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Tibco Spotfire targets efficiency of triggering actions

The latest version of the vendor's BI suite includes action logs that enable admins to see how end users are using a tool that lets them trigger actions from their dashboards.

The latest Tibco Spotfire update enables administrators to understand how end users are applying a recently launched tool that allows them to trigger actions directly from their dashboards.

In addition, Tibco introduced new streaming and data science capabilities.

Based in Palo Alto, Calif., the vendor unveiled new versions of Tibco Spotfire, Streaming and Data Science on March 14.

Tibco, founded in 1997, is a data management and analytics vendor whose platform aims to create what it calls Hyperconverged Analytics -- the blending of visual analytics, data science and streaming data capture in one environment. Tibco first introduced Hyperconverged Analytics in September 2020.

A subsequent update aimed at bringing various data and analytics capabilities together included the launch of Spotfire Data Functions in 2021 to help developers build specialized visualizations without having to write code. The release of ModelOps in 2022 then enabled organizations to more easily deploy data science models and overcome the many barriers to their deployment.

New in Spotfire

In June 2022, Tibco previewed Spotfire 12 -- including the Cloud Actions tool. Weeks later, the vendor launched Spotfire 12 and made Cloud Actions generally available.

Cloud Actions enables users to trigger actions -- and automate repeatable ones -- without leaving Spotfire. Now, with Spotfire 12.2, Tibco is enabling administrators to understand how their organizations' end users have been using Cloud Actions since its launch, the vendor said.

The update includes action logs, which capture Cloud Actions usage data and can be analyzed to fuel audits.

Traditionally, data consumers do the analysis that leads to data-informed decisions within their BI environments. Then, to take action based on those decisions, they leave their BI environments and go into a different application.

Customers don't want insights to end with reports and dashboards that are disconnected from the apps where people take action and get work done. It's about seizing the moment and not having to waste time navigating and switching between separate environments.
Doug HenschenAnalyst, Constellation Research

Those actions often have to be done repeatedly, and that requires repeated toggling between BI environments and other work applications.

Recently, however, there has been a movement among analytics vendors to connect BI tools to other work applications so that users don't have to leave one environment for another. And when actions can be repeated, tools now enable users to automate those actions from their BI environments.

For example, Tableau unveiled an integration with Salesforce -- Tableau's parent company -- in late 2022 that enables customers to connect dashboards to work applications and automate actions. Similarly, Qlik built in automation capabilities as part of its concept of "active intelligence."

Ultimately, the benefit is a smoother workflow and reduced time -- and effort -- between insight and action, according to Doug Henschen, an analyst at Constellation Research.

"I've long been a proponent of driving insights into action, and leading analytics and BI vendors have been pushing in this direction," he said. "Customers don't want insights to end with reports and dashboards that are disconnected from the apps where people take action and get work done. It's about seizing the moment and not having to waste time navigating and switching between separate environments."

Now, in a move designed to enhance the efficiencies already gained by the initial launch of Cloud Actions, organizations can track how the tool is being used so that they can use it to become even more efficient.

One potential use case for Cloud Actions is anomaly detection, explained Matt Quinn, Tibco's general manager.

If a user detects an anomaly that is not being identified by their system or that requires work beyond what their system is programmed to do, they can create a custom action in Spotfire that triggers another application to take that action.

Automation of repeated actions, however, is where Cloud Actions truly saves users time and effort, Quinn continued.

"The one thing we wanted to do was complete the circle and make sure that from within Spotfire, you could effectively issue actions," he said. "You can do human-oriented actions, but this was really designed for automation."

In addition to adding action logs to track Cloud Actions usage, Spotfire 12.2 enables users to publish analyses to Tibco Cloud that contain Python Data Functions.

Python is one of the most popular programming languages data scientists use to build data products and train models. With Tibco's Python Data Functions, they are able to build no-code advanced analytics products for their organizations' data consumers.

More capabilities

Beyond Spotfire 12.2, Tibco launched updated versions of Streaming and Data Science.

Streaming -- Tibco's platform for applications that continuously ingest, query and act on data in real time -- now includes a capability the vendor calls dynamic learning. The capability essentially enables users to do machine learning with streaming data as the data is ingested.

Dynamic learning takes advantage of some of the same technology used to fuel Spotfire recommendations. It automatically analyzes streaming data and then, based on what it has learned, automates data management and analytic model calculations on real-time events, including integrating the streaming data with historical data.

In keeping with Tibco's concept of Hyperconverged Analytics, while the data ingestion and integration tasks are automatically performed in Streaming, users view the information provided by Streaming within Spotfire.

And as with Cloud Actions in Spotfire, the primary benefit of dynamic learning is greater efficiency, according to Henschen.

"Streaming is all about monitoring and responding to fast-moving environments, so all the better if this system can dynamically learn from the choices and changes that are made," he said. "This new ability to learn ... saves time and human effort that would otherwise be required to adapt the system to changes in underlying data sources, systems and business expectations."

Data Science, meanwhile, now includes a new Apache Spark 2 workflow engine aimed at improving performance, as well as more interoperability with Spotfire and Data Virtualization so that users can build and train models with Spotfire's interface.

"It's about promoting use of the entire Tibco portfolio -- each component can still stand on its own, but [Tibco is] adding value for customers that use multiple offerings," Henschen said.

That interoperability is fundamental to all the new capabilities Tibco launched this week, according to Quinn.

He noted that Spotfire is the main access point for all the data management and analytics needs of Tibco's users. And the more the vendor can bring capabilities from other Tibco tools into Spotfire -- and the more smoothly it can integrate Spotfire with other Tibco capabilities to create an analytics ecosystem -- the easier to use and more efficient it makes the vendor's entire technology suite.

"People are not seeing the streaming work, Data Virtualization, the work we do with geoanalytics and what we do with statistical analysis as separate things," Quinn said. "It's part of what they do. The further we can integrate those products together in a seamless experience, the more power it gives users without them having to learn individual new products."

Future plans

With Cloud Actions as well as new capabilities in Streaming and Data Science now available, Tibco has an aggressive roadmap.

Product development plans include more cloud-native products; tighter integration between platform components, in particular with Spotfire; making the platform more customizable with Mods; and furthering the ecosystem with connectors to external data sources, according to Quinn.

But one major initiative will be to make Tibco's tools easier to use.

Unlike some vendors' platforms that are designed around ease of use and intended for self-service data consumers, Tibco's analytics tools aim to enable deep data science work. The vendor's target user generally has more knowledge of computer science and statistics than users of many other analytics platforms.

Nevertheless, Spotfire could be more user-friendly, Quinn said. But rather than reduce the complexity, Tibco plans to use AI -- including perhaps ChatGPT or other large language models -- to provide more help.

"Spotfire is a tool for experts -- that's its market," Quinn said. "We set the bar pretty high, and that sometimes means it's not as easy to use as it should be. We're doing a lot of work to add in helpers and assistants throughout the product. We don't want to dumb down the product, but we can provide more assistance to get users where they need to go, especially new users."

Henschen, meanwhile, said he'd like Tibco to expand the options for Spotfire Cloud deployment. He noted that Spotfire Cloud is available as a service on AWS, but not the other major clouds.

"Times have changed, and more and more companies are choosing SaaS-based analytics and BI offerings and other managed services," Henschen said. "Quite a few independent analytics and BI vendors now offer SaaS services on more than one cloud. Tibco manages one-off Spotfire deployments for customers on many clouds and on-premises data centers, but I wouldn't mind seeing another SaaS option."

This story was updated on March 15 with additional information.

Eric Avidon is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial and a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He covers analytics and data management.

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