Mobile business intelligence (BI) is helping democratize corporate backend data for corporate executives, sales teams, and even board members who need real time access to backend corporate data using a mobile device. Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics, a recent acquisition by Tibco, is a recent entry into the nascent market. Earlier in the year to get a briefing from Patrick Hustig and have been looking at their mobile app off and on for the past few weeks.

For purposes of this article, I’m running the Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics iOS app running on an iPad Air with retina display.

The mobile app taps into a Software as a Service or on-premise backend. I got access to a 14-day trial environment. The figure below shows the landing page of the Tibco Spotfire trial:

Using the Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics App on the iPad

Tibco aims for Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics to be easy to understand, and that’s obvious when I drilled down into the app’s demo data. The app needs to be “executive proof” but has some rough edges I’ll get to later. This image shows an example view within the Spotfire Mobile Metrics app on the iPad:

The app (with demo data) is responsive and well laid out for a BI app.

Getting started with Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics begins with uploading data via the Data Sources option on the Web backend. While my initial tests met with slow, laborious and eventually fruitless attempts to connect my iPad with the Tibco Spotfire trial environment. Never have I seen such a simple setup become so confusing because I was able to connect to demo data at one point, While the demo documentation on directs me to enter, I got an error: Unable to connect to server at this location. When I retried accessing the demo server, I got a repeat of my first experience. Based on the information at time of trial, it was hard for me to see how the iOS app and the Tibco Spotfire cloud work together and interact. I even went as far as trying to setup another trial account under another email address and encountered many of the same issues connecting the iOS app again to the Tibco Spotfire cloud. This image shows the screen for setting up connections:

As with any time I try out a new product for TechRepublic, I try to go in as any user would. The issues I encountered seemed to be equal bits poor documentation and technology. In fact, there is still a note left over from an internal review under the Managing Setting section on the help page so I’m thinking the documentation was a casualty of a tight development schedule.

Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics would be well served by an upgraded user setup and onboarding process perhaps even a wizard to help more novice users setup the app and see their reports.

Collaboration with Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics

Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics lets you add comments to the KPIs that follow directly from the mobile app. Comments are a feature of the app that I like because they let team’s comment on BI data.

Personally, I’m waiting for the day that the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in mobile BI apps let users pull the data into other applications. For example, pull in data from Tibco Spotfire mobile metrics into a PowerPoint for iPad presentation.

Usability and mobile BI

Mobile BI apps are going to be graded heavily on its usability and I count usability from the point of setup from using the app through accessing data. While I found their mobile app to be very usable (albeit a few iterations behind apps from Roambi and Good Data), the setup needs to be close to “executive proof” to permit user self-provisioning and save the IT department’s time for more business critical tasks. My server setup issues are a big black mark in my review.

Cross platform and BYOD support

While so much of the hardware focus on mobile BI has been the iPad with its luscious retina display, Tibco Spotfire has made the prudent move to launch mobile apps for:

  • iOS
  • Android
  • Microsoft Windows Mobile

While I can’t predict the future of mobile BI, ultimately the more vendors develop high quality solutions across the major mobile device platforms are key to developing and maturing the market. Such moves also

Final thoughts

While I respect Tibco as a company, I’m always a little skeptical when a technology company makes acquisitions outside their regular product portfolio. While Tibco made some prudent moves with Tibbr (a respectable enterprise social network platform), it’s too early to see if they can duplicate the same magic with Tibco Spotfire.

The Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics has a lot to like, but the setup and onboarding experience lags significantly behind the mobile app user experience. It will be nice to come back to this app in the future and see a backend setup that’s on parity with the mobile app’s experience (at least what I could surmise from the demo data).

Tibco Spotfire Mobile Metrics is off to a great start with the front end user interface of their iOS mobile analytics app. Unfortunately, the backend setup lags far behind it. If Tibco can get both the app setup and mobile app experience and functionality better aligned than Roambi and GoodData, they are going to be in for a challenge.