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Domo analytics suite focused on usability

The Domo BI platform is aimed at enabling users of all skill levels. New and planned features stick with that easy-to-use approach, chief business officer Jay Heglar says.

Domo was founded on the premise that analytics should be a tool for everyone in an organization from the CEO to the end users in their cubicles and home offices.

To that end, ease of use has been a significant guiding principle for the analytics vendor.

On March 24, Domo, founded in 2010 and based in American Fork, Utah, unveiled its latest platform update during Domopalooza 2021, its virtual user conference.

Among the new capabilities were updates to Domo Everywhere, the vendor's embedded analytics suite, enhanced multi-cloud proficiency that includes a single interface to access data in disparate clouds as well as an expanded relationship with AWS, and a host of new augmented intelligence features.

Each of the new and updated features harks back to that guiding principle, attempting to make analytics easier to access and better enable every employee to work with data.

In an interview just before the conference, Jay Heglar, Domo's chief business officer, discussed both the new capabilities unveiled during Domopalooza as well as what the vendor will focus on going forward.

In addition, he spoke about what it was like to pivot Domopalooza 2020 from an in-person user conference to a virtual one in just a couple of weeks as the pandemic struck last year, and what broad analytics trends Domo is seeing and how it's responding to them.

Last March, Domo was perhaps the first analytics vendor to shift from an in-person user conference to a virtual user conference due to the pandemic -- and not only did so in a matter of weeks but also managed to put on a compelling show. What was that process like a year ago?

Jay HeglarJay Heglar

Jay Heglar: We call it Domopalooza, and who doesn't like a palooza? We've always been a little bit different when it comes to the type of conference we want. We wanted to bring together people who were passionate about our craft, which is working with data. It's their profession. We wanted to sprinkle in some fun on top of that, so we had concerts and we brought in all kinds of external speakers who had nothing to do with data. When we were faced with this go/no-go decision two weeks prior to Domopalooza last year, we wanted to figure out whether it was worth having if we couldn't deliver the Domopalooza experience. The resounding answer was, of course it was. Our customers are passionate about what they do. We asked what we could do to bring the palooza in a virtual environment … but we stripped out some of the fun because it was a very serious time and we had to focus on what was meaningful and not superfluous.

Did the quick pivot Domo did with its conference in some ways presage what had to be done once the pandemic spread with lockdowns beginning at the exact same time as Domopalooza 2020?

Heglar: When we turned around that conference in 14 short days, we showed the world that this is what we do as a company. And then after Domopalooza, in the months and 90 days to follow, we turned around COVID-specific applications. We turned around information to let the world know about the pandemic because of data that we made available on our website and embedded into hundreds of our customers' experiences to give them valuable information about COVID. The transition from Domopalooza into our response to helping our customers navigate the pandemic just demonstrates how fast we can react to market conditions, market opportunities and the needs of our customers.

In terms of product development, has working remotely for more than a year now affected what new features and capabilities Domo has been able to add to its analytics platform?

Heglar: It's been affected a little bit. I don't want to say we've changed our priorities, but we altered our development for some very specific types of applications in the spring of last year. We didn't punt any valuable platform improvements we had scheduled, but there were some areas where we did some new things and did those new things very, very quickly. One of the stories that we tell is our response to the global pandemic when it comes to the state and local government audience. Over a 72-hour period, we put together a pandemic response application for the state of Utah. We had all our developers working remotely, but we developed an application that's very feature-rich that delivered six different capabilities, and it was done from a Friday though a Monday.

If you go back to the beginning, [founder and CEO] Josh James wanted to create a company that made data available from the CEO all the way down to the frontline worker.
Jay HeglarChief business officer, Domo

One thing that's also been interesting is to learn how we help our customers to respond to what is now globally a digital transformation. Our customers have told us that we are absolutely pertinent to digital transformation more than ever because we give them access to all their data. We make it all available on mobile, and we make it very responsive. We fundamentally believe that every employee can do their job better if given the proper amount of data.

Speaking of fundamental beliefs, what philosophy does Domo have that guides product development and a particular target audience for its analytics platform?

Heglar: If you go back to the beginning, [founder and CEO] Josh James wanted to create a company that made data available from the CEO all the way down to the frontline worker. So when it comes to ease of use, user interface and user experience … we know how much of a differentiator it is. But what happened is that over the course of 10 years we realized that we needed to build a pretty ironclad security posture, so we built that, and then we said, 'Wait a minute, it's only valuable if you have access to data,' so we invested heavily on that front-end piece there.

We're not trying to provide a tool for data scientists, per se, but we're trying to make that data scientist have greater leverage and give them a place to park their trained model so their entire company can leverage it. In the world of IoT, this is a new frontier, and we're partnering with Amazon on that. We believe there is a tremendous opportunity with something like that because more than half of the world's data is created by machines, but that's still a very underserved market.

What some broad analytics trends you're seeing and how is Domo responding?

Heglar: The Domo Everywhere name is apropos in this regard because we believe that it is literally about getting data everywhere and putting it in the hands of everyone. I'm not saying we should eradicate BI departments. They're critical to this because they're the ones that actually disseminate the capability. One of the fundamental shifts is just data accessibility. It can't be the empowered few anymore. It has to be everybody, and the companies that employ that kind of philosophy are the ones that are going to move the fastest.

Advanced data capabilities for machine learning and data science are not for science projects any longer. They're not for just the few data scientists in the world but for everybody that can leverage them. The company that's going to be able to provide the easiest path to machine learning and data science through tooling that sits on top of it is going to be the winner, and we're making a lot of investments to partner with companies that deliver the sophisticated back-end piece with the complementary front-end.

And the last part is that it's about apps. If you think about how many apps you have on your phone, for most people it's in the hundreds nowadays. That's the way most people interact with data, and business is no different. If you look at how business adapts technology, it typically fast-follows personal computing. We believe data is all going to be app-based. Apps have dozens of data sources that feed them, they provide you with something to view and interact with, and they're highly stylized so you can understand without interpretation what is being presented.

Looking ahead, now that Domopalooza 2021 has taken place and Domo added new and updated analytics products, what will guide the roadmap for the next year or more?

Heglar: There are three different categories that you're going to start hearing Domo refer to more and more: incremental investments in data agility, data literacy and intelligent action. Data agility is everything to do with connecting to, and interacting with, that data. You'll see incremental investments in things around our data catalog and around connectors. Data literacy is all about enabling the users, using natural language generation and natural language query, understanding what that data is telling you. And this feeds into intelligent action. Now that the user understands the data that's available to them, what do you give them the opportunity to do? It's no longer about reading a chart or graph -- that takes interpretation. We feel like we have the ability to serve up interpretations for you and what you can then do with [the interpretation].

You don't have use all of these to get value with Domo. You can use one, two or all three. The mission we have is we want everyone to get greater leverage out of their investments. Really, what we're trying to do is give customers a path to a greater future where they're really starting to get value out of data.

Editor's note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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