Hi there! Happy New Year to you all and my apologies for the long delay between blog posts – not that anyone is breathlessly waiting for these posts, but I’ll try to do these more frequently going forward.
I spend much of my time these days focusing on Microsoft’s world-class BI products/platform, Because of that, I am planning on doing an extensive series around LightSwitch and PowerBI (when it is officially released). Since that release hasn’t happened quite yet, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a partner offering that exists right now from a company called ComponentArt.
A little background – back when I was at SAP, I stumbled upon an app in the Windows 8 store called “Datazen”. At the time, I was engaged in a number of debates around the whole idea of Windows 8 and whether it was the wave of the future or Windows Vista 2. I was firmly in the “wave of the future” camp, but I was honestly struggling to show off a killer app – something that really “made sense” to do in a Windows 8 app model as opposed to simply forklifting an existing application and putting a Windows 8 wrapper around it.
Datazen was/is that app – as someone who had spend almost his entire career building reports, I assumed what I was reading about the app was marketing double-speak. I can build gorgeous dashboards by simply dragging and dropping elements onto a simple canvas in minutes, and I’ll actually WANT to use the Windows 8 touchscreen interface to do so? And it’s free to use against any Excel spreadsheet I want? Oh goodie, a half-baked Xcelsius knock-off, I thought.
Boy was I wrong – Datazen had/has one of, if not the most, intuitive dashboard interfaces I’ve ever used. I picked a random Excel file and started building – it was an absolute pleasure to work with Datazen using my Surface Pro. And the dashboard I built looked every bit as stunning as the sample dashboards they include with the app. I mean, look at this dashboard -
I’d seen entire teams try to build something like this and take weeks. I had something like this in an about 90 minutes, and that was only because I spent way too much time going back and forth on the colors. Who knew I was so partial to powder blue?
You’d think my first reaction when I was done was – “This is amazing!” Wrong.
My initial reaction was – “These guys are idiots for giving this away for free.” So I setup a meeting with Miljan Braticevic, the CEO of ComponentArt and some other members of his team to ask them if they were idiots (I was a little more tactful than this if I remember correctly.)
Not only weren’t they idiots, but their plan was brilliant – give people a taste of the power of Datazen by allowing them to build against Excel files at no charge and then watch as their users transform into Gollum and pay for the step-up features that come with the paid version, like these -
“So you can build dashboards on any platform once you’ve paid for it, right?” I asked.
“No.” they said.
“Seriously – the Datazen dashboard designer was designed specifically to take advantage of Windows 8, so while you can view them on any platform, you can only build them on Windows 8.”
From that day forward, when someone questions the validity of the Windows app model or strategy, I simply pull up Datazen and show them what Windows 8.1 is supposed to represent. And if they don’t question it, I STILL show them Datazen. I’ve not had one person not be amazed when they first watch you build something in Datazen – it’s that impressive.
So where does LightSwitch fit in? Naturally, Datazen supports oData as one of the live data connection options in their Datazen Enterprise Server (which, by the way, can be hosted in, Azure) Or you could pull an oData feed into Excel, and build the dashboard on top of that. So it absolutely can be a great option to show off a powerful and snazzy dashboard alongside your new LightSwitch/Cloud Business App.
If you have a Windows 8.1 device, download Datazen and experience it for yourself. If you DON’T have a Windows 8.1 device, there are a TON of great options now to choose from in all sizes and price ranges. You won’t be disappointed by Datazen or with a Windows 8.1 tablet (or LightSwitch, but we all know that now, don’t we?).
That’s it for today – hope you enjoyed learning more about Datazen and I’ll be back when PowerBI goes live or when I regain feeling in my fingers. I’M SO COLD!