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In what has become the norm for today’s user conferences catering to the data-hungry and insight starved, Domo, Inc. kicked off their annual show Domopalooza 2018 in Salt Lake City with an aim to raise the bar for loosely correlating software with celebrity star power. As I was sadly delayed from the east coast due to the storm of the century (and by “century” I mean “month to date”), I missed a spirited and lengthy conversation between Domo CEO Josh James, and legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson. The show featured other main-stage discussions with Beats CMO Omar Johnson and media mogul and co-founder of Roc Nation, Jay Brown, among others. And this is to say nothing of the musical murderer’s row of Pitbull, Nicole Scherzinger, Capital Cities, and Ne-Yo.

While the show was typically heavy on customer showcases, it was atypically light on product deep-dives. Therefore, what follows is my grotesquely oversimplified view of the two areas on which Domo seems to be putting the most public-facing emphasis:

AI / Machine learning. A nod to the 35-year-old Styx song, Domo’s machine learning feature set, dubbed “Mr. Roboto,” was first teased at last year’s show but is starting to take shape as we progress further into 2018. The team demonstrated capabilities for auto-generated natural language analysis, alerting, and correlation analysis to show in-the-wild examples of these machine learning capabilities. Mr. Roboto features, along with the Domo platform in general, are optimized for intuitive mobile rendering and consumption. In speaking with several Domo executives, as well as several customers, the desire for these capabilities is strong in the market and customers are actively trying to conceive of the most effective use cases for AI and machine learning. This desire for education around AI is certainly characteristic of the greater landscape, as recent Aberdeen research of B2B intent data shows that topics related to AI and machine learning far eclipse the interest level in traditional BI or big data topics (Figure 1).

Figure 1: AI Surges into the Hearts and Minds of Today’s Companies

While some customers seemed genuinely excited for the possibilities that this feature set could offer, others were skeptical that it was ready or relevant to their needs. The clear implication, though, is that Mr. Roboto is intended to be a common thread woven through the entire Domo platform, and poised to aid in activities ranging from data governance to predictive analytics and visualization.

Full-stack platform for enterprise readiness. Since coming out of stealth mode several years ago, Domo has long since pitched itself as a full-scale platform with aspects of data management, data discovery, analysis, and visualization. While there were product announcements at multiple levels of this stack (such as predictive analytics with Mr. Roboto and enhanced storytelling and visualization), much of the discussion centered on less sexy but highly relevant capabilities for data governance, security, and oversight (such as the ability to create certified data sets). As a cloud-based platform, Domo has undoubtedly received pushback from larger enterprises concerned about cloud security as well as tracking and traceability of the data. Creating this program of certified and trusted data allows for domo to operate in more distributed or geographically-distributed environments – and go after some of the bigger fish at the enterprise level.

Final Thoughts

While the show was certainly successful in building continued visibility for the Domo brand, some questions remain unanswered regarding what is truly under the hood, and specifically who the platform is serving. The visualizations seem slick and intuitive, and most of the demonstrations showed the capabilities rendered on a mobile device in a user-friendly way.

However, what is the effort behind the scenes required to create, deliver, and refresh these data views?  Is that effort manageable for a mere mortal, or does it require a hardcore data pedigree?  More importantly, how well is Domo serving the underserved?  During multiple conversations, the notion was floated that the typical organization, even those with an existing BI installation, is only arming a small percentage of its workforce with analytical capabilities (mostly the IT savvy, business analysts, and those otherwise inextricably linked to the data). This is an assertion I wholeheartedly agree with, or at least one that follows with what I’ve seen in the market. The question then becomes, is Domo actually relevant, usable, and accessible for that underserved massive majority, or is it really only usable for a subset of that majority – the executives with a team of data jockeys at their beck and call, serving up mobile dashboards?

I’ll continue to ponder this question but in the meantime, allow me to be the 6,000th person to say… “Domo arigato Mr. Roboto!”

Mike Lock is Vice President and Principal Analyst at Aberdeen.

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