Analytics firm Sisense has brought its business intelligence platform to chat bots, allowing customers to ask natural-language questions about their data while in Slack, Skype, Facebook Messenger or Telegram.
"It lets you use [those interfaces] to literally interact with your data in a 'human-being' method -- not SQL but English," CEO Amir Orad said in a phone interview.
For example, Orad said, a business user could log into Skype and ask, "What is my current revenue number this quarter?" The user could follow up with questions about growth in the last few quarters, and the bot would return a chart and then insights such as "Unlike Q1 and Q2, in the current quarter revenue growth has slowed."
That's "a sentence a human being can read, highlighting one of those quarters behaved differently," Orad said. The Sisense BI Bots can also create alerts.
This follows Sisense's announcement in July that it integrated its platform with the Amazon Echo, allowing users to ask the voice service Alexa natural-language data questions similar to the way they ask for a news briefing or weather forecast. The Echo might be in a boardroom during meetings so participants could ask it data questions during their discussions, Orad said.
"I really liked the concept of having a more voice-assisted approach to asking my data platform [natural-language questions]," said Aaron Hayes, enterprise architect at Premium Retail and a Sisense chat bot beta customer. He's had the chat bot beta for several weeks and said he was "already starting to use it to ask some of the same questions" as he asks the Echo, but then digging a little deeper into the data following a response. The Echo can only give a verbal response, but a chat bot can provide a visualization.
If you ask the bot about sales this week versus last, it will first return the actual result and then ask if you want further analysis, Hayes explained. If so, it might say that 60% of sales were for a particular product and do other automated analysis.
If there's a graphic on an existing company dashboard that answers the question, Hayes added, the bot will return with that widget and a user can then click through to the full widget.
Hayes said he's currently trying to build out an Amazon Echo briefing-like report for his executive team. He envisions that "they get their morning coffee and can ask about the business health" -- financials, employee headcount and so on.
How is this different from coming in and opening up a corporate dashboard? "Part of it is maybe the cool factor," Hayes said. "For me, when I walk in, I don't even have my laptop out of my bookbag yet and I already know information about yesterday" by asking his Sisense-enabled Echo.
Sisense considers itself a "complex data" platform, Orad said, helping to analyze either big data or data from multiple sources. For complex data, the goal is to allow customers to define relationships between different data streams and then make it easy to generate reports and analysis. The platform is available on premise or as a cloud service, with prices starting at $10,000 to $20,000 per year or $1,500 per month for small teams.