Analytics is hard.
Gathering, normalizing, mangling, investigating, and pulling insights from thousands of lines of data is tough. When you realize that information is spread across dozens of marketing technologies, accounting systems, and more, it becomes an even tougher job. But then there’s the most pressing problem for all but the most advanced data scientists.
What questions do you ask in the first place? What reliable insights can you gain that will help your business? Is your analysis even accurate?
BeyondCore — as previously reported — took ten years to research and develop a solution that attempts to bypass these issues. Today, it is doubling down on what the company calls its “analytics for all” promise with the launch of a product supporting Microsoft Office: BeyondCore Apps for Office.
BeyondCore Apps for Office solves a challenge facing every business. A parallel to the constant search for marketing technology “unicorns”, as companies become more data driven in all aspects of sales, marketing, service, and supply, those individuals who can make sense of that data are becoming harder to find and more expensive to hire. Moreover, most companies probably aren’t even trying to find data analysts and scientists in the first place, relying on existing staff to make sense of the numbers.
So how does BeyondCore’s new addition solve this problem? In addition to seeing the solution in action for myself, I asked Arijit Sengupta, CEO and founder of BeyondCore, to explain.
“Just as Microsoft has empowered users to do more than they ever thought possible with data processing, word processing, and presentation design through Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, BeyondCore Apps for Office is adding automated analysis to that list of powerful and user-friendly experiences,” Sengupta said.
And as with the full BeyondCore solution, this Office-based edition is slick and seemingly magical.
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With one click, I saw the solution trawl through a few thousand lines of data and determine the right data points to pull. Behind the scenes, BeyondCore is asking millions of the right questions, and then pulls out those that are significant and statistically sound. From that initial analysis, a second click delivers the results directly into a PowerPoint slideshow — ready for immediate presentation to executives — or into a Word document.
In other words, it creates a story from your data — and it does it in just a few seconds.
After analysis in Excel, and after you export to Word or PowerPoint, the magic doesn’t stop there. The resulting Word document includes an automatically generated narrative to support the findings, and users can add additional graphs in seconds. Similarly, the PowerPoint file includes generated slides with full narration embedded in the notes.
So what is an “App for Office”? It is essentially a lightweight web application. No code is installed or downloaded to the computer running the Office client, which makes implementation a lightweight affair for the 1,300+ products available today, including BeyondCore.
“We’re excited to see the BeyondCore Apps for Office. It’s a great example of our modern extensibility model and for delivering advanced analytics in Office, helping people to do more with their data by turning it into insights and understanding,” Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president at Microsoft for the Office 365 Client Apps and Services team, said in a press statement.
The original BeyondCore Enterprise solution required 10,000 lines of data before it was able to produce reasonable insights and data stories. I wondered if that had been changed to suit a Microsoft Office-using audience.
“We have reduced the minimum number of rows to just 100 for the BeyondCore Apps for Office and to 1,000 for BeyondCore Enterprise,” Sengupta said. “BeyondCore still warns users if a certain pattern is not statistically sound, based on the amount of data provided.”
Which means that the Office product, like its enterprise-level big sister, still protects the user against false positives. “Users can still expect the same automated protections against ‘Graphs That Lie’,” Sengupta said.
One of the outstanding features of BeyondCore Enterprise is its ability to deliver an animated briefing of the results it finds, narrating the story via text-to-speech, and that feature remains exclusive to Enterprise users.
So does this new addition signal a change in target customer for BeyondCore, or is it still aiming at mid-size business and large organizations?
“We have always been on a mission to empower every business user with the power of analytics. BeyondCore Apps for Office allows us to deliver on that goal. BeyondCore Enterprise remains focused on large and mid-sized enterprises who simply can’t retrain thousands of business users so they can flourish in the current analytics-driven world,” Sengupta said.
And that, for me, is the key to why BeyondCore Apps for Office could be an important addition to the Microsoft universe. Big companies can’t afford to retrain thousands of users, and small companies can’t afford to hire data scientists or analysts. And both groups continue to have issues, even after gathering all the data in their systems, with understanding the right questions to ask in the first place.
“Analytics for all” might just be achievable after all.