When it comes to automation in the BI industry, I think a lot of vendors are holding back. It’s entirely possible to automate the majority of what data analysts do today, but vendors are reluctant to do this because it would impact data analysts and they’re a big gatekeeper in the buying cycle of analytic software.
Fear of automating away the analyst
Most BI vendors are looking at ways to augment what data analysts do rather than automating the entire process. I think that’s because they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. Data analysts are still very much involved in the buying cycle and if you automate their processes then what are the data analysts going to do? If that happened, then vendors would have to find a different route to market - that’s what we’ve had to do.
This was really driven home for me is when I was in Japan recently. I visited a lot of customers with our partners and realized that the business people in those organizations had not been introduced to the power of Signals and Stories. The moment they saw it they were absolutely blown away and wanted to get their hands on it.
This highlighted to me just what a challenge it is to sell to get through gatekeepers like the data analyst. We have to think about our business and empower ourselves to sell differently. While businesses have started to buy BI software directly in recent years, the gatekeeper is still the data analyst. They’re the one saying, is this the kind of tool we really need?
Finding a new audience
To overcome this, we’ve become laser-focused on who our customer is. We have a clear understanding of who we target, why we target them and the value that we bring to them. When we think about large enterprise deployments, we’re delivering Yellowfin to 100, 2,000, or 10,000 business users so we focus on what they need. From our perspective, businesses can support these deployments with a very small set of data analysts and can see value in our product very quickly. Our time to delivery is also shrinking which means the return on investment for businesses is significantly more.
We’ve also enabled our sales organizations to understand why we're different and to sell that difference. It's very easy and comfortable for BI salespeople to sell dashboards but it's very hard to sell something that's unique in the market. As part of that process, we need to empower data analysts to understand what our product can do for their business and how they can become heroes in a very different way. They can spend more time contextually explaining what's happening in their organization rather than just slicing and dicing data. That's the value of automation and the power that we bring to their business.
From Yellowfin’s perspective, by selling to business users we've seen our average order value go up significantly - it’s more than doubled in the last year. The size of our deployments has also grown and our sales function is more effective because we understand our value proposition and target audience. While we’re taking away some of the work of the data analyst, the value that's being created for the business far outweighs the loss to the data analyst and we’re open and upfront about it.
Adapt to the change
While there’s a lot of angst about automation, I think it’s inevitable that many data analysts will become redundant. But you can never automate the contextual elements of the role and it’s far more interesting than organizing and preparing data. So, for analysts and organizations that are open and willing to think about different ways of consuming data, there are exciting opportunities that they can take advantage of now.
The impact of AI on the data analyst
Glen Rabie, CEO of Yellowfin, believes that while many analysts may fear they will be replaced by automation and AI, the role of the data analyst will increase in significance to the business and breadth of skills required. Read the insideBIGDATA article.