Mobile BI Design Framework: Design Thinking

When we design for mobile business intelligence (BI), we need to apply the mobile mindset to all facets of user interactions, not just what we do when we are online but also what we do offline. In my first blog of the series, I discussed the importance of embracing a mobile design philosophy that will be unique to each of us and the environments we work in.

This is important because our design philosophy will be the guiding light when best practices alone may not be enough to help us navigate in uncharted waters. I want to expand on this idea and further articulate what it looks like.

The ”mobile BI design framework” places an emphasis on how our mobile BI products or solutions can help drive growth and profitability—that is the success criterion that matters most. Therefore, as I discussed in my design thinking blog, the customer (our users) becomes not only the focal point of our design but the main ingredient for our design formula. Here are some concepts of design thinking that I apply to mobile BI.

Integrated mobile solutions are a must

We must strive for integrated mobile solutions where each part completes the mobile user experience as a whole. We don’t want to build fragmented pieces that make up a mobile stack or reflect PC-era design practices.

Getting closer to mobile users is the only way

We need to get closer to current or potential customers (mobile users) by involving them actively in the process from day one. They must touch and play with the first prototype as much as they would during the testing phase. Continuous feedback should be the lifeblood of any development effort.

The empathy principle is key to smart design

We need to apply what I refer to as the “empathy principle” to design thinking. I define it as a practice that involves opening up our nerve endings, so to speak, and increasing our awareness, so we can feel what it’s like to be in the actual users’ shoes. You can’t do that from behind a desk. You need to be right in the trenches, working side by side with the real customer in the same environment and under the same conditions. I see the empathy principle as a prerequisite for customer-centric products and solutions.

Collective expertise gives birth to collective insight

We need to bring multidisciplinary roles together at the table in order to leverage the power of collective expertise that covers both technical and business know-how. All the members of our extended design team bring not only their subject matter expertise, but also their insight from their personal and professional experiences that go beyond their tenure in their current roles. Together, with collective expertise, we give birth to collective insight.

Ambiguity is good for smart design

We embrace ambiguity as we look at the mobile user experience—sometimes starting from scratch—so we can explore new ideas that we would otherwise miss. Ambiguity, if guided and managed effectively, erases past biases and helps us start on a new page without any expected notions.

If you ever want to see how this works, just watch a child play or work on a drawing. They’re as “free” when they start as they are when they stop. In the context of mobile BI, inspiration can come from new mobile ideas as well as from traditional BI artifacts.

Fail early and often to learn faster

And most important of all, we must promote the philosophy of “Fail early and often” by harnessing the power of rapid prototypes and delivering proof of concepts that resonate with and encourage feedback from mobile or “mobile-to-be” users. This means that, except maybe for the first meeting, all other subsequent interactions with our users must be accompanied by digital drafts that illustrate not only the look and feel of our design but also the functionality (the report or dashboard, for example).

This last one is the closest to my heart because it often reminds me of a famous quote by Frank Lloyd Wright, “You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site.”

What other concepts do you subscribe to as part of your mobile BI design philosophy?


This story also appeared on the SAP Analytics Blog.