cloud

Cloud analytics 101: An overview of key concepts and techniques

In today’s competitive business landscape, the incredible power of data can help an organization succeed or, if not harnessed correctly, lead it to fail. Data is evolving, and businesses that hope to remain successful must keep pace.

With the rise of mobile applications and digital touchpoints, organizations have an ever-growing abundance of data at their fingertips. The cloud has made storing all of this data feasible, both from a technical and an economic perspective. While there’s massive value in this change, it also presents a new challenge: how can a business keep from drowning in all of your data? Analytics solutions built for the past were not architected to handle data at the scale the cloud enables.

Enter cloud analytics. At the core of any modern, data-driven business are powerful, easy-to-use analytics tools that go far beyond the basic “full-stack” computing bundles of the past. These new tools offer deep, scalable, and self-service insights for everyone, not just those with technical expertise. Legacy business intelligence (BI) tools often lead to data silos, issues in collaboration, and multiple sources of truth. But cloud analytics empowers every user to access relevant data whenever and wherever they need to take data-driven action.

What is cloud analytics?

Cloud analytics is the practice of analyzing data in a cloud data platform to discover actionable business insights. This type of analytics enables users to examine and explore large datasets stored in the cloud to uncover relevant trends and patterns, predict outcomes, make stronger business decisions, and ultimately drive actions that propel a business forward.

What’s the difference between on-prem and cloud analytics? 

While the process of using cloud analytics is similar to more traditional, on-premises (on-prem) analytics, there are certainly some distinctions between the two. Because cloud-based analytics doesn’t require a business to purchase, store, and maintain costly data centers, it’s generally a more efficient alternative to on-prem analytics.

Today’s businesses generate large volumes of data throughout their daily operations—from social media to IoT devices, and beyond. The majority of this data is created in the cloud, making cloud analytics arguably the most efficient tools for processing, storing, and analyzing these enormous amounts of data. 

How cloud analytics works

Cloud analytics systems are hosted in the cloud, which means all data is collected and stored in a single, secure place. The best-of-breed cloud analytics solutions analyze the data within the cloud platform, without requiring it to be moved or copied in order to ensure insights are always up-to-date. These solutions are built to process and analyze large amounts of data from a variety of sources (e.g. a business's social media, CRM, HR system, etc.) and deliver resulting insights through easy-to-digest data visualization. Cloud analytics solutions also ensure end-users can easily access their data from any internet-connected device.

Each cloud analytics solution offers distinct features, but there is some standard functionality crossover between most cloud analytics systems, such as:

Data models

While there are myriad data models—ranging from very simple to extremely complex—that businesses can leverage, the goal remains unchanged: data models allow you to visually demonstrate the data within the system, the relationship between different data points, and the ways in which the data can be formatted and organized. Data models are important for maintaining a consistent, predictable process of defining and managing data.

Processing applications

Large datasets require specific applications that can process all of the information stored within the data warehouse, without taking copious amounts of time to do so. Cloud-based analytics solutions provide intelligent processing applications that offer quick insights for faster decision making.

Analytics models

Where data models help businesses organize and visualize their data, analytics models help users actually understand complex datasets and predict potential outcomes. This is the foundation for business intelligence and business analytics

8 Benefits of cloud analytics that drive growth

As an organization grows, so does the amount of data it collects and stores. That large quantity of data can become a competitive asset, but only if it is accessible. 

Here are a few ways that modern cloud analytics solutions can help your organization grow:

1. Ensure flexibility as you scale

Cloud analytics technologies are easier to use and more accessible than on-prem solutions, which require expensive hardware and more resources as demand grows. Cloud-based analytics solutions also better accommodate shifts in demand since they enable businesses to pay for services as they need them, supporting the dynamic needs of your business’s computing and storage requirements. 

2. Improve data sharing and collaboration

Large quantities of data don’t offer any business value if they’re stuck in departmental silos. Cloud analytics empowers your team to look at all of your data instead of operating based on bits and pieces of potentially outdated data. To that point, everyone has the same version of the truth, instead of different departments relying on outdated data that lives in local excel spreadsheets. 

Without cloud analytics, two departments may have the same question, but their answers would be very different.

With cloud analytics, organizations are able to share insights from each part of the business, resulting in greater transparency and more informed decision-making.

3. Utilize third-party data

Cloud analytics also allows businesses to incorporate third-party data into their analysis. Over the last few years, innovative companies have raced to tap into new sources — often those they don’t own. External data like weather, jobs reports, and social media are already being leveraged to better understand customer behavior and optimize supply chains. Relying simply on proprietary data is blinding at best.

For example, consider a brand like Kraft-Heinz. In a world where third-party cookies and cross app tracking are eliminated, consumer brands can tap into third-party data to better understand customer behavior and optimize supply chains. In a Harvard Business Review article, Mani Gopalakrishnan, vice president of digital transformation at Kraft Heinz, said:

“Data is going from being something that’s guarded in a company to being a robust platform to being a service…Having information is powerful, for sure, but sharing information can be even more powerful.”

4. Identify opportunities

Modern organizations understand the importance of using their data to determine what’s working, what’s not, and how to remedy issues that might be hindering their performance. Modern cloud analytics technologies give more business users faster access to their data, empowering organizations to pinpoint and repeat their successes while  detecting and eliminating potential problems. 

Today’s best-in-breed modern analytics solutions take that one step further by enabling AI and augmented analytics to help users navigate their data and find opportunities in their data. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to know where to find insights in your data—that’s where AI solutions can help augment your team, alert you to opportunities, and even suggest necessary actions. Automated analytics offer cross-industry benefits, and the speed of cloud analytics makes this possible.

5. Decrease costs

Cloud analytics helps businesses uncover and eliminate costly inefficiencies. For example, consider Tri Vin Imports, wholesale wine and spirit distributor. After implementing their cloud analytics solution, their sales team was able to track which accounts or locations weren’t requesting additional orders. Sales team could then use this information to visit those locations, talk to the owners, and get a better understanding of how to improve their sales.

Companies can also use cloud analytics to find cost-saving benefits in HR. Consider the topic of onboarding. HR might calculate the average onboarding time to be 30 days; but they might be totally unaware that the marketing team successfully onboards team members in just 10 days. With the right cloud analytics solution, HR can investigate exactly how marketing is expediting onboarding and implement those best practices to the wider organization to help new employees reach productivity faster.

6. Enhance product and service quality

Data-driven product and service improvements are essential for maintaining a competitive edge and ensuring proper availability and delivery. Cloud analytics solutions empower businesses to quickly test and measure the success of new product launches without sacrificing time and resources. Organizations can use cloud analytics to identify opportunities for future product investments or service inefficiencies.

Cloud analytics also allows product leaders to embed their data into their product to create better user experiences. Consider the healthcare technology company, MDaudit, who embedded workflow automation, risk monitoring, built-in analytics, and benchmarking capabilities into their SaaS product. These analytics helped them grow their product’s user base by 50% in a single year. How could an embedded analytics experience help your product become more sticky?

7. Improve customer experience

By monitoring and optimizing the customer experience, your business can beat out the competition. Cloud-based analytics helps businesses obtain insights from experiential and operational data to measure experience and satisfaction in real time. 

Armed with that knowledge, organizations can make meaningful improvements at every stage of the buyer’s journey, with increased personalization, engagement, and more to meet (or exceed) customer expectations. In a recent episode of The Data Chief, Ameet Shetty, the Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Pilot Flying J, put it like this:

“How do you differentiate yourself? Well, you do it by knowing your clients better…That's what data does, driving those insights to help us create those connections so that we aren't another commodity.”

8. Optimize sales, pricing, and packaging

Understanding customer behavior is an essential part of developing and optimizing a strong business strategy. Cloud analytics helps organizations use their data to identify buying patterns, specific customer behaviors, and how specific strategies affect purchasing decisions. This aids businesses in exploring options to better price and package goods and services, too. With in-depth buying behavior, marketing teams can deliver more effective, efficient campaigns that meet customers where they are along each step of their buying journey.

For example, consider a new airline trying to break into the market. Understanding changing demand is critical to success in such a competitive market. Flyer was able to use cloud analytics to “understand how all areas of the business are contributing to overall growth and profitability,” said Martin Stangeland, VP of Data and Analytics. After just one quarter of using a best-in-breed analytics solution, they increased revenue by 313%

ThoughtSpot for your cloud analytics

ThoughtSpot’s Modern Analytics Cloud empowers businesses to fully utilize your cloud data to inform decisions and drive smarter actions. Live Analytics improves insights, through:

Search

ThoughtSpot enables any user to search their cloud data to create and discover key insights with natural language query (NQL) in the same way they search using Google, without needing to know SQL or table relations. Even the most complex queries can be easily executed at scale, with personalized, granular-level insights that speed-up your team’s time-to-action. And with automated, in-text coaching, ThoughtSpot makes it even easier to teach users how to search and analyze business data. Because users can view lineage and data catalog details, they can learn in-depth facts about how each query has been answered.

Connect

With ThoughtSpot, users can instantly connect to live cloud data sources like Snowflake and Databricks to query the data in their platform at the most granular level. With just a few clicks, teams can start searching their data across their existing cloud platform, find insights, and then sync those insights into the cloud tools they use every day, like slack, HubSpot, Salseforce, and others.

Auto analyze

Even if users don’t know where to get started, our cloud analytics uses AI to ask and answer questions each individual user cares about, but wouldn’t necessarily know to ask. Businesses can get one-click, AI-driven analysis to quickly understand anomalies, trends, and potential opportunities; all of which help to improve the bottom line.

How spotiq works in ThoughtSpot.

Model

ThoughtSpot makes your data intuitive by empowering users to create governed, usable, and logical data models for Live Analytics. Teams can quickly get up-and-running with automated worksheet model creation and control. They can combine and filter data, add calculated metrics, collaborate on models, and easily ensure that the right people have access to the right data.

Operationalize

ThoughtSpot makes it easy for frontline teams to push insights back to business-critical apps (like Slack, Salesforce, and Hubspot), which can be used to trigger action in other applications. This helps to streamline operations for a more informed, productive workforce.

Someone sending data to hubspot from their liveboard using ThoughtSpot Sync.

Embed

With ThoughtSpot Everywhere, a developer-friendly, low-code platform with flexible APIs, users can quickly embed interactive analytics experiences into business apps. Instead of static dashboards, teams gain a live, modern, and engaging cloud analytics experience that encourages curiosity and exploration.

Ready to try cloud analytics?

At the backbone of any successful modern organization is deep, data-driven insights that help your teams enhance growth and boost collaboration. Cloud analytics solutions eliminate the costly, inefficient challenges associated with on-prem alternatives, and instead offer the robust technology needed to detect patterns, identify opportunities, and support better business decisions.

ThoughtSpot’s Modern Analytics Cloud empowers any user to create, utilize, and operationalize data-driven insights across every part of the business. Learn more about how consumer-grade search and AI technology provide true self-service analytics and easy integration for an improved bottom line, or start your free trial today.