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How AI Might Change the BI Experience

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Natural language processing coupled with speech interfaces have been promising to change the way end users interact with applications for quite some time. However, Amazon Web Services (AWS) at the recent AWS re:Invent conference made a bold promise to specifically transform how end users interact with business intelligence (BI) by enabling them to launch verbally query data.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy demonstrated how the average end user will be able to employ an Amazon QuickSight service, which is based on a serverless computing framework. This framework has been infused with machine learning algorithms that can be queried via a speech interface dubbed Amazon QuickSight Q that understands verbal requests.

“This is going to totally change the BI experience,” says Jassy. 

Moving Data

Of course, providers of BI applications have been moving down this path for quite some time within the context of their own applications. For example, Qlik, like a lot of software vendors, has a complicated relationship with cloud service providers such as AWS. On the one hand, Qlik works with AWS to host its software via the AWS Marketplace. On the other hand, AWS is clearly making a bigger push in BI.

Users of Qlik analytics applications tend to interrogate data at a deeper level than what’s possible solely relying on natural language processing, notes Itamar Ankorian, senior vice president of technology alliances at Qlik. Most will likely employ a mix of speech and graphical interfaces to query and visualize data, he adds.

“You won’t have to pre-design a dashboard,” says Ankorian.

While natural language has advanced making it actually work is another matter altogether, adds Grafana Labs CEO Raj Dutt.

All the data that needs to be queried today via a natural language platform resides in multiple systems that would need to be moved to a central repository. Analytics tools today make it possible to query data where it resides without having to move it.

“You have to wonder if normalizing all the data is worth that effort,” says Dutt. “Despite the hype, we’re skeptical.”

Just like Qlik, Grafana Labs just extended its partnership with AWS. However, the analytics tools provided by the company also spans multiple clouds as well as on-premises IT environments.   

Data Queries

The decision as to when to employ which interface will often depend on the type of query. The more complex that query, the more likely it is that analysts will continue to rely on graphical interfaces to visualize data and manipulate data.

Less clear, however, is the degree to which end users will continue to rely on analysts to query data on their behalf. The day when the average business user will be able to self-service routine queries themselves using a speech interface is now not far off. One of the most frustrating aspects of BI is that by the time many analysts can answer a question the business user that asked it has long since moved on to another issue. Many of them don’t remember why the question was asked in the first place.

An Amazon QuickSight service that is easily accessible via the cloud will provide end users with much greater sense of immediate gratification. Of course, many analysts may welcome the offloading of those requests to a cloud service such as Amazon QuickSight service. Many of those analysts, however, may also be just as worried about how accurate and reliable those results are based on the pool of data actually being made accessible via that service. 

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