Earlier this week I received the amazing news that ThoughtSpot has been recognised as the first new vendor to join the Leaders quadrant in this year’s Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics & BI Platforms. This also happens to be the 6 month anniversary of me joining the company, so it feels like a great time to take a moment to reflect on my time with ThoughtSpot so far, on the state of BI in general, and how we got to this point.
It all boils down to change. It’s a cliche to say that the only constant is change, but it is true. That said, change isn’t easy and not all change is positive, so how do we know where to invest our effort?
I’ve worked in BI for over twenty years now. I took my first steps building reports in Microsoft Access databases before picking up Business Objects at version 4.1. I was initially struck by how much easier it was to build reports than it was with Access. Well trained power users in the business could actually do some of this themselves. This was really the first time that anyone in the business was able to get access to data themselves.
The first time I saw QlikView I didn’t really see how it differed from Business Objects; it looked like just another dashboard. When I used QlikView for the first time, everything changed. The user focused interaction that QlikView provided was completely unlike anything I had experienced before (what Qlik terms the Associative Experience). It was immediately clear to me this was the start of a new era of BI that brought analysis capabilities closer to the business user. If the BI team or analyst had put together a good Qlik app, an individual in the business could actually perform a good deal of the analysis themselves.
When I first heard about ThoughtSpot, again it didn’t click with me initially. Where were the advanced formatting capabilities? What about drag and drop dashboard development?
But again, when I took a step back and put myself in the position of the business user instead of the data pro, suddenly everything was clear. My world changed once more. For the first time in my career, I saw a technology that made it possible for the business user to have a direct conversation with their data, no matter the scale, with no technical knowledge required. All they needed was the curiosity to ask the question.
Scale is a really important factor here. I joined Qlik in 2010, which is just 9 years ago. Back then, even a few tens of gigabytes of data was considered very large for analysis. Now, we’re talking about hundreds of terabytes, or even petabytes of data. ThoughtSpot was designed and architected for the data challenges of today, for the business users of today. It’s this blend of simplicity and speed at massive scale that delivers so much value for our customers. As one of our Fortune 500 retail customers put it - “I came to ThoughtSpot for search, but I stayed for scale.”
So how do you know what change is good and where to invest effort?
For me, my focus in BI has always been on the end user, the business user themselves. It’s my ‘north star’, the path that I follow that has held me in good stead so far. Gartner seem to see this too; to see ThoughtSpot elevated to the Leaders quadrant just 6 years after founding and in only our third year in the quadrant is testament to the work that we’re doing with our customers. As long as we continue to empower these end users, I know its change worth investing in.
So, find your ‘north star’ and embrace any change that leads you in that direction.