This time last year the Computer Weekly Developer Network team was headed out to Las Vegas for ThoughtSpot Beyond 2022 with a whole set of health and safety advisories to guide us through what was still, at that stage, the more mature end-point phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year, we’re also headed to ThoughtSpot Beyond 2023, but with several additional ‘jabs’ (aka shots) in the arm, most of us having had just about enough infection, invasion and inflation to last us a lifetime.
Times will also have changed at ThoughtSpot, the company will be one year further on in terms of its mission to explain what it takes to be a modern analytics cloud specialist and an organisation that casts itself as a natural player in what we might call the ‘modern data stack’ today.
With core competencies in delivering natural language search and AI to perform data analytics, ThoughtSpot continues to talk about how it works to enable customers to automate entire business processes.
Yes, but customers who? Which people, which stakeholders and which users are we talking about here?
According to Ajeet Singh, the company’s co-founder and executive chairman, ThoughtSpot is a cloud-based service that can be used by any employee, “Regardless of their technical chops,” as he likes to colorfully put it.
Chops-based democracy notwithstanding then, what this is meant to convey is a platform that gives any user the chance to make data-driven decisions through a consumer-grade analytics experience.
Last year we heard plenty about the mechanics of how ThoughtSpot is delivered as a suite of cloud-based web and mobile applications – and, additionally, we were also told that the platform itself is essentially developer-friendly… a key consideration that we’re keen to learn more about in 2023.
The company brand-capitalises its Live Analytics software, a function intended to provide an interactive experience both on the frontend through search and AI… and on the backend with a live connection to a company’s cloud data platform.
Throughout the 2022-2023 period we’ve heard quite a few updates from the company. Within its monthly feature updates, ThoughtSpot has added connectors to Dremio, Denodo, Oracle Exadata, Trino, Presto and SQL Server – and a connector to PostgresSQL is on the way at the time of writing. We have also seen Sync data to Salesforce and integration for dbt with Databricks among others.
On that developer-centrality that we want more of in 2023, we know that ThoughtSpot Everywhere is a developer-friendly platform designed to enable programmers to add ThoughtSpot directly into their application or product.
Rise of the data developer
Although we know that ThoughtSpot is always keen to talk about data analytics ubiquity, democracy and ease-of-use, we can also hope to see more focus this year on the rise of the ‘data developer’ (if that job role really truly exists more now) as we examine more of how this hybrid engineering role combining core programmer skills with data architect skills actually manifests itself.
How does it work then?
By now, you’re obviously asking how does ThoughtSpot work and what does it run on? Much of this answer comes down to us pointing to ThoughtSpot Modeling Language (TML) as a means to model data and build data-centric applications.
Based on YAML, TML is built using open standards and can handle even the most complex data, such as multi-fact table joins (like chasm and fan traps)… all of which provides developers with a modeling layer to bring analytics forward into an organisations’ applications.
ThoughtSpot likes to adorn its conferences and industry events with stickers, badges, pins and logos that read ‘no more dashboards’ or ‘dashboards are dead’ – this is because it positions its technology as a means of going beyond the static dashboard techniques used by data-developer shops that have traditionally data warehouses and data lakes for might now appear to be less sophisticated Extract, Transform & Load (ETL) jobs.
Very new to the scene last year but now with 12-months of additional development, augmentation, enhancement and expansion time under its belt, ThoughtSpot should be looking to explain more detail on SpotApps.
SpotApps are powered by ThoughtSpot Blocks, pre-packaged pieces of code.
This technology offers pre-built solutions for popular use cases i.e. this software is a set of integrated applications that allow analysts and developers to launch analytics projects for the most common SaaS applications, like ServiceNow, Salesforce, HubSpot and Snowflake.
During the year in between these events, we have seen the company make note of a new partnership between ThoughtSpot and dbt Labs, to help analytics engineers launch self-service analytics.
The partnership has promised a lot – the firms have said that as a result of this union, customers no longer have to worry about inconsistency or lack of transparency when it comes to their data. Instead, data teams can take advantage of dbt capabilities such as modularity, version control and testing to ensure they are delivering high fidelity, accurate, trustworthy data models to the broader organisation.
This year’s Las Vegas event will be a good chance for the firms to showcase how the integration between the two platforms has gone as they also seek (we hope) to explain what comes next.
The company says that ThoughtSpot’s platform instantly detects table relationships and metrics defined in dbt and immediately makes them available to search. Customers are able to reap the benefits of consistent, reliable Live Analytics (the capitalised branded kind) for entire business without having to build cumbersome data pipelines.
“The impact of software best practices on the world of data can’t be overstated. What we’re seeing across the ecosystem is really a once in a generation opportunity, driven by this new approach. Organisations who want to capitalise on the opportunity of data can’t just take what worked for them in the last ten years and apply it to today’s world,” said Amit Prakash, CTO and co-founder, ThoughtSpot.
We can perhaps think about data analytics on the road ahead and think back to ThoughtSpot’s comments made in October 2022 when it worked with Sapio Research to analyse the wider data analytics market today.
The ‘findings’ of last year’s study suggested that while 92% of business people need to manipulate their spreadsheet data to make it understandable, 40% of them often struggle to make sense of their data in these sheets.
The survey found that spreadsheets are one of the most common, pervasive tools in the modern office suite, with the average knowledge worker spending more than 20 hours a month within them. Excel remains the most common (85%), followed by Google Sheets (55%), Apple Sheets (18%) and Zoho Sheets (11%). While their use varies, data analysis tops the list of use cases cited by respondents (63%), followed by finance and accounting (51%), sales (40%), HR (30%) and marketing (24%).
While all this time might be spent analysing their spreadsheet data, only 30% of respondents would describe their proficiency with spreadsheets as “advanced” or better.
“Spreadsheets really aren’t for everybody. Just like data analysts can easily be lumped into one bucket, not everybody has the same proficiency with spreadsheets. These research findings make it clear that while billions of Google Sheets users are still hosting their modern analytics in spreadsheets, it’s really hard for most people to ask questions and visualize their data quickly. The question then becomes, how do you make spreadsheet data more easy to use and more accessible?” said Sean Zinsmeister, SVP of Product Marketing at ThoughtSpot.
All of which was the backdrop for the company launching ThoughtSpot for Sheets – a self-service analytics tool for every person that works by bringing intuitive search, drill down and visualisations to Google Sheets, so users can back every decision they make with data.
Historically, analysing the data in these sheets required a deep understanding of spreadsheet best practices and operations, or moving this data into an analytics solution. ThoughtSpot for Sheets dramatically simplifies this process by bringing search and drill-down features directly to your Google Sheets.
Overall then, there will be much to learn at ThoughtSpot Beyond 2023 and our bags are already packed.