The Trader’s Tale: Ad Hoc Data Exploration

One of the first things I learned about Thoughtspot is that I needed to learn a lot more about Thoughtspot. So I started to immerse myself in some of our customer stories – the best way to learn about any new technology is from the outside in. Because it’s there that you learn why this technology exists: what it does, who uses it and how it creates value for them.

The first use case I looked at was all about trading teams in financial services organizations. Traders live and breath data; they need it in order to make decisions fast. They’re constantly trying to find new ways to compete, to get better insight from their data and bring that to bear faster than their competitors. For a trader, it’s key to get granular access to data, to analyze the portfolio they’re managing, to understand risk and exposure to new market events. They need to respond like lightning, to ask questions the moment events take place, to understand how exposed they are and what brief opportunities are opening up. Pre-canned reports just won't do it.

So let’s hear the “Trader’s Tale”:

I’m a trader; I want to explore my data from new angles, looking for a different edge, so I’m hardly likely to be asking the same questions that have been asked before and whose answers are baked into the dashboards and reports I’ve got access to. I need new queries and reports. Maybe I don’t even know right now what ad hoc queries. First off I want to explore and look for connections, correlations maybe causation. Then I’m cooking with gas.

So I get a bright idea and I call up my friendly neighborhood BI power user. The conversation goes something like this:

“Hi Karen, I just need a quick query to to see my portfolio exposure to this mornings events in Brazil. But I can’t find it any of my reports, what I need is…” “No problem, Max, I’ll get right on it and send you the results in 30 seconds; then if you need to revise or explore some more, I can knock those off for you by lunch time.”

…then I wake up. That’s not how it goes.

The reality for our Trader is that the power users with the skills to build exploratory, ad hoc query reports are also valuable people in their own right. They don’t sit around waiting for a call, like a data super hero. Not everyone has a SpotGirl on hand. The BI power user has their own priorities and deadlines, maybe assembling a new executive dashboard (and those folks aren’t going to wait) or working on some deep analytics of customer portfolios and historical market data to optimize trading recommendations. Either way, an endless stream of seemingly trivial questions from traders isn’t going to get the main job done.

And that conflict, between power users of great business intelligence tools with a backlog of projects to complete, and traders with great ideas and a need for instant progress, is inevitable.

Or it was inevitable. Thoughtspot customers are squaring that circle by empowering business to explore user’s data on their own. They don’t join the back of the queue for new queries and reports – they do it themselves, with a search-driven paradigm that’s totally familiar – from Google, to the search bar on the top of every eCommerce site, to the search on your phone.