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In this Leadership Insights video, Amanda Razani speaks with Sumeet Arora, chief development officer for ThoughtSpot, about the Beyond 2023 event and modern data experiences.



Amanda Razani: Hello, I’m Amanda Razani, with Digital CxO. I’m excited to be here today with Sumeet Arora who is the chief development officer for ThoughtSpot. How are you doing today?

Sumeet Arora: I’m doing very well, Amanda, and thank you for having me. I’m super excited.

Amanda Razani: So this is a big week: Beyond 2023. It’s an annual event where you have some big announcements to share. I know one of them is about AI powered analytics and putting it in the hands of every employee. So can you go into details about the news that you have just shared?

Sumeet Arora: Absolutely, Amanda. ThoughtSpot has always been about making analytics easy for everyone, for every knowledge worker. And we have aimed to do that by matching human behavior with how the platform itself interacts with humans. So how we ask questions, how we analyze – matched by technology. And what has happened in the last few months with the availability of public language model services – we’ve essentially received a huge tailwind, I would say, it’s like almost a moment for ThoughtSpot. Because this is why we were built, and the AI powered analytics that we have announced at Beyond – we’re beyond excited about it, because it allows users to ask questions in natural language and get accurate, verifiable answers to business questions. And that is important, that’s a big deal in the industry, and every knowledge worker is able to use that. So that’s what we have announced today.

Amanda Razani: And I know that you have spoken specifically to delivering modern data experiences to consumers for more efficiency and better results. Can you speak a little more to that?

Sumeet Arora: Absolutely. So the intersection of the modern data stack, which is built in the cloud, and the availability of AI services plus, I would say, the effort that we have put in to make it easy for people to ask questions – we call this whole, Beyond and ThoughtSpot, we call this whole set of product announcements to be about the modern data experience, which is essentially enabling every knowledge worker to get the most value out of their data in the modern data stack. And you talked about what does it do for people? Well, a few things. First, the ability to ask questions, which we discussed earlier – making it natural language, pure natural language, no boundaries. Ask your question, get a verifiable, accurate answer. But more things happen after that, Amanda: Knowledge workers, when they get analytical results, they collaborate on it, they discuss the results, they make decisions on it, they take actions. So the second pillar of our announcement is what we have done with our live boards, which are essentially a collection of analytical answers – we have made sure that you can collaborate in context on the lifeboats. And instead of having to go into other platforms, like emails or conversations elsewhere, where analytics is somewhere else, and the conversation and the decisions are somewhere else, we have brought all that together in context within the ThoughtSpot platform. So that’s a big pillar of the announcement. The other thing that we have done is that we’ve expanded how people consume analytical results from ThoughtSpot. And that’s where there is other exciting announcements at Beyond – the ability to consume it through embedded analytics, the ability to consume it on mobile, and we’re excited. Amanda, you and I, or any business user or knowledge worker has goals. We have goals and our business goals in life. These goals, we call them KPIs, and being able to stay on top of your goals. And being able to get alerted automatically when maybe you’re not on track or you’re absolutely crushing it. And knowing why that is happening and being able to take actions. We call that capability KPI monitoring. And we have mobile optimized that, so the consumption surfaces for ThoughtSpot have increased, whether it’s embedded analytics or mobile. And the other pillar of our announcement is around how we are working with the ecosystem as well Amanda, which we will talk further about. And then there is of course, a special secret sauce. You know, a big announcement for the analysts in the data team. So yeah, at this Beyond, like I said, we’re beyond thrilled and there’s a lot to talk about, but basically everything is aimed at ThoughtSpot platform delivering that modern data experience for the knowledge worker – easy to use, and easy to consume, on point, relevant and actionable.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. Well, congratulations on all things. Thanks. So in your experience in speaking with different businesses around the world, what are some of the challenges they face when it comes to digital transformation initiatives, which I know most businesses are deeply involved in at the moment? And how do your solutions help? Do you have any use cases you could share with us? That will be great.

Sumeet Arora: Awesome, excellent Amanda. That’s a great question. I would say if you look at the last decade, it was about digital transformation, which essentially meant organizations or businesses building a digital core, things got connected, data started getting collected, people built data platforms. And that’s where kind of the digital transformation – most of the effort has gone. And what I would say is that we’re already upon the next transformation here. We’re moving from a digital business rapidly to an autonomous business. And this is going to be an AI led transformation. And this AI led transformation needs the digital core, what we built in the digital transformation to be optimized for the AI services. And of course, the leveraging of AI services to build that autonomous organization that is intelligent, that is perceptive and that is automated in many ways. So that’s what I am hearing from businesses – this next transformation, people are already talking about it. Now let’s connect that to ThoughtSpot. As I shared with you, ThoughtSpot is a platform that provides the modern data experience. And it provides that to the knowledge worker, to software programs, to whatever needs insights and foresights. From data. So our goal here is to make sure that we are the trusted strategic partner for our customers, as they complete their digital transformation, or whatever phase they are in within that, and there are different people at different phases – and build it in a way that they are absolutely ready and embarking on the AI transformation. And we are part of that journey with them. That’s why the focus at ThoughtSpot is also about governed AI. So what do I hear, I hear about people thinking you’re talking about smart factories, smart supply chains – I hear about the smart business, the autonomous business, and I hear about governed AI. If I may stress upon one point, it is governed AI. People want AI, but they want it governed, they want it responsibly done. And that’s what we are keeping in mind as we build this platform.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. I know that’s a big discussion topic. There are a lot of issues that come with using AI. All the businesses want to harness it as quickly as they can. However, there are things to think about such as the ethical standards and the bias in AI. And things like hallucinations, and just making sure that we don’t introduce more harm through the use of AI than we do improving in our business.

Sumeet Arora: Absolutely, absolutely a critical topic. And through choice customizability and control. So I call it the three C’s. We are making sure that ThoughtSpot AI is governed AI and allows customers the choice of models, allows customers the ability to customize it for their domain, their company, their functions, their business language, and allows customers all the controls that they need and humans in the loop. So that we are able to do it accurately, verifiably and also without bias.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. And it does seem that really it all comes down to having the most data – being able to harness the data properly and utilize the data, that’s a big deal for businesses. And so where do you see are the big roadblocks or the challenges businesses face when it comes to really harnessing and utilizing their data?

Sumeet Arora: Great question, Amanda. So the role of the analyst and the data team in businesses and organizations is even more critical. You know, there’s a lot of talk about AI will do this, AI will do that. I believe AI will actually make us more productive but it’s not going to be something that just takes people’s jobs just like that. And I want to be very straightforward there. I see a huge role for the data analysts and the data teams. As precisely for the question you asked, which is – data is exploding, it’s coming in from many different sources, the number of data systems you need to work with is expanding. The volume, variety and velocity of data is absolutely through the roof. And the role of the data team and the data analyst is to make sure that the world of this data, the language in the world of data – today it does not match the business language – and the business language varies from a domain from a company, from a function, it changes. So in, you know, the role of the data analysts and data teams is to make sure that we build these models. I call them models that are optimized for AI. That’s why I said the digital core needs to be optimized for AI. These models, the data models, need to be optimized for conversation and search and natural language on the top that matches the business language, and then accurately get that reflected in the data language. So this blending of the two worlds is the role of the data team. And in today’s announcement, we also announced what is called the data modeling studio. The data modeling studio, Amanda, is our take on giving choice. So data teams and analysts can build data models in the way they want, they can use DBT, they can use ThoughtSpot modeling, or they can use Look ML from Looker, Google Looker. They can build it based on their choice. But we AI power it, we help them put the right business language in the data model so that every data field is mapped to the right lingo, or the language. And then that makes the the Natural Language Experience, the conversational experience of the knowledge worker. Easy, because it matches to the data underneath. So the analysts are the stars and ThoughtSpot has the data modeling studio, AI powered, governed by the analysts – one of the big announcements today. And that’s the way to leverage a lot more out of the data in a responsible fashion.

Amanda Razani: Fantastic. You mentioned something else too, that I know some people have concerns about is – AI taking over jobs. So you don’t think that’s going to happen. You don’t think it’s going to happen now, or ever?

Sumeet Arora: Look, the world around us changes so fast that it’s difficult to talk about forever. But what I can say is, there have been immense transitions in the world, all the way from the calculator to the computer, to the internet, to the iPhone, to the cloud, to the immense amount of digital transformation that we just spoke about. And in every place, human creativity and the human ability to leverage the system around us and create opportunities for ourselves and progress for humanity has beaten everything that supposedly threatened our jobs. So I’m not going to bet against the human race. I’m gonna go with that. I’m actually very excited, fully embracing, we have to do it responsibly, like we discussed, we have to govern it. But I think a human with all the power and assistance from AI is a lot better than AI alone, and the human alone. So that’s my bet on this topic. So I’m actually very optimistic. I think it’s going to unleash a wave of productivity and creativity we have not seen,

Amanda Razani: I’m with you; it’s gonna be very helpful in enhancing and leveling up. But that human aspect is always going to be important.

Sumeet Arora: Yeah, yeah. So actually, if I may share this, I think this is a thought that has been crossing my mind. You know, so far, we had users, we had applications. And then we had the application builders, the developers who knew how to write code. You know what’s happening now, Amanda, is the users and the developers will be on the same side, and they’ll both be modifying the application. How empowering is that?

Amanda Razani: It’s amazing. It’s amazing. Like those walls are coming down and allowing more people to come in. I have not ever seen so many people interested in tech and following the technology and coming into the tech industry as I have lately. It just seems like it’s on a higher level lately.

Sumeet Arora: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Amanda Razani: So last question. I know that you had all these announcements today, but I’m sure you’re always thinking ahead there at ThoughtSpot. So what’s in the future? What do you see five years from now?

Sumeet Arora: Yeah. So look, I love all the announcements we made today, but the one on Sage, which is the, you know, this ThoughtSpot search experience, which we believe is the modern data experience, is a critical one. And if I look forward to being able to answer the questions people have, Amanda – the analytics industry is mostly barely answering the question of what happened. But I believe that in the next – and as I said, we’re moving very fast – so I would just say in the next few quarters, what would be awesome is that in natural language, we are able to answer for everyone. Questions like, what happened? Why did it happen? What were the key drivers that caused it? What is likely to happen? And how can I change what is likely to happen to align with what I want to see happen? So we call this as the spectrum of analytical questions people have. And if we can bring that power to a person who is an English major, a person who is a humanities, a person who is the most creative artist, to a person who’s an engineer, to a person who’s a data engineer, to a person who is a business executive, if we can bring this power of asking any question, and then do it for everyone; we have really, really made progress from an opportunity perspective, diversity perspective, and from a business perspective. And all this will be powered by some amazing AI and machine learning and, you know, statistical algorithms and all that, but all that will be in the back in the platform. And the experience will be that, you know, that serves everyone from different backgrounds and perspectives. So I think that’s what I look forward to seeing happen. That’s our roadmap, essentially.

Amanda Razani: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today and sharing all this exciting news. The future is really looking bright.

Sumeet Arora: Absolutely. Very excited, and great to do this with you, Amanda. Thank you.