Zoho launches business intelligence platform infused with AI

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Zoho Corp today unveiled a business intelligence (BI) platform infused with AI that includes data preparation tools that organizations would otherwise have to acquire separately.

The Zoho Business Intelligence (BI) Platform combines Zoho DataPrep with an enhanced version of Zoho Analytics and its existing Zoho Show presentation software and Zoho Sites portal builder tools in a single offering. The goal is to make it simpler for end users to construct and share analytics via visual dashboards that let them launch queries against data using either graphical tools or the Zia conversational AI platform.

Additionally, a Zia Insights tool automatically surface trends and relationships between data sets without requiring an end user to even launch a query, said Chandrashekar LSP, senior evangelist for the BI Platform at Zoho. It also can also be employed to model what-if scenarios. Organizations can, alternatively, employ Zoho DataPrep as a standalone tool in conjunction with other analytics applications.

Ultimately, Zoho is trying to provide a suite of integrated BI tools that enable end users to manage everything from how data pipelines are constructed to how narratives are presented. The platform comes with more than 250 data sources to make it simpler to aggregate data.

Organizations can also create analytics applications that can be sold as complementary Zoho Analytics applications via the Zoho Marketplace or a third-party marketplace run by Shopify, ServiceNow, and Atlassian.

Zoho claims more than 50,000 organizations are already using Zoho Analytics, with a 30% growth rate on a year-over-year basis. Zoho says that 10% of that increase represents customers switching from competitive platforms. The company is also forecasting a 45% increase in analytics application revenue now that it has launched the Zoho BI Platform.

Pricing for the Zoho BI Platform is $8 per user, per month, while the on-premises version is $30 per user, per month. The standalone version of Zoho DataPrep starts at $40 per month for two million rows accessed by three users.

Making BI more accessible

Overall, Zoho is moving to reduce the cost of BI to the point where it becomes accessible to a broader range of organizations. Most of those organizations still rely on spreadsheets as their default BI tool simply because most alternatives are too complex and costly to configure, said Chandrashekar LSP. “The friction has to be reduced,” he said.

As the level of friction is reduced, the overall size of the BI market will continue to increase, he added.

There’s no doubt the reason so many end users continue to rely on spreadsheets is simple inertia. Rather than learning how to master programming tools to drive analytics using spreadsheets, it’s a lot easier for most users to employ a BI application. The two primary hurdles have been, first, getting data entered in the BI application, and second, justifying the cost of a BI application when spreadsheets are bundled with Microsoft Office 365.

However, it’s also clear that, as organizations commit to making data-driven business decisions, spreadsheets are not the best tools for conveying an idea. The visualization tools in BI dashboards enable a broader swath of employees to identify trends in a way that can be easily acted upon. In contrast, discerning trends within long columns of spreadsheet data requires more specialized skill sets that require a significant amount of training to acquire.

It’s not clear to what degree Zoho BI Platform might force rivals to similarly reduce the total cost of BI, but as the size of the total potential addressable market grows, the pressure to respond will become greater.


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