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Collaborative Analytics: A Q&A Spotlight with Lou Bajuk of TIBCO Spotfire

Originally published January 26, 2012

BeyeNETWORK Spotlights focus on news, events and products in the business intelligence ecosystem that are poised to have a significant impact on the industry as a whole; on the enterprises that rely on business intelligence, analytics, performance management, data warehousing and/or data governance products to understand and act on the vital information that can be gleaned from their data; or on the providers of these mission-critical products.

Presented as Q&A-style articles, these interviews conducted by the BeyeNETWORK present the behind-the-scene view that you won’t read in press releases.

This BeyeNETWORK spotlight features Ron Powell's interview with Lou Bajuk, Senior Director of Product Management at TIBCO Spotfire. Ron and Lou discuss the benefits of collaborative analysis.

Lou, Spotfire has always been focused on analytics and dashboards. Could you explain to our readers the benefits of making analytic dashboards available to more people in an organization?

Lou Bajuk: Sure, I'll be happy to. The main goal of Spotfire is to help our customers make better data-driven decisions faster than their competitors – to be the fastest to actionable insight. That requires the ability to explore and analyze data on your own in a self-service way, to freely move from a question you knew you were asking to the unanticipated questions that come up as soon as you start exploring the data. By making it easy to create and share these analytic dashboards, we bring this analytic power for improved decision making to a much wider community of users in an organization.

Can these dashboards really be used effectively even by people who aren’t trained as statisticians and analysts?

Lou Bajuk: Absolutely. When we design features for creating analytic dashboards, we focus on bringing the strength of Spotfire, including the intuitive interactive visualizations and the free dimensional data discovery – that’s “free,” not “three” – to the wider dashboard audience in a way that is relevant and consumable for them. We make it easy to create analytic dashboards and applications that are tailored to your user community, showing them exactly the information and choices they need, no more no less. This makes it simple to create dashboards that are intuitive, engaging and above all useful.

Now Lou, if a customer was going to implement Spotfire, how long does it normally take to start being productive?

Lou Bajuk: It's generally a very quick on-boarding process. Typically with Spotfire, people find it a very intuitive and fun environment to work with. For example, I came to Spotfire from the predictive analytic side of the world, and I wasn't familiar with Spotfire. But as soon as I dropped some data in it, started working with it and discovered some interesting results, I saw how intuitive it is. It's easy to get going productively immediately and get really engaged with the environment.

Excellent. Now one of the major features of Spotfire is collaboration. It's always been known that having multiple people working on a particular problem is really key. Can you talk about the benefits of collaboration within Spotfire and how it’s helping people with their analytics efforts?

Lou Bajuk: Spotfire's always been great at helping individuals apply their business and domain expertise to data analysis, and it’s often used collaboratively in what we call Spotfire Meetings, where a group can use Spotfire to rapidly drill into the data and quickly come to conclusions and decisions rather than having to wait for a further offline analysis.

We see the current collaboration efforts we're doing as a logical extension of this, helping an organization apply its collective expertise, its collective intelligence, to rapidly come to these actionable insights. This sort of collaboration happens informally now in organizations where someone with an analytic problem must determine who has the data, the expertise, and the interest in helping them solve the problem. As they develop this analysis, they then socialize that to make sure they're considering the problems the right way and looking at it from all appropriate angles. And as they come to an insight, they'll socialize that to get buy in and alignment on whatever action needs to be taken, whatever decision needs to be made. This sort of process works fine, but it's very hard to scale up beyond the single office and even harder when you're working with people in different time zones spread around the world. So what we've done is provide a platform for scaling up this collaboration by making it easy to do things like embed analyses in Sharepoint and other corporate portals, and by closely integrating with tibbr, TIBCO's collaborative platform for the social enterprise.

Let's talk a little more about tibbr. Obviously, social media is on everybody's minds today. Can you give us a little insight into tibbr and how it makes social collaboration available for the enterprise?

Lou Bajuk:
With tibbr, users follow subjects rather than individuals. It easy to start a new subject, whether it's on a broad subject like a budgeting process, or a marketing campaign, or a more focused subject like a particular customer problem or analysis. You can then invite specific people to follow the subject, and they can decide how that information will find them –through text, email, web, mobile apps, etc. – and how often they want to be notified when a discussion is updated. And so through tibbr, Spotfire users can easily start or contribute to an enterprise-wide discussion about an analysis and get feedback and contributions from a wide array of stakeholders. They can view and contribute to these discussions within Spotfire so they can always be aware of what others are saying about the subject of their analysis. And from within tibbr, it's also easy to collaborate in other ways. For example, you can spin up a video conference on demand, chat with other tibbr users and access tibbr from a wide variety of mobile devices.

Does tibbr also maintain permissions so that the right people can participate in a topic?

Lou Bajuk:
Absolutely. It's really an enterprise social platform, and so there's full security. When you create a subject, you can decide whether it's wide open or whether it requires an invitation to that particular subject. You can control who actually sees it.

Great. Obviously, the cloud is everywhere today, and I understand Spotfire is in the cloud now with Silver Spotfire 2.0. Can you give us some insight into Silver Spotfire?

Lou Bajuk: Absolutely. Silver Spotfire 2.0 is part of TIBCO's portfolio of on-demand cloud offerings. It makes it easy to create and share analytic applications and dashboards in the cloud to anyone with a web browser. It’s organized into a set of tiered capabilities so users can choose which solution makes sense for them based on how much they want to share and how many people they want to share with. We see Silver Spotfire as a way of enabling individuals who aren't trained analysts to get up and running quickly. They can rapidly analyze data and then easily share their analyses with other people who aren't necessarily Spotfire customers. To make it easy to get started, we provide a gallery of templates, and there are different support options available to help people as they use the software.

What kind of feedback are you getting from your customers about Silver Spotfire?

Lou Bajuk: We're getting some very positive feedback. There are a lot of individuals who are very interested in this as an entry point to the Spotfire platform. They see it as an easy way to introduce it to their organization. In particular, small and medium businesses and small departments within larger organizations are very much drawn to the ease of getting going with Silver Spotfire.

Excellent. It seems that Spotfire has answered many of the user needs that we are hearing today, which include collaboration, social media, self-service BI and mobile. Can you provide us with some insight into the next release?
Lou Bajuk: Well, we can't talk about the next release in any detail. But in general, we're focusing on continuing down the collaboration path and the social path, based on the feedback from our customers. We’re also going to continue to invest in the analytic dashboard work that we did in this release. And then on the backend, we plan to continue to beef that up in terms of access to new and more data sources and scaling to bigger and bigger data.

Thank you, Lou, for sharing how TIBCO Spotfire can improve an organization’s analytic efforts.

  • Ron PowellRon Powell
    Ron is an independent analyst, consultant and editorial expert with extensive knowledge and experience in business intelligence, big data, analytics and data warehousing. Currently president of Powell Interactive Media, which specializes in consulting and podcast services, he is also Executive Producer of The World Transformed Fast Forward series. In 2004, Ron founded the BeyeNETWORK, which was acquired by Tech Target in 2010.  Prior to the founding of the BeyeNETWORK, Ron was cofounder, publisher and editorial director of DM Review (now Information Management). He maintains an expert channel and blog on the BeyeNETWORK and may be contacted by email at rpowell@powellinteractivemedia.com. 

    More articles and Ron's blog can be found in his BeyeNETWORK expert channel.

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