Sergey Nivens - Fotolia
SAP HANA systems can collect a company's most valuable data. But the problem for many SAP HANA users has been unlocking that data and deriving real value from it.
That could change with SAP HANA's integration of the ThoughtSpot Embrace platform. ThoughtSpot, a business intelligence (BI) vendor in Palo Alto, Calif., also announced that it has joined the SAP PartnerEdge program to provide resources that help SAP customers use analytics to access SAP HANA data and get insights from it.
The ThoughtSpot Embrace BI platform uses a natural language interface on the front end and AI on the back end to answer data queries without the need to involve data analysts. The Embrace platform also goes a step further with machine learning technology that can provide recommendations based on a user's history and context of previous searches, said Seann Gardiner, ThoughtSpot's senior vice president of business development.
ThoughtSpot, along with BI competitors like Qlik and Tableau, is aimed at alleviating the complexity that prevents business users from leveraging organizational data to help make decisions, Gardiner said.
Putting BI in business users' hands
"Our vision is how we can flip that paradigm," Gardiner said. "This allows [business users to] interact with their data the same way as they interact with other favorite apps. It's a very consumer-like experience in being able to interact with data."
The integration of ThoughtSpot Embrace BI with SAP HANA should be valuable for SAP users because it has traditionally been difficult to get analytics value out of SAP HANA data. Established BI tools such as SAP BusinessObjects were not designed for business users and generally require the intervention of data analysts or other BI experts to make queries and generate reports. It also takes time to build BusinessObjects reports or dashboards and, by the time they are complete, the information may be out of date.
ThoughtSpot Embrace can work directly on SAP HANA data without having to extract the data from the database. The ThoughtSpot Embrace engine indexes data as it comes into SAP HANA, which means it can produce results based on whatever data is in the system at the time of a query, according to Gardiner.
"The goal is that you shouldn't have to build a static dashboard, because as you start to build dashboards it's very hard to answer the next question you have," he said. "You have this dashboard and you're able to look at the data and the views that have been built for you, but then you have to go back to the team that built that dashboard and get them to rebuild it if there are further questions."
ThoughtSpot is able to index and search vast amounts of data and pull out granular results, Gardiner said.
"Let's say you're [ThoughtSpot customer] Hulu and want to search against all of your subscription data and find out what people are watching," he said. "You're able to do that, get the results and drill down in a very granular way without having [to use a BI developer or analyst]."
In addition to SAP HANA, ThoughtSpot Embrace integrates with other big data sources, including Teradata, Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, Microsoft Azure Synapse Analytics and Snowflake.
Merging two BI trends
ThoughtSpot is at the intersection of two important market trends, AI and natural language, said Dave Menninger, senior vice president and research director at Ventana Research, an IT consultancy in Bend, Ore.
"Ultimately these two trends lead to the ability to personalize analytics and to help people know how to do their jobs -- give them advice, give them input, give them recommendations," Menninger said. "AI is too complicated to use right now, and people don't naturally know how to use structured query languages, so ThoughtSpot is trying to address those issues."
The partnership with SAP makes sense because ThoughtSpot is essentially following the data, he said.
"Historically, many software vendors want to partner with SAP because lots of people have data in HANA and all of SAP's various applications," Menninger said. "You always want to get cozy with SAP because there's a big market there, and SAP customers need help getting to their data just like everybody else does."
Doug Henschen, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc. in Monte Vista, Calif., concurred, saying that ThoughtSpot's partnership with SAP should open new avenues.
"It makes sense to go to where the data is and go to where the customers are, and SAP is one of the top ERP vendors," Henschen said. "[ThoughSpot] also recently announced integration with [the cloud data platform] Snowflake, so you tend to glom onto the hot tickets and hope you can ride on the coattails."
Many BI options
ThoughtSpot is a leader in augmented analytics, which uses capabilities like natural language querying and recommendations to bring analytics to users who are not trained data analysts, Henschen said. This is the next step in the self-service analytics trends in the last decade characterized by the rise of Qlik and Tableau.
But the market is crowded, Henschen said, and there are plenty of options for users, including Qlik, Tableau and even SAP Analytics Cloud.
"SAP Analytics Cloud is more in the mold of a Qlik or a Tableau," he said. "It covers the broad base of BI capabilities and they're definitely pushing on augmented analytical capabilities that would bring it to a broader base of users. I think of ThoughtSpot as a compliment rather than the replacement of a broader BI tool that includes formatted reporting and dashboarding."
Although ThoughSpot has been a leading innovator in augmented analytics, competing BI vendors like Qlik and Tableau are also investing heavily in developing automated capabilities such as natural language processing, Menninger said.
When new capabilities come to the market, nimble vendors typically have a leg up on established competitors whereas established vendors are often leaders when it comes to mainstay proficiencies, but this tends to even out, he said.
"That's about where we are right now," Menninger said. "ThoughtSpot has an advantage on some of the innovations they brought to the market, but the established vendors are certainly investing in trying to be competitive with those new capabilities as well."