How businesses are putting billions of data points to work with cloud-based AI

As organisations in every industry are moving to the cloud as part of their digital transformation strategy, they are increasingly looking to realise ROI from these investments

One strategy that’s paying off? Empowering employees throughout the business with data in the cloud. Recent research from Harvard Business Review found that 72% of organisations empowering those on the frontlines with access to data are seeing gains in productivity, 69% in customer satisfaction, and 67% in product and service quality.

For these employees to truly unleash the power of the data in their cloud, however, they cannot rely on the traditional data and analytics processes organizations have utilised for the past decade. Without simple, powerful search and AI-driven analytics, enterprises will fail to harness the power of their data in the cloud.

While unlocking cloud data of all types through AI can generate value, businesses need to know what projects to prioritise as they start out. Examples where businesses are managing digital transformation projects on the popular platforms like Snowflake, or with AWS or Google Cloud, include:

  • IoT to help businesses uncover deeper insights, drive innovation, and discover untapped opportunities from IoT and machine data stored in Snowflake
  • Procurement, enabling companies to scale to massive volumes of spend, supply chain, and logistics data and get insights to maximise the buying power of every pound
  • Customer 360, helping marketers and sales teams fully understand the complete customer journey to improve customer acquisition and retention
  • COVID-19, bringing critical data sources such as tracking, testing, and case rates data from Starschema together for healthcare professionals, epidemiologists, and policymakers to understand and mitigate the spread of COVID-19

The growth of the new cloud-based and AI-driven stack

There’s a tectonic shift happening in technology. As enterprises move to the cloud to build more flexible, agile businesses, they have two requirements. First, they need new means to extract the intelligence in their cloud. Second, they must push it to decision makers at every level of their organisation. Picking strong cloud partners helps businesses take advantage of a wealth of innovations that enterprises need as they seek to build and leverage the new cloud-native, AI-driven data stack required to compete in the modern business world.

But how did we get here? There’s a whole story behind this new cloud and AI data stack – and it’s a story of consolidation and improvement for the benefit of the business user in particular. We’ve moved from a world where the IT organisation owned the business intelligence stack completely. The BI team was rolled into IT. All of the data integration required operational ETL tools like Informatica before you could even load the data into complex semantic layers and databases.

If a business user wanted a report created, it could take months. This was the situation in the early 2000s. Things started to improve around 2008 with the dawn of data visualisation tools, signalling the second generation of business intelligence and analytics solutions. With these relatively simple interfaces, data professionals and analysts could generate charts and graphs. This was a revelation, helping business professionals consume data-driven insights in a new way, while creating a new cadre of technical power users.

There are few vendors who have helped transform all this data, and helped create the self-service stack for analysts, including Alteryx, Tableau, and Qlik, which have cemented themselves as the core platforms in this data analyst space. It was about three years ago that we can confidently say that the self-service analytics stack was mainstream and that analysts’ jobs were massively freed from the drudgery elements of their role.

However, we’re in 2020 and tipping over into 2021 soon. Now the cloud-native, AI stack to bring self-service to business users for the first time, whether on the frontlines, back office or anywhere in between. Now, those billions of data points that organisations have been collecting can be put to work – easily, with AI assistance to take the strain of munging and the technicalities of cleaning and converting – leaving frontline workers to do their jobs, and merely ask questions of their data, with none of the drudgery that bedevilled previous business intelligence operations at every level. The benefits are obvious to all organisations where insights can differentiate their customer experience, help them tackle digital transformation projects, cut costs, improve the bottom line.

Using the stack for billions of good reasons

This new stack is built on AI-driven search, and on machine learning from the likes of DataRobot and Dataiku; on cloud extract-transform-load and data processing from the likes of Matillion and Databricks; and resting on cloud-native data warehouses like Snowflake.

So to get the most of the modern cloud and AI stack for analytics and business intelligence, here’s what to look out for:

Cloud-native all the way. The analytics stack needs to move to the cloud for all the good reasons the rest of the tech stack has. The right analytics solutions are built for this world, to scale and cope with fast data and provide fast answers.

Totally scalable. More data is created every second and can be used to make better business decisions. The modern self-service analytics stack is able to not only handle this scale, but continue to provide instant access to granular insights without sacrificing performance or security.

AI makes it work. There’s too much data for any individual to manage alone. The new stack leverages AI to help us find insights that would otherwise stay hidden, alerting and helping us predict what’s next.

Real democracy. The new stack must democratise analytics for everyone, not just technical data talent as before. With over one billion knowledge workers in the world we need tools to bridge the gap between humans and data, not more humans standing in the way.

About the Author

Spencer Tuttle, VP, EMEA, ThoughtSpot. The world’s most innovative enterprises use ThoughtSpot to empower every person in their organization, from C-suite executive to front-line employee, with the ability to quickly uncover data-driven insights.

Featured image: ©Yucel Yilmaz