BI meets Amazon Echo because . . . (dubious) PR value

Sometimes companies come up with marketing ideas that just make you scratch your head. Roll up Sisense.

Woman executive yelling into megaphone at man.
Credit: Thinkstock

Sisense is a business analytics vendor. It actually has a pretty cool product that offers analytics baked into a silicon chip -- essentially the idea around Sisense is to make business intelligence (BI) quicker and easier, and to disrupt the traditional model of data warehousing, heavyweight extract, transform and load (ETL) tools, and the need for highly paid data scientists. Sisense combines the hardcore analytical tools with the visualization tools that organizations need to actually display data insights.

So Sisense is a cool company. Surely that would be enough to get it some attention? Alas, in the world of big marketing budgets, incumbent vendors and heavily overused buzzwords, simply having a good product isn't enough -- companies need to be seen to be doing trendy stuff. Which is where an integration being announced by Sisense today comes in.

Sisense is branching into the internet of things (IoT) world and launching an integration with both Amazon Echo, the Seattle bookseller's awesome home and information automation device, and connected lightbulbs. If you're wondering what the connection is between a BI tool and a connected device, you wouldn't be alone.

Trumpeting what it suggests is a 500% increase in the engagement and adoption of BI tools, Sisense is suggesting that the future of BI is to take it away from mere two-dimensional screens and enable a "more intuitive and emotional connection to data insights." Hmmm. It even has some early customers: Apparently Act-On Software, Skullcandy and CTSI-Global are breathless in appreciation of the difference that BI plus connected devices can make.

So what is Sisense actually doing here?

In the case of Amazon Echo, Sisense is allowing business users to ask questions and hear results in real time. Apparently, that is driving an increased efficiency and engagement. The idea being that a business user won't run a query about, say, regional Midwest sales this year versus last in a visualization tool. Instead, a user will ask Amazon Echo to perhaps play a song that matches the sentiment of salespeople in the U.S. versus those in Europe. Or something like that. Apparently, the ease of conversation drives increased engagement with data and opens access to BI insights. Or something. It's all about humanizing data consumption, apparently.

Sisense even has a company willing to gush over how transformative this is. One suspects that this is more a case of the customer in question being a little light on awareness and wishing to gain a little bit of attention through a meaningless partnership, but nonetheless, Act-On Software went on the record stating just how transformative this is.

"After using the Sisense-enabled Echo for a few weeks, it has quickly become an exciting way to access BI insights," says James Levine of Act-On Software, a marketing platform company. "We can engage the Echo in a simple conversation to keep a pulse on our business. When you break down the barriers to access and make the experience personal, engagement becomes much more frequent and BI insights much more tangible."

Moving on, the "Sisense-enabled IoT lightbulb" jumps on what is actually a pretty useful connected device. But instead of doing something worthwhile (like turning on at preset times or adjusting the color of a bulb to the time of day or outside conditions), this partnership sees the ambient light create a "subtle but ever-present representation of how business users are progressing toward a specific business metric." According to Sisense, the emotional response triggered by the Sisense-enabled IoT lightbulb, as it changes color in response to changing business conditions and KPIs, has shown itself to increase user engagement, motivation and drive behavior.

These press releases tend to have a general comment from an industry analyst to back up assertions made in them. Interestingly, in this case, the quote is so broad as to apply minimally to this actual announcement and simply talk about the value of BI more generally.

"Business intelligence is a natural home for IoT innovation as companies work to capture more machine-generated data and transform it into actionable insight," says Michael Lock, VP and principal analyst at Aberdeen. "Increasing accessibility to intuitive analytical capabilities will serve companies well as they look to empower more users and derive more immediate value from their data."


Do you need to ask? Don't get me wrong, Sisense is doing some cool stuff. But in my opinion, this announcement is a nothing, a mere attempt to get some attention and leverage the awareness that an integration partner has. And while Amazon Echo and IoT lightbulbs are pretty cool, this strikes me as the antithesis of a "better together" story.

Sorry Sisense, I wanted to get excited but this one doesn't do anything for me. More generally, it is marketing initiatives like this that greatly reduce the credibility of your brand. I'll keep listening, but you've definitely gone down in my estimation.

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