arcplan Updates Design Technologies for ‘Write Once, Run Anywhere’ BI
BI vendor arcplan is updating a pair of design concepts that aim to make it easier for IT to take a ‘write once – deploy on any device’ approach to business intelligence apps. IDN speaks with arcplan’s senior vice president Dwight deVera about the company’s Responsive Design and Metro Design two-pronged approach.
BI vendor arcplan is updating a pair of design concepts that aim to make it easier for IT to take a ‘write once – deploy on any device’ approach to business intelligence apps.
arcplan’s two-pronged approach – Responsive Design and Metro Design – aims to let devs create a single BI application with layouts that automatically adapt to a device’s available screen size, resolution, and orientation, according to Dwight deVera, arcplan’s senior vice president. arcplan’s latest efforts will let BI designers define particular elements that will automatically resize and utilize the available screen space using the company’s design and automated layout management capabilities, he added.
deVera described the convergence between BYOD and BI this way: “Workers have become accustomed to switching between gadgets according to the task at hand – smartphones for calls and quick searches, tablets for web browsing and e-mails on the go, and laptops for more time- and labor-intensive activities. But switching devices in the workplace is not always so effortless, especially when it comes to using business intelligence (BI) applications.”
IDN asked deVera to further explain arcplan’s Responsive Design and Metro Design approaches:
“Responsive Design means building an app once and enabling it to display correctly on multiple platforms – desktop, laptop, or tablet or smartphone. With different users in the same organization preferring different devices (especially as enterprises are embracing the BYOD standard), it would be impossible for your readers to design business intelligence apps for all the various screen sizes. The more intelligent approach is to enable apps to adapt their layouts depending on the target device,” deVera told IDN.
While Responsive Design does provide auto-adaption for BI apps, it does come at a small up-front price, deVera noted. “The caveat is that your project will be longer and more complex than if you were designing for a traditional desktop PC. Responsive Design creates additional work in the testing process to make sure that the experience will be as expected on each device, or at least each of the more popular devices in your enterprise,” he noted.
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For its part, Metro Design brings its own intelligence to user access, deVera added.
Metro Design is based on the Metro design language used for Microsoft Windows Phone OS, and employs typography-based design that packs information into neat, highly interactive interfaces with easy navigation as a primary goal, he said. “Metro Design can take advantage of various input options of different devices (mouse, keyboard, finger, and stylus), and use HTML5, CSS3 and other current web technologies to make applications work seamlessly on any device,” he added.
The arcplan dual approach aims to support both design time and runtime aspects of BI apps.
“All arcplan apps are built using a WYSIWYG design time authoring platform that mimics the end user experience in a highly graphical way,” deVera said. In fact, the company’s latest release, arcplan 7.5, provides a drag-and-drop interface and immediate previews of how the design will look on various platforms (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc). It also incorporates Metro Design elements, including Live Screenshots that mimic Metro’s “live tiles,” where users can view real-time data at-a-glance from the home screen. Users can also drill into reports for further details, he noted.
Moreover, “there are certain control elements in [arcplan’s] design time platform that allow you to visually foresee the potential interface limitations of the runtime system. For example, app designers can define particular reporting elements that will automatically resize and use the available screen space for an optimal look, and they can see the impact of those choices in a preview mode,” deVera added.
Beyond these design time aspects, arcplan also offers management and security capabilities during operations. arcplan supports authentication and controls access to application content by leveraging integrated role-based repositories such as LDAP to make sure users can access only the data and applications they have permission to see, deVera said. arcplan’s in-memory capabilities can also address security, so that when users access even cached data (which speeds up query response time), they can only see data they have permissions for, he added.
In 2013, arcplan will continue to commit to HTML5, deVera added.
“Our entire platform is moving to HTML5 to make it easier to use than ever. There is no single answer as to how world-class BI will be defined in the future, but we’re of the belief that HTML5 will replace all of the classic rich internet application (RIA) technology including Java plug-ins, ActiveX controls, and .NET,” deVera said.
He adds two other user-centric points to why HTML5 will prove so very important for BI apps.
- “HTML5 will, as it matures, eradicate most of the arguments in favor of native app development by enabling the use of device-specific sensor and touch controls,” deVera said.
- “Search will definitely become more prevalent in BI apps,” he said. “We’ve found that the up-and-coming generation of technology users don’t know how to navigate a traditional menu hierarchy system (which is used to organize BI content), or they have little patience for it. Their most familiar interface is a Google search box, and so our platform now has a Google-like search function. When a company has 10,000 BI reports, that [ease of search] becomes necessary.”