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NLG, A Final Step For BI?

NLG, A Final Step For BI?

Business intelligence (BI) tools have faced low adoption rates since their inception. And even when users use the tools, there is no guarantee they will glean key insights and interpret graphs, charts, and dashboards accurately.

Natural language generation solutions integrated with BI tools tackle these issues by automatically explaining and summarizing charts, graphs, data sets, and dashboards, and, in some cases, prescribing next steps. In essence, NLG solutions automate analysis, augmenting BI tools by making it easier for users to find, interpret, and understand all insights hidden in charts and dashboards.

NLG has the potential to empower people with little to no BI experience to make faster data-driven decisions (the holy grail of BI). If an NLG narrative explicitly tells decision makers in plain English what is happening, why it happened, and potentially what will happen, and what to do next, and they still don’t know what’s going on or what to do, you’ve got a hiring problem, not a BI problem.

Most BI vendors have recognized the potential of NLG to increase adoption and analytic literacy. Consequently, most have established partnerships with at least one NLG vendor, if not several. The partnerships vary in nature. Some NLG vendors offer pre-built plug-ins for BI tools that can be set up in minutes. Others offer a web browser extension for certain BI tools or APIs so developers can integrate solutions into a BI tool.

Below is a quick look at partnerships that BI vendors have established with NLG vendors. (See figure 1.)

Figure 1. BI-NLG Partnerships 

Some BI vendors bundle NLG plug-ins into their product without charge, while others offer it as an add-on for an extra fee. Even if an NLG vendor has not partnered with a BI vendor, customers can still integrate an NLG solution with a BI product; they will just have to do the integration work themselves and pay a fee to both vendors.

Here are some details on how various NLG vendors integrate with BI tools:

Arria. Arria’s Narrative APIs  analyze data sets, determine key insights, and produce a report in plain English that can be inserted into applications, dashboards, and websites. Arria also offers a software development kit that provides developers with all the components of the Arria NLG Engine. Developers can build solutions for BI tools that explain what data says, how and why something is happening, and suggest next steps. Microsoft and Tableau are developer partners that can build Arria NLG solutions for their BI clients.

Automated Insights. Automated Insights offers a public API to its NLG platform, Wordsmith. Customers can use the API to integrate Wordsmith into any BI tool (its partners use the same API). Once integrated, company experts can build templates and put them into production to provide users with automatic written explanations of BI dashboards and visualizations. Wordsmith also works with Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel to provide real time narratives that explain the key insights within charts, graphs, and spreadsheets.

Automated Insights also partners with Amazon, so customers can use the Amazon Echo smart speaker to use voice commands to query data in a BI dashboard and listen to the spoken data analysis.

Narrative Science. Narrative Science offers Dynamic Narratives, an API that developers can integrate into existing data analytics platforms. Once integrated, data analytics users can view narratives that describe insights in charts and dashboards. As users drill down into the dashboard and view new data, the narrative changes accordingly. Narrative Science’s BI partners package the API into extensions that customers can download and install.

Customers can use Narrative Science’s NLG platform, called Quill, which Narrative Science developers configure to generate customized, domain-specific narratives from any dataset. Narratives from Quill can integrate alongside dashboards, as well.

Yseop. Yseop offers Compose, a self-service SaaS product that customers can use to build NLG solutions. Solutions built for BI tools analyze dashboards and not only explain what the data is saying, but also why any changes in data have occurred and even prescribes next steps.

Yseop also offers Savvy, a plug-in for Excel, Qlik Sense, and Tableau 10 that summarizes charts, explains BI dashboards, and can export the narratives in Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and email. Yseop’s BI partners primarily work with Savvy, but do use Compose to build custom applications for their customers.

Takeaways and Further Reading

Many BI vendors partner with NLG vendors to give their customers the opportunity to add natural language explanations to charts and dashboards. Adding NLG capabilities to BI tools ensures users interpret dashboards and visualizations properly and don’t miss key insights. This in turn helps increase user adoption and analytic literacy.

Want to find out more about NLG? Check out our The Ultimate Guide to Natural Language Generation.

Want to find out if you have a use case for NLG? Click here.

Henry H. Eckerson

Henry Eckerson covers business intelligence and analytics at Eckerson Group and has a keen interest in artificial intelligence, deep learning, predictive analytics, and cloud data warehousing. When not researching and...

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