Logi Analytics at BBBT: Strong user interface, weak message

Logi Analytics visited the BBBT last Friday. The presenters were Brian Brinkman, VP Products, and Charles Caldwell, Principal Solutions Architect. Logi Analytics is another player in the front end, the user interface to provide useful and timely information to the business user.

The Good Looking Product Side

I’ll start with the demo, though it came last, to begin with what I liked.

Logi Analytics is rightfully proud of their user interface. During the presentation, Brian and Charles mentioned their focus on usability and that the company had UI experts and customers work to drive the creation of the interface. It shows.

It’s not flashy nor is it kludgy. It’s a pretty clear and easy to use interface for starting with tabular views of data and quickly creating graphics to display the information. One little feature I really liked was an intermediary step that really helps users review information. You can have a column after a data column which displays a slider showing where that data fits in relations to the rest of the rows, below or above average.

That and many other features show that business folks used to spreadsheets can begin to look at what they know and more naturally move to modern visualizations.

The one nit I have is that their focus on the front-end means they didn’t really show how their technology supports IT and business analysts behind the scenes so they can support the business users. They’ve done a great job on the interface, but I’m not sure if there’s a lot of meat underneath.

The Questionable Business Side

They’ve been around since 2000 and, according to one slide and a brief message, their early focus was on XML to provide information from business systems to web applications. Their October 2013 round of investment doubled their previous total and brought investments to slightly over $50 million. So, for a 14 year old company with that much money and a focus on business users, one question immediately pops up for me when I look at their leadership page, one you’ve heard me ask of other small companies: Where’s marketing? A lot of people to build product and a couple to sell product, but nobody listed at the highest level who is focused on ensuring a match between products, market needs and messages to bridge that.

The lack was demonstrated by the presentation. They performed some surveys, but they don’t know how to bubble up the ideas on clear slides, with the information remaining far to technical and often hard to read. There was one comment about a term when the presenter said “what my marketing people call…” That shows they have some marketing and that they don’t think much of the organization nor is the team in the field willing to use consistent terms as a corporate image and a unified team.

In addition, they make the claim they’re a market leader while, since they’re private, refusing to give any details to substantiate that claim. They did tell us that around 1/3 of their business is OEM, which is very good for a company determined to expand BI into more business areas.

Then there’s getting their message straight. One overbuilt slide showed survey results implying that IT emphasized dashboard building much more than business users cared. Logi Analytics took that as a way to better focus on business user needs but only a few slides later they showed a continuum of self-service analytics they want to provide and three of the five boxes emphasized dashboards.

Defining Self-Service Analytics is Key

Back to something being done well. Everyone talks about self-service analytics but there’s no consensus on a definition. Logi Analytics is taking an honest look at the issue.

The best discussion in the presentation was on the continuum mentioned above. They were the BBBT presenters who best provided a definition similar to mine. They point out that self-service is in the analytics, in the data discovery and wandering through data. The background of getting it and the formality of accepted reporting being controlled by central authorities are something IT will always remain strongly involved in providing. It’s the ability to independently surf the information that needs to be enhanced. They’ve made a great start in clearly defining what self-service really is so they can address how that matters to end users rather than slapping a whole lot of information into the tool so business analysts can get into details but knowledge workers get confused.

That also ties into my mention of the nit on the demo section. It’s well and good to provide a great interface for the business knowledge worker. However, they still must be supported by analysts and IT staff. A strong platform and suite will have the ability to provide that. Logi Analytics might, but it wasn’t seen. Make sure you ask.

Summary

It’s the usual conundrum for startups. They have the beginnings of a strong product and the founders seem to have a good vision and are on their way to clarifying that vision. However, it’s still the focus of founder->developer->sales without marketing to look at it all, collate what everyone’s doing and build better corporate and product foundations which will help grow. It’s a crowded market and a lot of weeding out will happen within the next three to five years.

Marketing’s job is to combine vision, technical knowledge, and market information to create a holistic view of where the company show go and how to get there. Sadly, too many folks in high tech (and, honestly, elsewhere) think it’s only about pretty graphics and words. While other groups focus on development, sales, OEM relations, support and more, marketing’s needed to be the generalists.

They have a good start, but without more priority on that core marketing task, they’ll be at risk. The chasm approaches and the startup mindset rarely gets companies over it.

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