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Domo adds collaborative development tool to analytics suite

Domo has unveiled Sandbox, a new portal for developing and testing data assets that enables collaboration and provides safety and governance measures.

Domo on Thursday unveiled Sandbox, a new development and testing environment built on top of the vendor's platform that enables users to create and push analytics content into production across the enterprise.

Using Sandbox, Domo customers will be able to build applications, data models and other BI-related assets, collaborate during the development and testing process, and do so in the secure and governed space of the Domo analytics platform before releasing the content to the rest of the organization for consumption, the vendor said.

Sandbox is not the first development and testing environment for analytics content offered by an analytics vendor -- a host of vendors provide tools for application and model development -- but Sandbox stands apart, according to David Menninger, senior vice president and research director at Ventana Research.

In particular, by providing a governed space for the development and testing process, Domo is doing something different, he said.

Domo Sandbox is a significant improvement in the way organizations can manage the transition from development to testing to production.
David MenningerSenior vice president and research director, Ventana Research

"Domo Sandbox is a significant improvement in the way organizations can manage the transition from development to testing to production," Menninger said. "Many analytics tools abdicate responsibility for this process to their customers. That can be challenging, since in many cases the analytic objects cannot be easily managed by an organization’s existing tools and processes because of interdependencies."

Working together

In addition, the collaboration capabilities included in Sandbox are significant, he continued.

Tools such as Slack, Google Docs and Microsoft Teams have enabled collaboration from afar beyond email in recent years. As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed and it's clear remote work will be common even after the pandemic, analytics vendors have begun adding capabilities that enable collaboration without having to leave the vendor's environment.

For example, Qlik introduced Collaborative Notes in Qlik Sense in June and Tableau unveiled Collections that same month.

Sandbox enables users to collaborate without leaving the Domo analytics platform, and do so in a way that the collaboration is tied directly to the development and testing of a specific asset.

"The collaboration in this case is very tightly integrated with the analyses and data models," Menninger said. "It would be difficult to bring all of that context into Slack or Teams. Those tools could only capture the conversations about the objects and maybe some individual objects, but not the entire set of related objects."

Similarly, Jay Heglar, Domo's chief business officer, noted that the collaboration capabilities of Sandbox are a key aspect of the new tool by bringing business users -- the ones often requesting the development of assets and the ones ultimately using them in their workflows -- into the development process.

Before the development of Sandbox, Domo users had to send a request for something to be built by a developer, and then wouldn't see the application or model until it was complete and ready for production. Now, however, they're able to view the asset while it's under development and work with the developers to hone it.

"Before, when you built content in a Domo environment, you were operating in a production environment," Heglar said. "We set out to build a non-production capability to democratize content creation within Domo. In the Sandbox, [non-developers] collaborate in the delivery of the experience."

And by enabling collaboration in the delivery rather than post-production, Sandbox speeds up the time it takes to ultimately complete the development process and deploy a new application or model, he continued.

"In an old-school world, what if they want to change [something], what if they want the application to operate differently?" Heglar said. "In a Sandbox environment, now the business user collaborates with the delivery rather than having to do so [afterward] in a production environment."

A Domo Sandbox screenshot
A Domo Sandbox screenshot displays previous versions of a project under development.

The impetus

Motivation for the development of Sandbox, meanwhile, came from customers, according to Heglar.

In fact, most of what Domo has added to its platform in recent years -- most recently a focus on embedded analytics with the streamlining of Domo Everywhere -- has come at the request of customers.

The vendor, founded in 2010 and based in American Fork, Utah, is guided by founder and CEO Josh James' idea of putting data in the hands of every business user so they can do their job better. Specific ideas for development often come from users, however, Heglar said.

"Over 10 years, development has been pushed by enterprise users who predominantly are asking us to scale, to do more," he said. "Our big customers said, 'We need this to continue to push the gas pedal down.'"

Ultimately, more vendors will release capabilities similar to Sandbox, according to Menninger.

While Domo is among the first to provide an environment for the development of analytics assets in a collaborative and governed ecosystem that enables business users to be part of the process, it won't be the last.

"Every analytics vendor should be offering this type of capability," Menninger said. "Some that are more developer-oriented have relied upon leveraging GitHub and other existing developer tools for version control, but that approach is not very friendly to line-of-business personnel trying to create and deploy analytics."

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