access to analytics using existing SAP BW or other databases. This functionality will be especially beneficial in sales-led organisations with a travelling salesforces or where employees work. Although the software is limited to the use of templates, the advantages of this mobile-focused design vastly outweighs the negatives. Roambi will surely strengthen SAP’s position as a leader in the mobile business intelligence market.