Q&A: What’s The Big Deal With Embedded Analytics?

There are more ways to think about data and analytics than just dashboards. Countless people within organizations big and small…

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There are more ways to think about data and analytics than just dashboards. Countless people within organizations big and small could benefit from insights gleaned from analytics platforms, but will never crack open a dashboard. Enter: embedded analytics. This term can mean a lot of different things, but its main focus is on putting the right data points in front of the right people at the right times.

I sat down with the head of our Go-To-Market team, PeggySue Werthessen, to talk more about what embedding means today and tomorrow. Check out her responses below and hear more of what she has to say on our podcast, Radical Transparency (now hosted by me, Jack Cieslak!). For now, let’s just jump right into the questions!

Where are clients putting embedded analytics right now?

*laughs* Everywhere. That’s the joy of embedded analytics, right? In the traditional sense, it’s the ability to take individual visualizations, individual KPIs, and embed them directly in your workflow. So, as you’re using your favorite tool, you just get a little bit of data, right at the point where that data is going to be the most helpful. Instead of 20 KPIs, like you would be in a dashboard, you’re just getting just the right information at the right time.

What are some of the most interesting use cases you’ve seen thus far?

About a year and a half ago Sisense made it possible for you to embed analytics into your Alexa. So now you can just ask Alexa a question and she can answer back. You can think of that as a way to embed analytics into people’s lives. You’re in a conversation and they’re saying “Oh no, I’m doing fine this quarter.” And so you say “Alexa, what’re my Q3 results?” And she answers.

We have a client who’s taken the APIs that we’ve built for Alexa and taken their organization to a whole new level. Not only can our client ask Alexa questions, but Alexa is smart enough to then do things with that information. So, if you ask about inventory, Alexa will say something like: “Yes, and I’ve ordered more…”

Want to hear more about embedded analytics? Listen to the latest episode of Radical Transparency now.


We also see this with the Sisense Bulb: if you have a KPI and you want to use the bulb as a KPI indicator: green is good, yellow is bad, red is…well, red is really bad… You see that and think “oh, that’s just a cutesy thing,” but the reality is that humans are incredibly responsive to indicators like that. It’s really easy to shut down my dashboard; it’s really hard for me to ignore the bulb. In fact, if you walk by the Support area here at Sisense, they have a bulb on one of the manager’s desks and they use it to monitor the status of the work queue and make sure that everything is okay.

How does embedded analytics build on the legacy of traditional BI and take the next step?

From the CEO’s perspective, embedded is a great way to make sure that everyone is following the same process and using the data to do what they need to do. The organization is able to insert just a bit of data at a time into the into a user’s workflow to help them make the right decision. From a human perspective, humans naturally want to do their best job, to be their best selves. But a lot of people are not data people. They feel overwhelmed by data. However, when visualization is done well, users don’t need to understand the math behind it to understand the information so that they can adjust their behavior and be their best. Everything we’re doing is trying to make BI more accessible to more people, really to people who don’t even care but could use the insights from their data to do better work.

What makes how Sisense embeds different from other solutions?

I think Sisense is really interesting in that we take embedding to a whole new level. The traditional model is this: you have a single visualization where you embed it, or you could take one dashboard page and embed it somewhere… The fun thing about Sisense is that we have so many clients to who take Sisense and embed it into their products, but they white label it. They customize the fonts, the colors, the graphics, and the URL and everything, so you’d never know you were using Sisense. Some of them white label to the extreme where they actually give their clients the ability to build their own dashboards and even data models.

How do Enterprises embed versus the way other companies do it?

For Enterprises, embedded analytics is a way to mature their BI offering. You have data people already working with data and business users doing reporting, but integrating embedded analytics throws developers into the mix. They can start by putting analytics into their app, but then they can take Sisense even further, putting it into employee portals, systems such as Salesforce.com, and even offering analytics to customers and partners.

Sisense covers the whole gamut, which means enterprises can get a lot of re-use out of things that they do. Why wouldn’t you want the same data model, definitions and visualizations to benefit everyone both internally and externally? Being able to do that all from the same platform means when we say “single source of truth” we mean “all the way through.”

What’s the next big “turn” in terms of how embedded analytics are being or will be used?

I think there’s a lot of beauty in doing things with embedded analytics in a way that empowers the business user. For example, we have this feature called “Drill to Anywhere,” which allows the business analyst to create a visualization that has all the right data and metrics in it, but the end-user can change it completely and view it from any direction. And we can embed that, which means that the end-user has the ability to answer their own questions on the fly. You don’t need to predict every question that’s going to be asked, you give end-users a place to start.

So, embedding more power than just a simple graphic, embedding more and more interactive capability will come over time. Not only can you put the visualization there, but you can interact with it, you can make changes to it…

I was just going to ask about BloX. What you just described, is that BloX?

BloX is a little bit different; BloX takes it to a different level. Let’s talk about BloX within Sisense first (because you can also embed BloX): BloX does two things. First off, it’s pretty. It just allows you to create things that are prettier and aren’t so “traditional BI-looking.” You can make them cute, and add graphics, and make them pretty colors, and do all sorts of fancy things, using standard CSS and JSON.

That would be cool, even if that were just sitting a dashboard, but they also come with templates that allow you to create application-like functionality. With Sisense Blox, you can take action directly from the dashboard rather than leaving your dashboard to go to another system to take action. It may be like the placing an order: I see a metric and I say, “Oh, I better order more paper towels.” I could choose paper towels and click a button and it would add them to my cart. So we can start to add application-like functionality to the dashboard, which makes them even more interactive, right? So it’s not just about getting information from the dashboard and going off.

Are dashboards dead?

No. They’re totally not dead. Embedded analytics is, for some users, all they’re ever going to see. They’re not going to go to the dashboard, but frankly, they’re not going to the dashboard today. They may have access, but they’re not opening up the dashboard. They’re just not. So, embedded gets analytics to those people.

For those people that do use the dashboards and also have analytics embedded in their workflow, it a nice reminder, right? I do my deep thinking at a dashboard: I’m really thinking through a problem, I’m thinking through a space, I’m trying to really understand it. They’re still plenty of people who need a dashboard. It’s still a workplace to play with your analytics and I don’t think it’s going away.

What kind of new analytical systems will embedded and augmented analytics take advantage of?

The simplest version of augmented analytics is “the computer makes charts for you.” Not very exciting, but easy to understand. There’s a lot of really awesome things going on with AI and machine learning. We’re really focused right now on AI-assisted exploration, which will help users find insights more easily and really do some of the heavy lifting for them: picking which data sources to combine, pointing out interesting relationships, suggesting charts to generate, stuff like that. It’s all about delivering more value to the business user and taking work off the shoulders of data analysts.

Endless Opportunities for Embedding

This has been just a brief glimpse into the world of embedded analytics, both present, and future. As more organizations are realizing just how important understanding their data is, they’ll keep finding more and more places to put the right data in front of the right people at the right times. And Sisense will be right there making it easier than ever to do that.


Want to hear more about embedded analytics? Listen to the latest episode of Radical Transparency now.

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