Salesforce buying BeyondCore: The future of advanced analytics is in context

Functionality unto itself can be impressive, but it's a hard sell. Embed the technology, and adoption ticks up.
Written by Andrew Brust, Contributor

Last week, advanced analytics startup BeyondCore announced that it would be acquired by none other than Salesforce. The deal has not yet closed, but BeyondCore's CEO, Arijit Sengupta, has blogged and tweeted about it, and it's been widely reported, including by ZDNet.

Also read: Salesforce acquires BeyondCore, aims to add it to Analytics Cloud

BeyondCore is a company I've followed for quite a while and -- full disclosure -- the company was a client of mine while I was a research director at Gigaom Research. BeyondCore has long followed a credo of providing analytics in context, and that figures into this pending deal.

Not the first integration
Even before hitching to the Salesforce wagon, BeyondCore developed versions of its product that allowed it to act as an add-in to Microsoft Office (specifically in Word and PowerPoint). That was already a clear indication the company believed that analytics functionality, used within the context of your standard workflow, can be most effective.

Also read: With BeyondCore Analyst for Office, predictive analytics starts to get easier

Even in its standalone version, the product has been premised on contextual presentation. Specifically, that analytics capability alone isn't enough, that it must be presented as part of a narrative and vetted by tests of statistical significance.

Not just minimally viable
An effective product must go beyond the provision of core functionality, as the company's name implies. Without narrative around the results, users are vulnerable to information overload. And without statistical vetting, users are far too vulnerable to confirmation bias.

Now the contextual approach will go a step further, as BeyondCore is integrated into Salesforce's CRM and marketing technology ecosystem. In his blog post on the acquisition, Sengupta said:

"At Salesforce, BeyondCore will be...extending smart data discovery and advanced analytics capabilities across the entire Salesforce Customer Success Platform."

In addition to being embedded in applications within a productivity suite like Office, BeyondCore will be embedded in a horizontal business application platform. It's the digital equivalent of the old real estate adage "location, location, location".

Beyond this case
Other advanced analytics vendors should take a cue from the SFDC-BeyondCore deal. Any technology is most powerful when it's in-place and doesn't require a context switch. Whether the camera in a smartphone or reporting functionality in a line of business app, it's always better to go to the customer than to require the customer to come to you.

When advanced analytics/predictive analytics/machine learning sits in standalone apps, it can be a hard sell. When it's integrated into a full-fledged data discovery platform, or in a horizontal business application and platform, people get it. Functionality in context appeals to users. Functionality that requires instinct to know where it applies appeals only to technologists.

The sooner all data companies understand that, the better.

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