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It’s easy to use Google. Just type some words into the search box, and a bunch of results show up — ideally the kind of information you’re looking for. In the wonky world of business intelligence (BI), a startup called Birst is trying to make it just as easy for analysts to get the answers they want out of internal company data.

Birst has introduced a Google-style search interface, as well as Amazon.com-style recommendations. Birst released the new features — which it collectively calls its Visualizer — to provide service that everyday business users can get on board with, said Southard Jones, vice president of product strategy. These features do seem to push Birst in that direction.

Birst's Visualizer tool at work.

Above: Birst’s Visualizer tool at work.

Image Credit: Birst

Birst isn’t the first to take inspiration from Google in building an accessible user interface for enterprise data anlysis. BI vendor DataRPM tacked on Google-like search experience for analytics and visualization earlier this year, and that’s a point of distinction for the company. Voice-powered searching is possible with DataRPM, too.

Now Birst, which aims to offer the accuracy of traditional BI tools with simplicity and lower cost, is taking up natural-language querying as a way to make it easier for people to understand what numbers say without needing to learn statements in the SQL query language. Because Birst is considered one of the leading players in a new generation of BI tools, the adoption of Google-like querying validates the concept.

Birst delivers a visualization of data in response to users’ search strings, after figuring out which type of visualization is most appropriate, although users can override Birst’s choice, Jones said.

And just as Google shows what other people have searched for, Birst does something similar. “As you’re typing, we are actually populating results that are based on what other folks have searched for,” Jones said.

Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research and an analyst covering different kinds of enterprise software, thinks Birst’s feature additions give the company a better position in a competitive market. The new interface provides “common metaphors that people are used to,” Wang said. Familiarity is the key that will “reduce the friction of adoption,” he said.

If the concepts net more customers for Birst, other vendors could take cues from Birst (and, by extension, DataRPM). That means the companies would have to keep coming out with useful new features.

Birst sees opportunities in the mobile category. The mobile product in development will be “something completely different [from] any other BI solution out there,” Jones said.

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