A couple of years ago, the President of Westminster College wanted to have a few key institutional metrics available right on his desktop. I moved ahead with a product called PowerGadgets from SoftwareFX. PowerGadgets made it possible to create simple gadgets for the Windows Sidebar that were connected to data sources and presented metrics in very clear terms.

For example, from a revenue perspective, new enrollment is absolutely critical, so I created a couple of “gadgets” — as they’re called in Windows Sidebar — that are synchronized with our enrollment system to provide a real-time look at enrollment numbers. As students made the decision to enroll, the number increased, which hopefully lead to a smile on the President’s face.

PowerGadgets had some limitations, such as being able to show only one data element in a chart, but it served our needs at the time and was extremely easy to get up and running.

Also over the past couple of years, the campus has experienced a mini Apple revolution. The entire executive team now carries iPhones and a number of us have iPads and/or iPad 2s. So, I’m looking at relatively inexpensive ways to take some of these metrics mobile, particularly since quite a few people travel pretty regularly.

SoftwareFX recently released PowerGadgets Mobile. This product takes the simplicity of PowerGadgets to the mobile world — but with some new capabilities.

There are three elements that make PowerGadgets Mobile work:

  • PowerGadgets Mobile Creator: This is the software that’s used to create BI/dashboard projects.
  • PowerGadgets Mobile Server: Mobile devices communicate with the server component in order to display project results.
  • PowerGadgets Mobile Client: The client is the software that’s installed on a mobile device and communicates with the server. As of this writing, only the client for iPhone 3, 3GS, 4, and 4S is available. SoftwareFX is working on clients for iPad/iPad 2, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, and Windows Mobile.

At present and somewhat ironically, PowerGadgets Mobile doesn’t support the deployment of dashboards to Windows Sidebar gadgets. According to a company rep, however, that support is coming soon.

I’m currently working with a 30-day trial of the PowerGadgets Mobile software. The Creator software allows you to import files that were created with the older version of PowerGadgets and reuse them for your mobile devices. It’s surprisingly simple to use!

In Figure A below, you can see PowerGadgets Mobile in action across a number of different devices. Note that there are many different charting types available.
Figure A

A look at the PowerGadgets client

The hardest part in creating gadgets or mobile graphs with PowerGadgets/PowerGadgets Mobile is making absolutely certain that the queries that are used are rock solid. Nothing is worse than discovering that a data element is showing the wrong data. Because we’ve been using our data elements for a couple of years now, we’re beyond this problem — but it’s one that I always keep in mind.