Our take on Izenda:A platform purpose-built for embedded analytics that provides the flexibility and power product teams require”

Overview

Building a data product can be a real nightmare for a product leader. 

An actual nightmare as in, it can keep you up at night working about all of the things that can go wrong. 

Will it function in an embedded environment? Will it scale to thousands of customer tenants? Will it make life difficult when I need to rollout a new version? Will the vendor “pivot” and stop focusing on data products?

If you are building an application with customer-facing embedded analytics and you value your sleep, you need to make the right choice when you pick a platform.

I’d like to introduce you to Izenda—a platform purpose-built for embedded analytics backed by a team that understands what it means to make analytic-powered applications successful.

What? You’ve never heard of Izenda? You might not be alone in that respect, but you’re also probably not one of the thousands of customers that are currently using the Izenda platform to power a data product. In business—and focused 100% on embedded analytics—since 2007, Izenda powers some of the big names in the healthcare, financial services, and education markets.

These companies chose Izenda for good reasons: embedded analytics is their business. It’s their only business. They dedicate all of their development efforts to making a great platform for data products.

As a result, you get just what you need as a product leader to get some sleep at night: a flexible, open architecture, easy self-service creation of analytics, complete control of the look and feel, and lots of embedding options. And they’ve thought through the ecosystem of functionality required to run your data product post-launch in detail.

Who’s It For?

As I’ve discussed before, data product efforts often fall into one of three categories: 

  1. You want a “toolkit” to build customized analytics and to (theoretically) save costs. You're willing to maintain the platform entirely in-house.
  2. You want some flexibility but will accept (generally) lower customization capabilities to have benefits of a “fully-baked” platform (rather than a toolkit of parts)
  3. You have insufficient development or technical resources and want a fully-managed analytic system. In this scenario, you need a vendor that will do it all for you.

Izenda falls squarely into… category 1.75. It’s not a toolkit—it’s a “fully functioning from day one” platform on which to build your analytics. But it offers flexibility that you don’t see in most non-toolkit systems. Don’t like the administration system? Rip it out and replace it with your own. Prefer different features in the functionality that schedules delivery of analytics? Use their API, build your own, and connect it seamlessly to Izenda. It’s crazy flexible.

That said, it most certainly doesn’t fall into the third category of fully-managed solutions. Izenda assumes that you have some resources both for implementation and for operational aspects of the product.

Key Features

Izenda is loaded with features that make it a great option for data products.

On-Premise, In the Cloud

Izenda is entirely web-based, for authoring, for analysis, and for management. As the product owner, don’t worry about distributing packaged software to customers who want to build ad-hoc charts and graphs, nor do you need to use a desktop application to create and manage dashboards. It’s all done completely via the web with an easy to use drag-and-drop interface.

But Izenda differs from some other platforms in that it’s not offered as a hosted service. That is, to use Izenda, you install the platform on either your server or on a platform such as AWS. From there, it’s entirely cloud-based. This differs from some vendors who offer their platform in a software-as-a-service model and should be kept in mind as you make the buying decision. You have options in how you choose to deploy—on-premise in your own data center or via a cloud hosting provider. It’s just a little different from vendors that package the software and hosting together.

Open & Extensible Architecture

For a data product team, choosing the platform on which to base their analytics is often an exercise in compromise. This one has the best ETL, but we don’t like the bar chart style. This one looks great, but the admin functionality is lacking. This one is good right now but lacks the ability to incorporate the functionality projected on our roadmap.

As a result, your data product is often “close, but not quite” in the end. This drives teams to choose the “build from a toolkit” approach which sounds great but introduces many additional problems.

Izenda has solved this dilemma with their open and extensible architecture model. Without getting into the esoteric details, they’ve designed the Izenda platform so that you can modify, augment, or even replace just about everything.

Any part of the Izenda stack can be completely modified to fit your specific needs. This means that you can have a platform that meets your product needs today and which has you completely covered for needs that might arise in the future. Its tremendous flexibility gives a product team unlimited options for both the user interface and the overall product functionality rarely found in a fully-formed platform.

Robust Embedding Options

As a community of data product builders, we've become a bit complacent in our demands around embedding options. Frequently, platforms are embeddable, but only using iFrame technology. 

We dismiss this limitation of the platform by creating tabbed layouts, embedding entire dashboards into our core applications and foregoing a level of control that we might prefer. The need to embed as an iFrame limits the potential of our data products and therefore, the possible modes of engagement.

Izenda has considered this limitation as well and instead uses embeddable React.js components that render natively in HTML5. This means that you aren’t limited to using complete dashboards or sections of dashboards that have no understanding of the functionality on the page around them. You can embed an individual analytic, entire dashboards, reports, or even admin functionality right alongside your core application workflow and create interactivity between the two.

Self-Service to the Extreme

Everyone talks about self-service analytics these days. It’s the hot thing. But it’s got a different meaning for embedded analytics in data products.

Self-service analytics for “inside the company” use cases often refers to the ability of users to build their metrics, analytics, and reports without involving the analytics group. Users can answer questions as they arise without outside assistance.

For a data product, self-service analytics needs go far deeper. It’s not enough that users can create or modify analytics, your customers’ administrators need functionality as well. Let me explain.

Imagine that you have an application that tracks inventory and you’re adding analytics. You create analytics and arrange them into dashboards for your users (large retailers), but they need more functionality. Your customers want to be able to take your dashboards and combine them with their own data, information from other inventory sources, and present those analytics to their suppliers. Essentially, it’s an analytical "double-play" with analytics required for your customers’ customers.

This is not something that you can achieve with most analytic platforms. Even if they provide the management tools necessary to operate analytics outside your walls for a large customer base, the almost certainly don’t let you delegate granular administrative privilege to (gasp) customers.

Izenda does. As a benefit of opening in the data product space for many years, they’ve heard some of the requests that are unique to data products — hence the ability to delegate self-service administrative privileges as needed to customers.

You might think you’d never need something like this, but it’s the rare customer that doesn’t require some minor tweak to their analytics so that they better fit their business model.

Without this delegation capability, you quickly become a services business, mired in fulfilling the specific needs of customers that want to modify or build upon your data product. Or, you simply tell them no and turn away the revenue.

With Izenda, you get the best of both worlds — you never have to turn away the business and, you let the customer perform the work.

Deep Control Over Permissions

Just about every platform on the market today gives you granular control over who sees which analytics and data. But not all of them allow you to perform this functionality both via a user interface and programmatically through APIs. Izenda does.

With Izenda, you can control not just exactly what users are seeing, but you can easily create and manage “service tiers” in your data product.

What this means is that, via Izenda’s functionality, you can create a “basic” tier of analytics, a “plus” tier, and a “pro” tier each with different functionality and assigned to different users. While other platforms may require you to create entirely separate dashboards (or even variants of your core product), Izenda makes it simple. Specify which users belong in each tier of service and let Izenda push the correct analytics through React components embedded into your application with Javascript to each user type.

It provides flexibility for the product team without generating operational headaches as the user base grows.

Analytics on Analytics

Let’s say you’ve decided to price your analytics according to the number of times users access advanced functionality. Or, perhaps you would be interested in knowing if that new function you recently deployed is being used? Maybe you’d like to A/B test dashboard variants to see if one generates higher engagement.

You can do this on most platforms, but they often require you to write custom code or cull through log files and piece together what’s happening. As a result, this highly useful information is often ignored, and the product team is left operating in the blind.

With Izenda, you can create analytics on the usage of… Izenda. The platform lets you easily monitor overall utilization, usage by dashboard, page, or analytic so that you can quickly see if certain functionality is being used.

The ability to do “analytics on analytics” is an incredibly powerful idea and should be table stakes for a data product platform. As a product leader, I often had no clue if new functionality was being used until the results started being reflected in revenue numbers. Not good.

Izenda’s ability to provide detailed analytics on the usage of your data product is essential to data product teams. Once you have this data, reverting back would be like driving a car with a blacked-out windshield.

Services

Services are key to a successful data product deployment. Even companies with top-notch engineering teams can find themselves in a situation where everyone is occupied, and the product never gets rolled out to paying customers. Shelf-ware is expensive.

Izenda offers services for the initial deployment of your data product, focusing mostly on the technical implementation aspects. They tell me that the average deployment of a data product is between two and eight weeks, with the occasional enterprising customer ready to go before they’ve even requested a production license.

That said, Izenda isn’t a “fully managed” platform, and they don’t offer in-house data product strategy services. For situations where customers require extensive development support, operational support, or strategy services, Izenda has a network of partners that work to ensure your needs are met.

Pricing

As I’ve mentioned before, the pricing of the underlying platform can make or break a data product. Platform vendors that don’t understand the unique needs of data product teams often fall short here, demanding lengthy contract terms, substantial up-front fees, or "per user" licensing terms.

Izenda’s pricing is ideally suited for data products. Their model is based on an annual subscription for which you receive all product modules, unlimited distribution, and unlimited users. That means that you can create a data product for five client companies or 1,000, for one user or 10,000 all for the same cost. 

You can offer free basic analytics to get your users engaged (and willing to buy higher-priced packages) without breaking the bank. And importantly for a product owner, you can predict costs easily. No more playing the “how many users do I think we’ll have in a year” game.

Caveats

As with all things in life, there are a few caveats. Izenda is a great platform, but it’s not for everyone. 

Here are a few things to consider if you’re evaluating vendors.

Izenda is one of the few platforms that is entirely focused on data products for your customers. If this isn’t your primary goal, if you only need to create operational reports for internal constituents, you might want to make a different choice. It’s not that Izenda can’t or won’t work for this use case, it’s just that you’ll be getting lots of data product-oriented functionality that you won’t use.  That said, many business choose (rightfully so) to treat internal analytics just like customer-facing data products and in these situations, Izenda is ideal.

Izenda is not a fully managed solution. If you’re in a situation where you have zero available resources, where your engineering team is 100% occupied, and where you need someone else to do it all for you, Izenda won’t be the best option.
Izenda assumes a minimal level of resources to co-design, co-develop, and later run your data product. If you are intensely resource-constrained, you might want to look for a fully managed, do-it-all-for-me platform/services provider.

Izenda doesn’t provide hosted analytics in the cloud. They provide software that you install on servers or host on one of the numerous options on the market. While you can offer analytics in the cloud to your users, you will supply that cloud, not Izenda. This is a different model than what is offered by some platforms today and requires you to consider the operational requirements before you make a decision.

Final Thoughts

I love finding embedded analytic vendors that understand the data product market and its needs. It’s even better when that vendor has created a platform that expresses the needs of data product builders both in functionality and in the flexibility of its architecture. That’s Izenda. 

They understand the needs of those building customer-facing analytical applications and have taken great care to think through everything you need for a data product.

If you are building an analytical application that requires precise customization, the ability to incorporate new technology as it becomes available, and can be easily managed at scale, Izenda is an excellent choice for your platform.

 

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