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Tibco Spotfire 12 to enable direct actions from dashboards

The platform's next update, which the vendor previewed during a recent virtual user conference, will enable customers to trigger data-driven actions directly from their dashboards.

Tibco Spotfire users will be able to trigger actions directly from their dashboards when the next version of the analytics platform is released.

Tibco, founded in 1997 and based in Palo Alto, Calif., recently previewed Spotfire 12 during its Analytics Forum, a virtual user conference. The update will be generally available in the coming weeks, according to the vendor.

In addition to enabling users to move directly from insight to action without leaving Spotfire, the update adds new cloud-native and model operations capabilities, according to Niklas Amberntsson, director of product management at Tibco.

The vendor launched Spotfire 11 in September 2020, marking the introduction of what Tibco calls Hyperconverged Analytics.

Tibco defines Hyperconverged Analytics as the confluence of visual analytics, data science and streaming data capture in one environment.

Subsequent updates to Spotfire have added Data Functions, which is part of Tibco's Mods framework of prebuilt applications that enable developers to build visualizations without writing code, and new data science and augmented intelligence capabilities.

"Spotfire 12 is the culmination of an enormous amount of effort by the Spotfire engineering team," Amberntsson said.

Spotfire Actions is its centerpiece.

Insight to action

With Actions, users will be able to do more than just make observations in Spotfire.

They will be able to see what has happened and what is taking place in near real time to understand what actions they should take. But rather than switch to another system to take the action -- one that manages the sales pipeline or supply chain, for example -- users will be able to trigger those actions directly from Spotfire.

"Actions is about bridging the gap between insight and action," Amberntsson said. "Spotfire has always been used for insights, but why not act immediately when you know what you want to do, directly from the visualization? You no longer have to access one system to see what's going on and another system to do something about it."

That not only leads to greater productivity, but also a greater likelihood users will act, he continued.

"Making a decision at the time and place of the insight makes it more likely that people act on insights, and therefore promotes data-driven decision-making in the organization," Amberntsson said.

We've seen a shift in the last couple of years with people moving toward decision-focused analytics rather than just situational awareness, and it's important that Tibco is doing it.
Donald FarmerFounder and analyst, TreeHive Strategy

The addition of Actions in Spotfire 12 will be significant for Tibco customers because Tibco has hundreds of connectors to various operating systems and business applications, according to Donald Farmer, founder and analyst at TreeHive Strategy.

"This is important," he said. "We've seen a shift in the last couple of years with people moving toward decision-focused analytics rather than just situational awareness, and it's important that Tibco is doing it. And because they have such a wide range of connectors, they're in a really good position to do this."

While it will be significant for Tibco customers, however, Farmer noted that Tibco is not the first vendor to enable users to take actions directly from their dashboards.

Domo and Yellowfin are two vendors Farmer pointed out that have similar capabilities, while Qlik's roadmap is now centered around the concept of Active Intelligence -- enabling users to make data-informed decisions in real time.

Farmer added that he is unsure if Spotfire Actions will attract new customers to Tibco. It will, however, substantially aid existing users, he said.

"This is potentially very important for Tibco," Farmer said. "Existing Tibco customers will be excited by it."

Actions in action

During his presentation at Tibco Analytics Forum, Amberntsson described how Actions can enable an organization to act on an insight from its Spotfire dashboard rather than exit the Tibco environment, toggle to another system, take action in that system and then return to Tibco to continue monitoring the organization's performance.

For his example, he used a company that operates wind turbines.

At the company, an operator may be monitoring the performance of the turbines in a Spotfire dashboard. And if that operator sees something that indicates a glitch in the turbine's performance, the manager may want to stop the turbine until the glitch is examined or perhaps schedule maintenance on the turbine.

Before Tibco developed Actions, stopping the turbine or scheduling maintenance required the operator to leave their Spotfire dashboard, log into another system that controls the turbine, identify the turbine with the glitch and finally take the appropriate action.

With Actions, as soon as the glitch is detected, the operator will be able take the appropriate action, such as stopping the turbine or scheduling maintenance, directly from their Spotfire dashboard.

"If you think about it, [logging into another system] is actually a lot of waste since you just had all that context in the Spotfire dashboard," Amberntsson said. "Now, with Spotfire Actions, this could all be resolved from the Spotfire dashboard. The user selects the wind turbine and triggers the action needed, all in Spotfire."

Tibco developed Actions using Tibco Cloud Integration (TCI), a tool that enables organizations to connect different systems, he added.

With TCI, without the user ever seeing it, the appropriate information is passed from Spotfire to the system in which the action takes place.

"Under the hood, the actions are managed by Tibco Cloud Integration, meaning that actions can do straightforward things like updating data in the database as well as trigger advanced workflows involving the orchestration of several enterprise systems or controlling IoT systems," Amberntsson said.

More capabilities

Beyond the introduction of Actions, Spotfire 12 includes new cloud-native capabilities and an integration to Tibco ModelOps.

Tibco first unveiled the integration with ModelOps in September 2021, but it wasn't yet generally available. With the release of Spotfire 12, it will be available to all Spotfire users. And through the integration, customers will be able to use governed, pre-trained data models without having to leave the Spotfire environment.

New cloud-native capabilities, meanwhile, are aimed at easing the burden on system administrators.

Admins will be able to update and manage their Spotfire deployments using Kubernetes, Helm Charts and container recipes provided by Tibco, enabling them to easily scale up compute power when needed and decrease usage when workloads decrease.

The result is better performance for end users and control over costs for administrators, according to Amberntsson.

"Cloud is front and center for what we are doing at Spotfire," he said. "If you are an admin that keeps Spotfire running and updated for your organization, Spotfire 12's new cloud-native capabilities makes your job quicker and easier."

Amberntsson added that with the release of Spotfire 12, administrators will be able to deploy a complete Spotfire environment in the cloud using Linux containers in any Kubernetes cluster.

"To achieve this cloud-native way of working and managing Spotfire has been a really large undertaking," he said. "The engineering team has re-architected the way that Spotfire is managed and enabled."

Like the introduction of Actions, the new cloud-native capabilities may not attract new customers to Tibco but will substantially benefit the vendor's existing customers, according to Farmer.

Previously, if administrators wanted to run Spotfire in the cloud, they had to build their own cloud-native capabilities to work along with Spotfire, Farmer continued. The new capabilities will enable them to run in the cloud more easily.

Beyond Spotfire, Tibco offers two other business intelligence platforms.

While Spotfire enables deep exploration of data with data science and streaming analytics capabilities, WebFocus -- which the vendor inherited when it acquired IBI (formerly Information Builders) -- specializes in scalable reporting tools that enable thousands of users to work with the same data, and JasperSoft is aimed at developers and enables them to embed BI within applications.

By offering all three, Tibco is able to serve the analytics needs of just about any potential user, according to Farmer. And by offering such a comprehensive set of tools, its capabilities compare well with those of peers that include Qlik, Tableau and Microsoft Power BI, he said.

"They are full-featured -- they have everything," Farmer said. "There's nothing you can point to with Tibco and say, 'There's a big gap.' You can do everything with Tibco."

Market growth, however, remains a challenge, Farmer continued.

Tibco is designed for large deployments from the start rather than beginning with a small group of users and scaling up, so organizations have to make a major financial commitment from the outset with Tibco, Farmer said. In addition, Tibco -- which doesn't publicize its pricing -- is expensive, he added.

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