BI Tools News Alert March 2019
Software developers and analysts are experts at coming up with new acronyms and exotic-sounding names for their platforms, features, plug-ins, and add-ons. NLG, VBD, MOLAP, BIaaS, federated analytics, augmented intelligence, the Prep Conductor, Vizzes, smart analytics, the list goes on. End-users have the unenviable task of looking past the jargon and trying to judge all new announcements on their own merits. A critical attitude, focusing on the promised functionality, will get you far.
And that’s exactly what Passionned Group, publisher of the popular Business Intelligence Tools Survey 2019, does. We’ll walk you through a selection of the most interesting announcements made by BI vendors over the last two months. Going forward, we aim to publish an updated news bulletin every month. This is the first installment of our BI Tools News Alert.
MicroStrategy kicked off the year with a new enterprise platform. MicroStrategy 2019 supposedly “makes business intelligence self-evident”. Their ambitious goal is creating mobility solutions that make the digital transformation go seamlessly. At the same time, they’re introducing the initially vague-sounding concept of HyperIntelligence. The software vendor claims that this will surface business intelligence “naturally”, without the user even having to click once. They refer to this as “zero-click analytics”, adding some nuance to the importance of self-service analytics. “Intelligence is about time, and when seconds matter, there’s simply no room for information that is one click away — let alone the time to find the right sets of data through self-service analytics”, according to the vendor.
Federated analytics is another feature that MicroStrategy is promoting. This allows organizations to connect the analysis tools their users are currently using (for example Microsoft Power BI, Tableau, and Qlik) to the the MicroStrategy 2019 platform. A user would thus be able to work towards one version of the truth. Using the so-called HyperCard feature, information and KPIs about customers, products, people, etc. could be made available in web applications like email, Salesforce, or Office 365. Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that the new platform also runs on the cloud platforms AWS and Azure. When using AWS, users could also use Alexa for Business as an “intelligent assistent”.
Improved speech-driven analytics
Qlik, well-known for their Qlikview dashboards, also started the new year promisingly, by acquiring CrunchBot’s AI analysis bot and Crunch Data’s AI team. With these acquisitions, the software vendor is going after improved speech-driven analytics. The company claims to be continuously looking for ways to offer its users so-called augmented intelligence and improve their data literacy. Qlik’s customers were already making use of the augmented intelligence and natural language processing. The vendor claims that CrunchBot will further expand these applications with a conversational interface. This enables users to ask questions naturally using the Qlik Sense interface, or popular communication tools such as Slack, Skype, Salesforce Chat, and Microsoft Teams.
Users can also explore available data and ask questions about it using speech interaction, thanks to integration with services such as (there she is again) Amazon Alexa. End-users can also generate insights and answers including context, using automatically generated graphs, interpretations, drivers, period-to-period calculations, and prognoses. Finally, they can make use of Natural Language Processing that trains itself automatically and tracks user questions, and Natural Language Generation, which offers insights about what happened and why, and what the next steps are.
Crunchbot is now called Qlik Insight Bot
CrunchBot will be dubbed Qlik Insight Bot, and works alongside the existing Insight Advisor, and will be integrated with Qlik’s so-called cognitive engine. Qlik’s acquisition hunger hasn’t been sated yet. It was recently announced that Qlik will acquire Attunity, a supplier of data integration and big data management solutions. Attunity offers data streaming through multiple platforms, which both companies claim offers more opportunities for the transition to the cloud and the use of real-time analytics.
New AI functionality
Birst is betting big on artificial intelligence with its new so-called Smart Analytics solutions and the well-known Infor Coleman AI platform. Smart Analytics consists of a series of new AI functions that use machine learning algorithms to offer business users new “intelligent insights”. The platform offers automated and personalized insights and recommendations. Using Smart Insights, the first in a series of AI functionalities, business users can apply data science management and directly see which variables drive the Key Performance Indicators. Users can also discover relations between a certain KPI and business variables and then automatically generate visualizations and dashboards that explain KPI trends. The vendor says that using the software doesn’t require any specialized expertise. The dashboards generated by the Smart Insights follow Birst’s Value-Based Design methodology.
Improving the decision-making process
Birst claims that the generated insights are more effective because they prioritize the factors that have the most impact on certain KPIs. Birst plans to add the following functionality in the near future, among others: Anomaly Detection, Natural Language Generation/Querying (NLG/NLQ), and Intelligent Alerting. Business users, according to Birst, can take advantages of the possibilities that were only available to highly educated data scientists up to this point.
The real value of AI and analytics isn’t in automating, but in improving the decision-making process, according to Birst. Infor Coleman is a platform for Artificial Intelligence, specifically designed for business users. The platform was named after the physician and mathematician Katherine Coleman Johnson, who was involved with the first moon landings.
The International Bike Group (IBG) chose to use Tableau to be able to see and understand their data better. IBG’s goal is to work more data-driven, and collects data from its online and offline channels in multiple countries. Using Tableau’s solutions, IBG employees can visualize and analyze data without external support. After reaping the first benefits of a data-driven company culture, the company wanted to take this to a higher level. In order to do this, it’s essential that other employees, not just the business data analysts, can assess their own data to gain insights.
While the data warehouse was rebuilt on the Google Cloud Platform, IBG started a vendor selection process to find a solution that both the analysts and the other business users could work with. The solution primarily had to be easy to use and offer high-quality infographics and data visualizations in order to optimize decisions and improve business activities. In the first implementation, 80 IBG employees and 40 stores will work with Tableau’s interactive KPI dashboards (‘Vizzes’) in various departments, such as marketing, sales, logistics, and strategy. International Bike Group won the Dutch BI & Data Science Award in 2017. IBG, founded in 2009, has over 500 employees in the Benelux and Scandinavia and is headquartered in Amsterdam.
New cataloging opportunities
Tableau is introducing Prep Conductor. With this software, central teams (like IT) can set authorizations for data flows and data sources, so they can better control administration and comply with compliance demands and requirements. Prep Conductor automates processes (flows) made in Tableau Prep Builder. This is the new name for Tableau Prep, which the vendor says will be used by more than 11,000 client accounts. Later this year, new cataloging options will also be added to Tableau Data Management. Organizations can use this to look for different kinds of data from any location using so-called enriched metadata. Customers can add the new functionality to their existing environment by upgrading to Tableau Server 2019.1 and subscribing to the vendor’s Data Management package.
The next step in the evolution of self-service analytics
Tableau is also launching the Ask Data functionality: a new way of analyzing data using Natural Language Processing (NLP). As the name suggests, users can ask questions in a natural phrase. They’ll immediately get a visualized answer. Ask Data’s parser will automatically detect ambiguous wording. This functionality (patent pending) makes it easier to research data and gain analytical insights irrespective of the user’s skill level, according to the vendor. These insights can be shared without needing to install or program anything.
Where Tableau claims to have innovated in the past using the drag-and-drop concept in data analytics, they believe Ask Data to be the next step in the evolution of self-service analytics. According to the vendor, everyone can enter into a dialogue with their data, whether they’re a manager, doctor, or restaurant owner. The software uses algorithms that focus on understanding the user’s intention, rather than key words. This should provide interesting results. Ask Data uses the patented Show Me technology and is included at no extra charge with Tableau Server and Tableau Online.
The next BI Tools News Alert will appear next month (once again in blog format). Suggestions, comments, and additions are welcome.
Passionned Group is the publisher of the Business Intelligence Tools Survey 2019. This is a 100% vendor-independent comparison report and market analysis. This survey will immediately give you insight into the possibilities and impossibilities of the various solutions and vendors. It will save you valuable time and tell you which platform is the best fit for your business and situation.
Three different versions
The Business Intelligence Tools Survey is available in three different editions and can be ordered online. The compact edition contains basic information that will let you make a selection based on the main factors. The professional edition also contains the list of 197 selection criteria, including explanations. The enterprise edition also contains all the research data. That will allow you to create a shortlist with great precision and make a choice that perfectly suits your requirements.