Domopalooza day one insights - the epic quest to win the BI business user

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed March 22, 2017
Domo talks a big BI game and Domopalooza is a whirlwind. My job: to parse through the fun and festivities to see what Domo's customers have to say, on the keynote stage and in the hallways. Here's the news and questions that stood out from day one.

Domopalooza keynote chat - with Target

Ever since my colleague Den Howlett's masterful deconstruction of Domo last year, I've been anticipating my first Domopalooza, Domo's annual user conference. Ordinarily, after one day at a show, I'm still pushing for deeper insights, or what I think of as the "real deal," which usually surfaces at the convention bar after hours.

But after a marathon day that included an extravagantly long keynote, numerous talks with customers, and analyst sessions with Domo execs like President Chris Harrington, I have enough for round one.

One of Den's biting questions was that of Domo's market positioning. I saw some clarity there today, with an emphasis on one overriding mission: winning the hearts and minds of BI business users. This doesn't necessarily mean kicking other BI vendors to the curb. Domo strikes me as more than willing to co-exist with other BI products, doing their own land grab in a Risk-like manner.

Domo is licking its chops at the chance to spread further into the enterprise, hopefully becoming a more addictive and adopted BI option. Telling Domo "there are already enough BI vendors" would be like telling Slack "enterprise users are happy with the collaboration tools they have." The two companies are very different, but neither holds back because of incumbents. Ergo, there was no talk of Tableau or winning over Tableau customers today (one of Den's prior beefs). Different products, largely different markets.

BI market challenges - all vendors have the same talking points

Domo faces huge challenges in product and positioning. The BI market is loaded with vendors that echo very similar talking points to those I've heard from Domo, including:

  • We bring people and data together.
  • We empower business users like no other BI tool.
  • Our mobile experience is kickass.
  • Unlike other BI solutions for business users, ours has data scale
  • BI users are fed up with emailing stale reports and waiting for IT to deliver a massive integrated data lake/warehouse.
  • Real-time data across data sources means executives can finally make decisions with accurate data.
  • A single source of truth means you can stop squandering meetings arguing over whose data is accurate, and become a data-driven business.
  • Cloud solves a lot of BI problems by making scale-across-diverse-sources possible while changing the ease of BI use.

Let me take a wild guess - you've heard most of those from a BI vendor, or at a SaaS keynote before? Perhaps you scratched under the surface and found the claims exaggerated, or the delivered product lacking.

Domo has another big problem: the business users it hopes to win are likely jaded by past BI promises failed (BI project failure rates are eye-watering, often cited in the 50-80 percent range). You can't hit prospects with happy horsesh!t BI slide decks. Instead you have to spread the sneaky/smart way, trusting that one happy user will win over another, until your evil plans hit critical mass.

The best antidote? Customer stories

So if you're Domo, and you passionately believe you DO deliver on all these things, what should you do? You let customers tell your story. And Domo did a solid job of that on day one. Though the news items Domo announced today weren't the kind that go viral, they were the type of product enhancements customers dig. But Domo's bigger win was the numerous customers that hit the keynote stage - and shared meaty stories.

Perhaps the most memorable was Target, which started small with Domo but is now operating at massive data scale. Bringing a Target business user on stage to join the BI lead did more for "winning business users" than a zillion marketing jingles.

Domo also did something onstage I'd never seen before: they brought in a parade of customers that built their own apps on the Domo platform, with minimal help from IT (the app creators were business users, not developers). Even better, the tedious "low code" buzzword was never uttered.

Domo is historically mysterious with its numbers and enterprise intentions. So before I share the debate these customer stories provoked, here's a few numbers we clarified during our analyst sessions today.

Domo by the numbers

  • This year's Domopalooza dwarfs the last two in attendance, with 3,000+ attendees.
  • 20 percent of the customer attendees are VP or CXO, with another big chunk at the manager level.
  • Domo has 700+ employees and now cites 1,000+ customers, with a $120 million run rate.

Harrington in analyst session

Harrington added more color:

  • Domo's enterprise push is still pretty recent. As Harrison put it, "enterprises have a really long memory." They started building up in SMB, but in the last twenty months Domo has made a concerted enterprise push.
  • Growth rates have not been updated officially of late, but Harrington alluded to past growth rates of 100 percent as being the goal each year.
  • Domo's pricing is a per-user license model.
  • Domo still has IPO intentions, but it seems a ways off. No dates were cited and the answer made me think it's not close to happening. (Domo came out of stealth mode in 2015 and raised $200 million with a $2 billion valuation).
  • When asked whether Domo sells more to the CEO or the CMO, Harrington said that while Domo sells to the C suite, "by far" their biggest sales activity comes through the CMO office (close to 50 percent). CMOs already grasp SaaS concepts and typically have some budget. Sales, operations and finance round out the top departments to sell into.

A few customer proof points

Kim Schuhman of GE with her app

Kim Schuhman from GE kicked off the customer app showcase. Her role at GE? Business Insights Manager - "My life is solely dedicated to leveraging Domo to provide our leadership team and the people on the ground with the daily information they need to run the business." And how did the app come about?

We were here last year and saw some of the stuff previewed. I'm sitting there, and I glance over at my boss and say, "I'm going to make you really happy." I just happen to have a background in marketing and graphic design and I can do this.

Schuhman built a "Commercial Scorecard" app using Domo's Illustrator plug in:


You don't have to be super smart and technical to get this stuff done. Something like what you're seeing on the screen, if you could wipe your calendar and focus solely for a day, you can produce something like this.

Though this particular app took a bit longer, due to pulling in a dozen different data sources and being a first run, Schuhman says she's built a more streamlined version of this type of app in a day. And why did she build the app?

Senior execs wanted a quick snapshot to help them understand, at a high level, "How do I gauge the health of my business? So you start asking all the functional experts, "What does that mean? What are the metrics you want to see?"

But that's where you can get into trouble. If you're not careful, you find yourself with tons of dashboard and charts, but few insights:

[A user can get] lost, they lose context, they don't really get the full picture of how one piece of data relates to another, especially when you're talking about finance versus HR versus marketing. A screen shot like this - You can quickly glance and say, "How's everybody doing?"

Schuhman liked the convenience of building the app herself, but there are cost savings as well:

In a previous life, I've worked with agencies to build these things, so I know how long it takes and how much it costs. This was free, we did it all in-house. Quick, cheap, and it really gets the job done.

Beyond the app customer demos, CEO Josh James interviewed three customers on stage: Univision, United Health Group and Target. The Target session was instructive as it started with Ben Schein, a BI lead at Target with an elaborate job title (Director, BI and Analytics within Enterprise Data, Analytics and Business Intelligence (EDABI) CoE).

Schein has been something of an evangelist for Domo within Target as their investment in Domo has grown. During his afternoon presentation, Schein said their current Domo scale was a Teradata-to-Domo API push every fifteen minutes, 9-10 million rows processed per run. He cited 325 million rows of data in their hourly data sets.

Schein was then joined on stage by Lisa Roath, Target's Vice-President of Merchandising Transformation Insights. I'll delve into these customer views in more detail in a future piece, but Roath's views as a business user echoed many I heard today:

The tweet caused some pushback, with some thinking I was throwing users under the bus. I simply meant that vendors like Domo pushing modern BI tools must convince users who have heard "too good to be true" before. These users are jaded from pushing the BI/IT team to get changes made, and waiting weeks or longer for even small changes to come through. Roath summed that up well:

We worked with Ben a little bit on what the typical questions are that [our buyers] are trying to answer. His team put together a very scrappy version of it afterward, and they put it in front of maybe fifteen buyers in a room in the morning, and showed them what it could do. And he got feedback from the buyers, "We should do this," and, "I want to drill here," and whatever it is. [Ben's team] went away, and at the end of the day, they brought it back and they brought changes.

I cannot emphasize enough how mind blowing that is. People can't even get their heads around it. We're used to putting stuff into a queue, and maybe we get an answer, maybe we don't.

It's not just about new BI tools; it's about changes in workflow and attitude:

I think it was honestly a big change management moment, to have fifteen heavy users from different parts of the business go through that experience, and then be able to take that story back to the world that they come from.

Quick wrap

That's a good place to stop for day one. I still have questions about Domo's predictive and AI strategy. A security session tomorrow will shed light. I took a break from writing this to hit the after parties, and got plenty of fodder, aka "the real deal," that needs review in the light of day. I've been warned that if I have too much fun at Domo's shows - apparently an easy thing to do - I'll lose my BS detector. Let's hope I can avoid that cruel fate. Next up: customer use cases.

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