Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Accidental iPhone BI

I admit it -- I converted to Apple. It started with an accidental iPhone purchase.

I never intended to buy an iPhone. Instead, I planned to replace my Treo with a brand new Palm Pre from the same carrier. Unfortunately for Sprint and Palm, the teenagers working at the strip-mall store lost my order. After weeks of strange phone calls with kids who could never find my order nor know when truck shipments would arrive ("Dude, if I could predict the future, I would be rich and not work for Sprint!"), I simply went to the Apple Store and came out with an amazing iPhone.

While waiting in the red velvet line (this was the weekend of the 3Gs release), I was introduced to the Apple Fan subculture. When not tapping away at the touch screen, iPhone users advocated their favorite downloaded apps with cohorts. Apple employees were professionals, passionate about their work.

Literally within seconds, the iPhone was accessing my personal and corporate e-mail accounts and calendars. I could easily connect to WiFi or the AT&T 3G network to browse websites with the Safari browser. Even secure sites were available through a VPN connection.

I even paid the $2.99 per month fee to listen to Sirius XM satellite music on the iPhone. (I also got a sick feeling about having just paid $150 for an MP3 player and $399 for a Sony Book Reader.) Everything I needed to be productive was now at my fingertips; I stopped waiting for the Windows bootup on my PC except for things that required heavy-duty typing.

So far, two individuals have walked away from my personal iPhone demos to go directly to the Apple Store to buy their own. Yes, the same day. Immediately. Others have changed their Christmas, birthday, and other gift-buying/gift-getting plans. One of my straight-laced employees responded to my iPhone enchantment with, "Sorry, I want my phone to be a phone. That's all it needs to do."

So I added some real sizzle.

On my iPhone, I logged into a secure executive dashboard for a well-known restaurant. The Safari browser visually showed corporate-wide key performance indicators for sales, speed of service, food costs, labor costs, and cash register operations. All right there in my hand, blazing fast. From the total level, I tapped down through the company hierarchy until I reached a specific store. I looked at their raw item inventory to see if they had enough cheese. I pointed out a red stoplight where the manager had failed to staff enough people on cash registers the previous day, causing a negative impact to speed of service and revenues. I tapped to get a trend of the past 20 days to see if that was just a new occurrence.

My friend responded, "Boy, I have to get one of those."

We had created this business intelligence application using the WebFOCUS software product from Information Builders. Initially, the plan was to have on-demand access through a PC web browser and push out static reports to e-mails, printers, and Blackberry devices.

Just like my personal use of the iPhone, the restaurant's corporate use of iPhone was accidental. During the development project, somebody tried to access the dashboard directly with a Blackberry but with no luck. It seems that the WebFOCUS BI Dashboard uses web techniques not supported by the Blackberry. Even if the Blackberry user could get past the initial dashboard screens, the reports did not display well on the handheld.

Not so on the iPhone. The Safari browser is top-notch and allows zoom in-and-out of the screen content. Even client-side scripts, cookie techniques, and secure LDAP integration worked on the iPhone. The iPhone even supported dashboard exports of data to PDF and Excel.

My accidental iPhone purchase has caused all sorts of changes for me and the people around me. I would write more about it, but I have to go sign for a FedEx package -- an Apple MacBook Pro just showed up.

1 comment:

Russell Scherwin said...

That post - especially that last line on the MacBook, is the most compelling I've seen for Apple.

I enjoy the brand you're building.


About Me

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I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.