There’s a proliferation of AI-driven/AI-powered/AI-[insert-your-own-favorite-verb-here] tools and products on the market, because AI – and its underlying technology, machine learning – is sexy and it sells. (And, in some cases, delivers.) We decided to take a look at one of the vendors, AnswerRocket, and we had the chance to see a product demonstration by the AnswerRocket team.
AnswerRocket positions itself as “the AI-driven analyst for everyone.” It uses natural language processing (NLP), keyword searching, machine learning, and other technologies “to ask business questions in natural language and get answers in seconds.” Unlike the Tableaus and Power BIs of the world, AnswerRocket is aimed at business users who may not be analytically very savvy. (Although Tableau and other vendors of self-service analytics tools will disagree with this statement.) Everyone who can use a search engine should be able to use AnswerRocket without difficulty.
The user types in a question. The tool retrieves information, creates visualizations from textual data, and automatically builds dashboards. But unlike traditional keyword search, the AnswerRocket tool recognizes not only the typical “what” and “when” questions but also the “how” and the “why” and the “explain” questions.
AnswerRocket connects to any relational database and it can process any type of data, but obviously text-rich data is its sweet spot. In fact, the company works extensively with consumer packaged goods (CPG) customers.
The RocketBot is AnswerRobot’s out-of-the-box bot that you can set up to track information of interest to you. It is built on open-source AI, and if you can read and write Python, you can also customize it.
AnswerRocket is available as Software as a Service (SaaS) and is licensed on a subscription basis.
Vendors like AnswerRocket and ThoughtSpot are certainly moving in the right direction, toward automation, simplified user experiences that feel more natural, and using established metaphors for interacting with data while hiding the technical complexities. Is this the future of analytics? Perhaps. At least it is an evolution and improvement on the self-service analytics which have failed to deliver on their promise to liberate business users from dependence on more technical resources. (Self-service adoption has hovered around 22-25% for several years.)
Those technical resources are still needed though, and increasingly more so, as we look to aggregate and analyze more data sets and more diverse data types. And tools like AnswerRocket and ThoughtSpot do not replace data analysts and data scientists.
However, while some of these folks may cringe at the “dummification” of analytics, easy-to-use tools like AnswerRocket are a great entryway technology (and we don’t mean it disparagingly!), especially if you are in the CPG space. Sometimes you need to bribe the kids to eat vegetables by putting ketchup on them (or whatever works in your household). You might want to take a look at AnswerRocket and see if you can use it to get more of your business users hooked on using data and analytics to inform and support their decision making.
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