Observations from the ThoughtSpot Thought Leaders Event

Ajeet Singh, ThoughtSpot Co-founder and Executive Chairman.


Laneway Analytics attended the ThoughtSpot Thought Leaders Event held in Melbourne on 4 September. ThoughtSpot is as a technology company that produces business-intelligence analytics search software. We learnt at the event that its mission is to help users explore, analyse and share real-time business analytics data easily. Sounds very much like what we are focused on at Laneway Analytics, doesn’t it?

The event opened with ThoughtSpot’s James Belsey reminding us that 90% of the world’s data was generated in the last two years and what that means in a search-driven world. He left us with a quote from computer scientist and Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng that “Just as electricity transformed almost everything 100 years ago, today I actually have a hard time thinking of an industry that I don’t think AI will transform in the next several years.”

It was great to hear from co-founder, Ajeet Singh, who shared how ThoughtSpot started from applying design thinking to data and AI. He stressed that only with trust will these technologies be widely adopted by the business.

He explained how ThoughtSpot applies their Star Framework making sure that the following attributes are part of all product development: Security, Transparency, Accuracy, Relevance. Ajeet talked about how the evolution of adoption starts with functionality, includes ease of use but must always focus on trust and he encouraged all to take responsibility to bring transparency into our AI applications.

We then heard from Cindi Howson, who recently joined ThoughtSpot as Chief Data Strategy Officer. She talked about the need to be fearless and understand that change brings both exciting opportunities and scary disruption.

Cindy talked about three barriers to adoption: culture, talent and technical debt. These resonated strongly with the audience and would be very familiar to the superannuation funds that Laneway Analytics talks to. We should not underestimate the importance of the need for culture to evolve to value data-driven innovation and that transformation requires the right talent and team, which should include data evangelists and data storytellers along with the more traditional roles.

It is important to factor in resistance to change because it is inevitable. Be mindful of the threat to our people from the introduction of new technologies and tools. Consider their WIFM – what is in it for me. It should not just be another tool to learn, another piece of technology to master.

Cindy’s call to action was to stay focused on the vision and remember that it is likely to mean disrupting oneself.

We then heard a case study from NAB Chief Data Officer, Glenda Crisp. She talked about how they are working with ThoughtSpot towards the goal of giving their 30K+ employees empowerment to be data-driven.

All speakers reminded us of the need for ethical adoption of AI and the challenges of identifying and managing biases in our projects. Cindy cited the issue of using past lending data as historically the majority of lenders have been male. Any algorithm must introduce to the lending process not discriminate against females based on this past.

We came away from the event very excited about the future of data and AI. What we heard validated the Laneway Analytics approach that achieving adoption is not a technology problem or even a visualisation problem—it is a user experience problem.