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Data analytics startup SimpleQL suggests questions

Stephen Lawson | April 3, 2014
SimpleQL thinks the best way to bring business intelligence to people who've never drilled into big data is to help them decide what they want to know.

SimpleQL thinks the best way to bring business intelligence to people who've never drilled into big data is to help them decide what they want to know.

At the heart of the startup's cloud-based offering, which will enter public beta on Thursday at Demo Enterprise in San Francisco, is a field where users can type in questions in a query language that's easy to use, according to CEO Scot Gensler. The interface looks like Google's search box and acts somewhat like it, too. Just as Google does, SimpleQL brings up other possible ways to complete the query.

From there, SimpleQL can answer queries with automatically generated charts. It can also be used to create alarms and regularly scheduled reports.

Other companies have been working on making useful data easier for average employees to extract, including through Google Search-like interfaces. SimpleQL says its approach can help non-technical people become familiar with doing data analytics and to come up with new and useful questions, Gensler said.

"It's all about the query interface that [presents] proactive suggestions that get smarter over time," he said.

While business intelligence tools have improved in recent years, they are still mostly used by IT departments and data analytics specialists who run queries or create tools for other employees to use, according to Gensler. "The fundamental workflows haven't changed," he said.

SimpleQL is designed to put the same kind of analytical power into the hands of people all over an organization. It works on standard Web browsers, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple's Safari, and a dedicated mobile app is on the company's long-term radar.

The company breaks down analytical queries into building blocks, each of which is a unique code base, and reassembles those blocks based on the semantics of the underlying data source. Each database or application has its own semantics for deriving answers from the data contained within. SimpleQL can map its software to applications and public databases in advance and can do the same for most private databases in a matter of hours, Gensler said.

SimpleQL already works with Salesforce and Atlassian's Jira project management application, with Google Analytics coming soon. It also works with one public database, the CrunchBase repository of information on startups. To make the system work with private databases, SimpleQL spends about half a day analyzing the data and learning about the company's terminology and how they think about the data, Gensler said.

To continually improve suggestions, SimpleQL can aggregate queries made by users of specific applications.

"We now have tons of users in the system using Salesforce," Gensler said. "So we get a network effect of learning about, 'How is the language working for different functional executives?'"

 

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