SAP.info: Most SAP customers know Oversight Systems as the provider of Continuous Analytics, a transaction monitoring application for ERP. Now you have a new mobile app. How does that fit in with your portfolio?
Patrick Taylor: Mobile Insights actually works with our entire portfolio of Continuous Analytics applications. Its purpose is to alert users – mostly business users – when an anomaly is detected in the ERP system. That could be a questionable, perhaps even fraudulent, transaction, or it could be an opportunity for savings. It all really depends on the particular user, and what business area he or she works in.
How does the app know to send the right notification to the each user?
Users subscribe to the area that’s relevant for them. A sales rep in Los Angeles County can subscribe to events for that geographic region. As you go up in the organization, users are sent different types of notifications. An executive, for example, won’t be sent notifications on specific policy violations; he needs to know about larger trends around policy violations in the organization.
How does Mobile Insights compare to other mobile BI apps on the market?
The trend with mobile BI apps right now is to make lots of data available on the device – you can ask questions and explore answers. We took a different tack. We do the work ahead of time and deliver the insights straight to you, rather than making you search for them.
Read on the next page: Getting notifications in a ‘timely’ manner
What was your reasoning behind this decision?
When you go mobile with big data, you have to keep two things in mind. First, the world’s not full of data scientists. By that, I mean, most employees don’t really have the skills to do in-depth analyses on large amounts of information. And second, who has the time? Employees are just too busy to run what-if scenarios all day long.
But don’t you run the risk of giving users too little information?
When we designed the app, we actually used a journalistic concept to structure the information. When a user gets a notification, he sees the ‘headline’ first. If it’s interesting and relevant, he can click further to find out more details. All the information is there, it’s just presented in a very user-friendly way. It’s the opposite of information overload.
So, Mobile Insights notifies users of important information anywhere and in real-time?
We actually prefer to say that users get notifications in a ‘timely’ manner – that is, when they need to know it. It can be real time, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, if you’re a sales rep, you’ll want to have the most up-to-date customer profile a day or two before your sales call. If there was an incident with the customer in the past three months, you definitely need to know about it. But you don’t need to know about it on the day it happens. You’re not in customer service. That’s what we mean by ‘timely’ rather than real time.
Mobile Insights was developed as an HTML5 Web app, but that wasn’t always the plan…
Right. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said that we were definitely going to develop a native iPad app. And maybe over time, come out with a series of apps for different operating systems. We had this vision of a native iPad app, but looking at our customer base it wasn’t realistic. No Fortune 500 company can say they’re 100% Apple, Android, or BlackBerry. It’s a problem that BYOD has created. Anyone developing apps today has to think multi-platform.
Read on the next page: The advantages of an HTML5 appWhat made you choose HTML5?
I have to say, I think we really caught the moment when HTML5 became a viable alternative to a native app. You can deliver a really noble user experience to different platforms, whether it’s Android, iOS, or RIM, with HTML5. That being said, there are some functionality limits. In our app, notifications get pushed out to users via e-mail. So we don’t need a very robust app experience for that. But I wouldn’t necessarily want to play an HTML5 version of Angry Birds.
How are you making mobile part of your overall strategy at Oversight?
We definitely think mobile is going to broaden our available user base. As you look at different functions, especially but not only the customer-facing ones, you’ll see that the first device is mobile. If we weren’t mobile too, we would simply miss out on these customers. The way we see it, ‘mobile first’ works for a certain population of users, but not for every user. There’s still a group of people who sit in front of a desktop day in, day out.
When will Mobile Insights be available?
We’re in limited release right now, but we expect it to be widely available this winter. Customers will get it as part of their normal upgrade.