James was no stranger to analytics having co-founded Web analytics company Omniture in 1996 when the web was in its infancy. In 2009 he sold it to Adobe Systems where he spent time, before following his entrepreneurial instincts to create a company that made relevant data available to every decision-maker across the company, not just online marketers.
He temporarily named his company Shacho (which means chief executive in Japanese), then purchased a local data visualisation technology company called Corda to give him a head start on building the Domo platform. He gave his new company the name Domo, which means thanks in Japanese.
I interviewed Paul Harapin, vice-president and general manager Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ), to see what all the fuss was about Domo and its spectacular growth in APJ that sees it opening a full-service Melbourne office, the third in the region along with Tokyo and Sydney.
“First off, let’s not call it things like BI, business intelligence, because there are so many BI/Analytics packages and they consistently miss the mark for business users. More than 65% of businesses in APJ are yet to harness Big Data in more than just an ad hoc, opportunistic manner, largely because decision-makers can’t easily find the answers and clarity they need from legacy BI and analytics tools," Harapin said.
So, what is so special about Domo?
Harapin was effusive – his words have been condensed down to manageable sound bites.
Domo's Business Cloud provides a business optimisation software platform that connects an organisation’s people with their data, to enable real-time, collaborative decision making, to drive better performance outcomes. Domo can interrogate almost any data source (accounts, SAP, Salesforce, even social media – there are more than 500 connectors and it is easy to build more) to give real-time information, presented in the manner (almost any graphical format) that you want. It is so easy even a managing director can use it! In fact, it was built for such a business audience.
The challenge with traditional BI is that you must build the models (what you want to know and where you can find the data) and frankly the results are based on historical data – what has happened. Business moves so fast, that users need to know what is happening as it is happening, not a month later.
How do you set up Domo?
First, it is cloud-based – pay per user as you go. It can be switched on and running instantly and training is a breeze. We like to say if you can navigate Facebook, you can use Domo.
Domo starts from the premise that there are key indicators that cover every problem. For example, a board may be interested in financial indicators, marketing in sell-through from campaigns, and so on.
What Domo does is make it easy to identify those key indicators and construct visualisations on-the-fly in real-time that can lead to more visualisations, commentary, investigation and collaborative decision making.
It all starts as a “card” (report) and you can add more cards to that or start new cards. This is all drag and drop, with the capability to build apps using Adobe Illustrator (if you want simple and stunning graphics), or in HTML and Java. Thirty minutes of training and you are away. “Beast mode” (expert) takes a little longer.
Let’s say that different people have different effects on a key indicator. The card creator can involve them in that card and communicate via a chat-like interface to solve issues. For example, if sales of air-conditioners are dropping in one market against trends you can involve local sales teams, installers, warehousing, and even the weather bureau data to get real-time answers.
Let’s start from the premise that you are buried in data housed in a multitude of data repositories. The key is working out what question you want to solve. Using the marketing example, you may want to correlate social media mentions to sell-through in the store, to warehousing and distribution. That is very hard for BI/Analytics to do in a real-time and easily digestible manner for non-technical business users – yet this is precisely what Domo does.
Business leaders don’t want to read data about data – they want a command-and-control platform which enables them to quickly understand any market situation, come to a consensus, and take the necessary actions without delay. Every business knows the struggle of getting too little value out of too much data, and our growth this year suggests that Domo’s unique combination of visualisation, collaboration, and mobility does indeed help them decisively end that battle.
One more unusual application was to “gamify” a retail shop restocking where workers could earn points for efficiency in shelf refilling or clothes hanging. In one instance, it was an ad-hoc process that took most of the day and after using Domo it was all completed before the shop opened.
At present Domo in APJ has focused on retail/e-commerce, media/entertainment, and finance and it is building business by consulting in other areas. It is all about a solution by your role in the company as well as the industry - next ones to enable are health, education, and manufacturing.
This seems to be an indispensable tool for running a business?
When you run a business, you get historical reports from so many places (silos) – accounts, sales, manufacturing/purchasing and you need to put them into a sense of order, usually via Excel and we all know what errors that can induce.
All that data is there – we just overlay a way for you to access it and visualise it. Over time those dozens of cards you initially made consolidate to what really matters but you might find some of these become attached to other cards for special occasions.
We find that most people only need regular alerts (Domo will email you) from a handful of cards – we call it the Daily Domo.
Is there a danger in allowing 'unskilled' people to access data?
Domo's business optimisation platform is aimed at enabling cross-functional decision making, with full identity management security across all data and reports. Democratising data, putting it in the hands of inexperienced “analysts” soon reveals incorrect insights and collaboration ensures decisions are made by those who count – you can see what others are interested in.
Our solution is hosted on AWS and its security is amongst the best. We use HTTPS encryption as well.
What is the demand for Domo?
The year 2016 has been a bumper year for Domo. It’s more than 100% growth in APJ is a testament to its value proposition resonating among businesses ranging in size from established multinationals to disruptive start-ups. In short, they want a more intuitive and immediate way of turning the masses of disparate data surrounding them into actionable market opportunities.
We are using the old “shoe leather” method to identify prospects, fire up a proof of concept (that is really quick) and show what value Domo provides to an organisation.
What we are finding is that we have created a Domo ecosystem where users and developers can put their Domo apps into a private app store so users can share ideas and concepts. We are also breeding a new kind of business consultant that can use Domo to quickly address business issues.
Our growth is often due to word of mouth, very high retention rates, and a burgeoning Domo community called Dojo – Japanese meaning “place of the way”, a training place.
The future of Domo?
Domo is what you call a “unicorn” that has reached over US$1 billion valuation threshold. It is heavily backed by Benchmark Capital, Greylock, salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and many more Silicon Valley names. It is currently ranked 18 on Forbes Cloud 100.
Harapin is very upbeat, not only for the company but for APJ. His working life has been in developing markets for IBM Tivoli Software, VMWare as vice-president & managing director, Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific and later vice-president, Business Development & Cloud, Asia Pacific Japan.
“I love the culture (it was voted best company to work by Utah Business Magazine), I love talking to clients as they start to realise what it can do, and I love that we are seeing s Domo uncovering, real-time, actionable insights – measured by significant business success."
James has been building a community of Domo sapiens that will drive the company forward. It has an annual conference called Domoplaooza.
Harapin concluded: "it is time that data, business intelligence, and analytics was democratised and broadened outside of the IT function, to all areas of an organisation."
PS - He is a Sydney Swans tragic. His father-in-law is Swan's legend Kenny Williams.