Bring business insights to more people with SQL Server 2016 mobile reports

This post was authored by Chris Finlan, Sr. Program Manager, SQL Server.

In today’s competitive business environment, organizations invest in business intelligence (BI) capabilities to drive the business forward.

Improving customer satisfaction is the top reason for investing in business insights, closely followed by making better business decisions and gaining a competitive advantage. Now, if customer satisfaction is the top reason, wouldn’t it make sense to deliver business insights to all the employees in an organization – particularly those who interact directly with customers? These people are by no means limited to sales, accounting, services and support roles. Unfortunately, the reality is that insights are most often stuck at the executive level. According to Forrester Research, while 71% of business owners and C-level executives have access to insights and can apply them to operational processes and actions in a timely manner, only 44% of individual workers can do so. On top of that, only about 1/3rd of the data that organizations capture is used for business insights. This includes both structured and unstructured data. (Source: Forrester – Maximize your chances of business intelligence success in a customer-centric world, (Sept. 2015): What you need to go from data-rich to insights-driven (Feb. 2016): The Forrester Wave™: Agile Business Intelligence Platforms, Q3 2015 (Sep. 2015)).

The question then is: How can you deliver business insights to more people working within your organization?

Based on an IDC U.S. Mobile Forecast, 70% of US workers are mobile, which includes both office and non-office based mobile workers. In the coming years, this number is only expected to increase, as are the number of mobile devices being used (IDC U.S. Mobile Worker Forecast, 2015-2020 May 2015 #256194). Consequently, companies need to ensure that business insights can be delivered to employees across mobile platforms – be they Windows, Android or iOS. With mobile BI you can bring insights to more people at the necessary speed to help increase customer satisfaction.

Why mobile BI

Figure 1: Infographic – Why mobile BI.

But the shift to the mobile user experience brings its own set of challenges – the way a user interacts with his or her PC is far different from how one interacts with his or her phone. Having reports that are optimized for a mobile experience means that a different set of design principles must be applied. Traditionally, reports that have been built and designed for PC screens won’t translate well, if at all, to the experience one expects on a mobile phone or tablet. Our phones are the devices we pick up multiple times each day, quickly switching between apps and checking in while commuting to work or in-between meetings. The mobile BI experience needs to match that type of user interaction, by having the information available in an easily consumable way that’s designed for touch vs. a keyboard and mouse.

Let’s take a look at how SQL Server 2016 and its built-in mobile reporting capabilities can help.

To meet our customer needs, SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services has introduced a new report type called mobile reports. Built on the Datazen technology that Microsoft acquired in 2015, these reports address the need for responsive-layout reports that adapt to different screen shapes, sizes and orientations. Mobile reports dynamically adjust the content depending on whether you’re using a phone, tablet or PC, and even as you rotate your device. You can create mobile reports using the SQL Server Mobile Report Publisher app and you can view them using either your browser or the Power BI mobile app (available now for Windows Phone, iOS and Android devices).

The SQL Server Mobile Report Publisher also offers a design-first approach that allows the major consumers of mobile reports to work collaboratively with the report designer and provide feedback around the report, using sample data that adjusts “on the fly” to simulate the experience they have with the finished report. Once they’ve settled on the exact report design they’d like, the report publisher can hook up live data to the elements from their report server and publish the final product to the server. This completely eliminates the lengthy back and forth that frequently happens as part of the development process, and isn’t factored in when estimating the overall cost of a vendor’s solution.

In addition to mobile reports, key performance indicators (KPIs) have also been added as a new item in Reporting Services. These are a great way to monitor your important metrics and trends at a glance, either at your desk or while brushing your teeth! In addition, the ability to favorite your mobile reports and KPIs allows you to easily access the items most important to you both online or offline, thanks to built-in, offline sync capabilities in the Power BI mobile apps for favorited reports. This helps ensure users’ access to their most important data, no matter where they may be.

End-to-end mobile BI capabilities in SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services

Figure 2: End-to-end mobile BI capabilities in SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services

With the introduction of mobile reports in SQL Server 2016 Reporting Services, you can benefit from the proven scalability of Reporting Services, share data sources and data sets across all reports (paginated and mobile), manage permissions based on Active Directory groups, use a single modern web portal to access KPIs and all reports (including the ability to set favorites), and use the Power BI mobile apps to consume mobile reports in a consistent and secured manner.

To get started, try SQL Server 2016, the SQL Server Mobile Report Publisher, the Power BI Mobile Apps for iOS,  Android and Windows, along with the new mobile experience in Reporting Services today.

To learn more, please visit the Reporting Services team blog, join the conversation on Twitter (#SSRS), or check out the following technical deep dive videos: Design Mobile Reports and Access reports in modern browsers and mobile reports.

See the other posts in the SQL Server 2016 blogging series.

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