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New Sigma Computing tool enables in-warehouse data editing

Warehouse Data Editing, a no-code tool from startup analytics vendor Sigma, enables end users to update data without first having to upload it from their cloud data warehouse.

Sigma Computing on Tuesday unveiled Warehouse Data Editing, a new capability that enables business users to edit data tables directly in their organization's cloud data warehouse via their normal user interface.

Sigma Computing, a cloud-based analytics vendor founded in 2014 and based in San Francisco, revealed Warehouse Data Editing during Data Cloud Summit 2020, the virtual user conference of cloud data warehouse vendor Snowflake, and it is now generally available. While introduced during Snowflake's event, the system also works with other widely used cloud data warehouses such as Amazon Redshift and Google BigQuery.

Up to now, access to an organization's data tables stored in cloud data warehouses has largely been limited to those who oversee an organization's data -- its IT and BI teams.

And if the IT and BI teams wanted to enable end users such as sales representatives to update their organization's system of record -- if they didn't want to do all the updating themselves -- they had to go through the time-consuming process of building custom applications. The data, meanwhile, had to be extracted from the cloud data warehouse before being manipulated and then sent back to the cloud data warehouse once it was ready.

One aim of Warehouse Data Editing, according Sigma Computing, is to free IT and BI teams from the cumbersome tasks of either building and updating custom applications that enable end users to update data tables or overseeing every change in their organization's cloud data warehouse. The other primary goal of the feature is to enable business users to work directly with data without needing a background in coding or data science.

An organization's data is displayed in a Warehouse Data Editing dashboard from Sigma Computing.
A Warehouse Data Editing dashboard from Sigma Computing displays an organization's data sets.

Meanwhile, the new capability enables organizations to put in place strict data governance measures. Administrators -- the IT and BI teams -- maintain granular control over Warehouse Data Editing by regulating what columns in what tables can be manipulated and by whom.

The feature is the first of its kind, Sigma Computing claims.

"It shifts the warehouse from being just a place of reporting and visualization to being essentially an application, something where people can run their business via Sigma and the cloud data warehouse," said Rob Woollen, co-founder and CTO of Sigma Computing. "It lets people change data, update data, work with data all in that centralized environment and not have to download it."

It shifts the warehouse from being just a place of reporting and visualization to being essentially an application, something where people can run their business via Sigma and the cloud data warehouse.
Rob WoollenCo-founder and CTO, Sigma Computing

Similarly, Donald Farmer, principal at TreeHive Strategy and a former executive at Microsoft and Qlik, said he's never seen a tool that enables business users to edit data tables directly in their organization's cloud data warehouse.

He did, however, express reservations about enabling end users to manipulate an organization's system of record.

In terms of efficiency, Farmer said Warehouse Data Editing has the potential to make an organization's cloud data warehouse both easier to maintain and more agile. But allowing end users to manipulate data, even with restrictions set by IT and BI teams, raises concerns, he said.

"I think there's some originality here. But whether they are on to something depends on whether they have a new philosophy [about cloud data warehouses]," Farmer said.

Essentially, Farmer continued, the data governance piece is crucial to ensuring end users don't overstep their bounds.

"If they're fitting this into the traditional world of data warehousing, then they're potentially creating problems," he said. "But if they have the right approach I could absolutely see this being interesting and useful."

Sigma Computing, unlike many BI vendors whose primary user interface for data analysis and exploration is a dashboard, employs a user interface that resembles a spreadsheet.

With Warehouse Data Editing, once granted permission by their organization's data administrators, end users can update data tables in their spreadsheet interfaces with the data not only getting updated on their personal device but also updating their organization's system of record in its cloud data warehouse.

"The warehouse isn't just used by a small number of people on the data team," Woollen said. "It actually becomes a resource for the entire company. We want to give power to the experts in marketing or finance or sales or product management to be able to make changes themselves under the security and guidance of that centralized [IT or BI] team."

With Warehouse Data Editing now available, Woollen, who was Sigma Computing's CEO until May when he stepped down to focus more on product development, said the vendor's roadmap is focused on continuing to decentralize analytics and enable business users as they work with data.

"The world is moving to a place where you want to have analytics in every person's hands, and you want to think about how to get away from a data visualization on a laptop to a cloud world where everyone in the company has access to live data at scale," he said.

New features, he continued, will be aimed at enabling users to build whatever business workflow they need and do it quickly without having to enlist a programmer.

"The magic of spreadsheets has always been how many users can build so many powerful decisions so quickly in them," Woollen said. "I want to see that same thing happen in the cloud world, and that's the mission [we've] been on and where we're continuing to put our focus."

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