I look at a lot of analytics products. And whether they self-categorize as BI, Big Data, analytics, dashboard or data visualization tools, they tend to overlap quite a bit in functionality.
The product descriptions and rhetoric overlap even more. "Offering actionable insights for better decisions from your organization's competitive weapon: its data." "Making insights available to everyone in the company, not just specialists." Sound familiar?
When almost everyone in the space promotes themselves in this manner, it becomes quite difficult to describe a product that lives up to the claim, especially when some of what gets it there is subtle and unobtrusive.
But Logi Analytics' new Logi Vision tool, as it was demoed to me yesterday, impressed me as a product that has the right combination of feature integration, intuitive interface and embedded expertise to make it a truly productive tool for analyzing data.
Logi Vision implements a feature set that is appropriately triaged to avoid sensory overload and allow mastery of the product. The result is a product that offers an effective mix of power and fun. When analyzing data, both attributes are required for good results.
Logi Vision starts out by displaying raw data, allowing users to get a sense of its cleanliness, or lack thereof, and launch into analysis from there. With a couple of clicks, data in the grid can be displayed as inline "cell graphics." Beyond that, though, simply dragging one data column onto another immediately brings up a useful visualization.
Rather than require users to select a visualization type, then define parameters for that data, Logi Vision guides the user through the process. It does this by showing a top recommended visualization immediately, and giving easy access to several more, each with pre-configured series, categories and levels of granularity.
Logi Analytics calls this combination of guidance and recommendation around analysis and visualization "DataSmart" and "ThinkSpace," respectively.
Will you eventually want to override Logi Visions' defaults or build stuff more manually? Probably. But having the guidance in there gets you thinking about the data quickly, allowing you to tweak later. Many tools reverse the sequence of that workflow and, honestly, do so to their detriment.
The initial analyses in Logi Vision can be performed for the purpose of querying the data, but they can also be used to view the distribution of the data, find and eliminate outliers, apply filters and otherwise facilitate intimacy with the data.
Additional, iterative dragging and dropping of columns allows for further data refinement, and newly recommended visualizations. Somewhere through this process, the user will likely shift from profiling the data to analyzing it. What's neat, though, is that this transition will be a rather fluid one, because the same UI and features will be used for both.
Visualizations can be saved as you move along. They can also be tagged, and set to belong to a particular project, and later searched on these attributes and others. Logi Vision's InfoBoard presents saved visualizations in a tiled view, sized based on relevancy to the search (larger = higher relevancy).
The number of keystrokes and clicks required to see the data presented in this format is impressively small. Such an interface allows users to work in tandem with their thinking, rather than losing their train of thought as they navigate through the user interface.
Modern, yet old-school
Logi Vision is an HTML 5, browser-based application. As such it works in most modern browsers. The consumption experience is more touch-friendly than the authoring environment. So while the product could theoretically be used from a tablet, in reality, the development work should probably be done on machine with a keyboard and mouse or touchpad, like a Windows machine, a Mac or a Chromebook.
Are there other things I'd wish were in Logi Vision, beyond greater touch-friendliness? Sure. For one, Logi Vision could aim higher in terms of the data sources it connects to. Although likes of Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, Excel and even Salesforce.com are very useful, I'd like to see the product be tested and workable against NoSQL databases, Hadoop (via Hive, Impala or other SQL on Hadoop solutions) and data warehouse appliances like Teradata, HP Vertica, IBM Netezza and others. I'd also like to see more advanced visualizations, and an option to run the product in the cloud, or at least license it on a subscription basis.
Credit where due
But this is a version 1 product, and focusing on a well-managed functionality surface area was probably the right decision. It's resulted in a product that feels powerful and unintimidating at the same time, and that's extremely uncommon these days.
Considering Logi Analytics' heritage as the former LogiXML, and its erstwhile exclusive focus on developers, Logi Vision is all the more impressive. The product exhibits a kind of empathy with the business user that I've seen before in only a few products.
Add to that Logi Vision's soup-to-nuts approach and this first version of the product provides an excellent foundation for the company to gain much more prominence. Considering the company made it into the challengers quadrant on Gartner's Business Intelligence Magic Quadrant for the first time last year, this is an excellent, and promising, showing.