ThoughtSpot Review Summary.
It seems there is no let up in the pace of innovation of business intelligence tools, and ThoughtSpot is a good example of this. Its BI platform is given the tag line of ‘search driven analytics’. The user interface is driven by a search bar, much as a user of Google experiences, and natural language queries can be entered using the language of the business concerned. Combining a search oriented approach with BI is really quite innovative, especially as the dominant paradigm right now is a drag and drop graphical interface. ThoughtSpot is growing quite quickly, and saw 800% growth last financial year – so the approach is clearly attractive to business users. The platform is deployed as a search appliance – a box that is plugged into existing IT infrastructure, and scaling simply involves buying more appliances. It is targeted exclusively at the business user, although IT gets to manage and administer the appliance in various ways. The appeal is pretty obvious really, but what isn’t so obvious is how well it deals with complex queries. Having said that, most business BI requirements are fairly straightforward, and so it will address the needs of the majority of business users.
The User Interface
Users access ThoughtSpot through the web browser. They are presented with a search bar at the top of the display and can formulate queries using natural language. Behind the scenes this is converted into SQL, although the whole process is totally transparent. As the platform is used, so it learns and remembers the queries that have been previously made, and so as soon as a user starts to formulate a query various suggestions appear.
Charts, graphs and maps are created automatically, although users can elect to use a different visual if they want to. If a particular visual is useful it can be saved and pinned to a dashboard. All the usual functionality is available with drilldown, changing date periods, colors – and so on. It is a very easy to use interface and delivers high levels of productivity.
Most data sources are supported, including external sources such as Salesforce, Marketo and workday, and connections can also be made to popular databases and Hadoop. MS Excel and CSV files can also be used. The data processing power of ThoughtSpot comes from an in-memory columnar database. It means that users do not have to build cubes or preempt their queries in any way. Tables with common keys are automatically joined and connections to data sources are made as needed.
ThoughtSpot is scaled by adding more appliances, and the architecture comes with fault tolerance and load balancing. Enterprise-grade row-, column-, and object-level security is available for users and groups, and even the search suggestions are protected based on these rules. The easy interfaces for administrators allows them to add users or groups, add new data sources, look at usage analytics or monitor uptime and performance metrics.