LAS VEGAS — ThoughtSpot burst on the BI scene in late 2015, and quickly differentiated itself from more established analytics vendors with its augmented intelligence capabilities.
In particular, the independent vendor’s platform enabled customers to search and visualize their data using natural language rather than requiring them to code. And because users didn’t need to know code, it enabled more employees who were not trained data scientists and data analysts to work with the data.
In the years since, however, vendors that were more established at the time ThoughtSpot emerged from stealth have added similar natural language processing (NLP) capabilities.
For example, Tableau launched Ask Data in 2019, Qlik added natural language query capabilities with its 2019 acquisition of Crunch Data, and Microsoft Power BI unveiled Q&A in 2021.
In order to keep growing, ThoughtSpot, founded in 2012 and based in Palo Alto, Calif., had to provide more than just NLP capabilities and started to broaden its focus.
Expansion of capabilities
And in recent years, it has, according to those in attendance at ThoughtSpot Beyond 2022, the vendor’s first in-person user conference since November 2019.
Derrick Austin, Curator platform lead at consulting firm InterWorks, said he began using ThoughtSpot because of its embedded BI tools and not its NLP capabilities.
When it was first developed, Curator enabled users to embed Tableau dashboards in their applications. The tool has now broadened its capabilities to include ThoughtSpot analytics assets.
“ThoughtSpot is a really natural fit for what we’re already doing,” Austin said.
ThoughtSpot unveiled ThoughtSpot Everywhere in 2020, enabling users to embed BI anywhere within the workflows of business users.
In addition, the vendor recently added tools such as SpotApps, which aid developers with prebuilt application templates; and Data Workspace, an environment for data analysts, engineers and developers where they can build and operationalize interactive, real-time BI.
Derrick AustinCurator platform lead, InterWorks
“A lot of what I do is with APIs, and ThoughtSpot is very API-friendly,” Austin said. “ThoughtSpot is so focused on the APIs and making the developers able to plug in and do what they need to very easily. It has been incredible to work with.”
Another important step for ThoughtSpot was its transition to the cloud, according to Doug Henschen, an analyst at Constellation Research.
While an innovator in terms of augmented intelligence capabilities, the vendor initially built its platform to serve the needs of on-premises users, even though other vendors founded around the same time, such as Domo, were cloud-native from the start.
To modernize, ThoughtSpot made a strategic shift in 2020 to prioritize the cloud. In September of that year the vendor released ThoughtSpot Cloud, a SaaS version of its BI platform, and since then the vendor has been cloud-first while continuing to serve its on-premises customers.
“Now, their business is completely focused on SaaS, and their growth is entirely focused on companies that are moving to cloud data platforms like Snowflake, Databricks and Google,” Henschen said. “That has enabled them to focus at the enterprise level and has also allowed them to go after the midmarket.”
To that end, ThoughtSpot on Tuesday unveiled new pricing models for its BI platform aimed specifically at SMBs.
The vendor’s new Team Edition is available for a flat fee of $95 per month for a single user group with unlimited users. The Pro Edition starts at $2,500 per month for up to five user groups with an unlimited number of users within those groups, but users could be charged more based on consumption. A special version of the Pro Edition for startups, nonprofits and education institutions with fewer than 100 people and less than $10 million in annual revenue is available for a flat fee of $2,500 per month.
That pricing approach, tailored for SMBs, will help ThoughtSpot broaden its market, Henschen said.
“The key thing is getting beyond the traditional boundaries of BI and analytics,” he said.
While the vendor has expanded beyond natural language search and installed a cloud-first approach, ThoughtSpot’s NLP capabilities remain a differentiator, according to users.
Paul Phan, principal strategy and enablement consultant at enterprise engineering software vendor Hexagon’s PPM division, began using ThoughtSpot just a few months ago. He also continues to use Power BI, Tableau and Tibco Spotfire — some of ThoughtSpot’s biggest competitors.
And though he is currently one of only a handful of ThoughtSpot users at the division, Phan expects Hexagon to scale the ThoughtSpot deployment to its more than 2,000 employees.
“Item [ThoughtSpot] really democratizes analytics in a very simple and easy and powerful way,” Phan said. “It’s just a [different] way of working with data and analytics.”
While InterWork’s Austin was first attracted by ThoughtSpot’s embedded BI capabilities and excited by the host of new integrations unveiled during Beyond 2022, he said he was also struck by the depth of analysis ThoughtSpot enables with its natural language search.
“When it comes to the ease of use and ability to dive in and find whatever analytics you want and drill down, ThoughtSpot has a huge lead,” he said. “We came to it because of embedding, but we’ve been nothing short of blown away.”
Constellation Research’s Henschen, meanwhile, noted that ThoughtSpot continues to tout the depth of analysis in its natural language search capabilities compared to those of other vendors.
“A lot of vendors now have natural language queries,” he said. “ThoughtSpot’s assertion is that a lot of those tools enable customers to get to top-level questions, but they assert they can get to a more sophisticated level.”
Work to be done
Despite everything ThoughtSpot has done to grow beyond a single strong capability, customers said they’d like to see the vendor improve its data visualization capabilities.
Companies often take different technologies, blend them together to create their own tool and then sell that tool to their customers. InterWorks’ Curator is one such tool.
And when companies cull together capabilities to build something of their own, they want the ability to make what they’ve built look a certain way so it’s in line with their own branding.
“They have a repository for visualizations, but you can’t really customize and brand the visualization to the way you want to use it,” Phan said. “I would say that’s the most important thing they need to add.”
And if ThoughtSpot provides more customizable visualization capabilities, it could be a growth opportunity, according to Austin.
“Tableau gives you a lot more ability to customize visualizations,” Austin said of the analytics and BI vendor that is owned by Salesforce and known for its advanced visualization technology.
“And there are clients who want that pixel-perfect approach,” he continued. “As ThoughtSpot gives more controls around that, I think they’ll get even more customers.”
Henschen, meanwhile, noted that customers who want dashboarding and reporting capabilities often wind up using ThoughtSpot in concert with another BI platform rather than deploying solely with ThoughtSpot.
Part of that is the result of enterprises with legacy deployments being reluctant to completely overhaul their analytics operations. It’s also because “a lot of companies still have reporting solutions with [other vendors],” he said.
“But a lot of these corporations are super-tankers that can’t turn quickly. They don’t rip things out quickly,” Henschen continued. “ThoughtSpot still has pretty deliverable augmented analytics capabilities that are differentiated for business users.”