Recently I received an email from Saqib Waqar, CEO of Allena, an interesting new vendor in the “plain English BI” space. Waqar comes from an ERP background having created custom ERP solutions for several customers.

Waqar made contact after seeing content I’d written about two other BI players, YouCalc (eventually acquired by SuccessFactors) and GoodData. Allena aims to use search techniques, alongside “computational technology” to allow users to create plain English reports for salesforce. Allena aims to produce a Google-like interface where a salesperson can type in a questions (for example “What are my sales?”) and have a report created in real time from salesforce data.

Plain English BI is an interesting space, traditional BI tools, and even some newer approaches to BI, take an inordinate amount of time to implement – I’ve heard reports of a six week implementation schedule for even lightweight use of one “cloud BI” vendor. GoodData was a company that aimed to solve this problem with its marketplace of prebuilt BI modules – I was very bullish on their chances but the SuccessFactors acquisition meant that we didn’t really get a chance to see how well the solution could work. I’m aware of other plain English BI approaches but they to generally require lots of work to get up and running – Allena aims to change this.

Allena isn’t creating a data warehouse, rather it uses the meta data to parse search queries, and then returns the report based on the live salesforce data. At this stage Allena is pre-launch, and the company is only currently working on standard data models to ensure their solution is as generic as possible. Over time however there is an intention to deliver the same sort of functionality over specialized data models from with Salesforce (and elsewhere).

Preview videos like the one below are always pretty exciting, but the reality often doesn’t quite live up to the promise. Allena is a very early stage company but one that looks really interesting. I’ll be following their progress over time. The video below is apparently created from a live product built on top of and is being run across a handful of salesforce customers to trial.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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