Ā, Domo. Hajimemashite – Customers of domo.com
Domo changed the way we do business. We don’t just do things better, we do things differently.
- I flew in to a snowy Salt Lake City last week for my first Domo.com conference: they call it Domopalooza, and as vendor events go, this one certainly had a party feel about it. Here at TreeHive.com, I’m a little more restrained: even the Zen lounge was too stimulating! But I greatly appreciate the hospitality shown by the teams and the friendliness of the crowd.
- As I now attend quite a lot of vendor events, I have decided to structure the way I write about them consistently: 3 posts about each event, looking at customers, technology and lastly the company and culture. So first, my impressions of Domo’s customers. I will focus on what I heard as their unique experiences …
Driving decisions differently
- It changed the way we do business. Many customers have said this over the years. Way back in the late 90’s, adopters of Microsoft OLAP Services, or Brio, or Cognos said the same thing. Into the new century I heard it from PowerPivot users, Tableau customers and Qlik analysts. Each case varied in the details; nevertheless, from those older OLAP tools to the self-service discovery tools of today, the key impact for users has been the same: finally, we have data available at the right time, in a format that enables us to make decisions that are better, faster, cheaper, more distributed …
- I heard similar stories at Domopalooza. But listening carefully, there was a different emphasis: Domo customers talk about the platform’s role in the decision and after the decision. And they characterize this is in ways which tell a quite unlike our familiar business intelligence case studies.
- Traditional BI tools provide excellent inputs to decisions, but the operating principle has not changed much over the years: present, typically, large amounts of data in a summarized or visual form to a human analyst who, if they have an insight from the data, will make a decision. But that decision is then put in action with an entirely separate workflow, technically and organizationally disconnected from those BI inputs. BI tools inform decision makers, but don’t manage the decision management process.
- When I worked at Microsoft, one of the digital marketing teams had a catchphrase for this: PowerPoint for discussions: email for decisions. Now, with storytelling or presentation features in Power BI, Tableau or Qlik we have a better alternative to PowerPoint. Yet the workflow, in essence, remains the same.
- Two very different customers I met at Domopalooza – a CMO and a CFO, described how their teams extensively use the Domo collaboration features called Buzz. If you know Slack, or Teams, or Chatter, you’ll easily understand the Buzz model. But here, data is live and connected to cards (the visualizations which Domo creates) and thus easily linked to alerts. As a result, the collaboration workflow is dynamic and directly engaged with the data. An executive can set up an alert from their standard dashboard to be notified of an important change in a critical metric. But at the same time, they can begin a conversation about the action to be taken; assign a task to a team to deal with it; bring in new people to the workflow, create a new card if that’s needed to track the task; and create a new alert around the data behind the card; all without leaving the Domo mobile environment.
- I have seen something slightly similar, and effective too, in ClearStory, but there the collaboration is closely tied to stories and comments on the original artifact, rather than creating a new workflow which can be managed independently and integrate other components as needed.
- For the CMO, she wanted decisions to keep pace with rapidly changing data from her digital campaigns: Buzz was critical to her way of working and her entire team worked from Domo on their devices. She was very excited by the opening day’s keynote demo from Chris Willis, which promised predictive alerts (you’re trending the wrong way) from forecasting models.
- For the CFO, whose concern is to have a managed process, it is equally critical that the data, the decisions and the workflows are all governed together. In his case, it is the control and tracking after a decision had been made, which distinguishes Domo from other tools.
If it’s not mobile, it’s not real
- It’s rarely a good sign when someone pulls out their phone in the middle of, what should be, a focussed conversation with you. At Domopalooza it happened nearly all the time. Customer attendees just loved to show you their business in their pocket. Over the years I have seen (and taken part in) countless smartphone BI experiences demonstrated on conference stages and at trade show booths. But I have simply never seen so many real customers – whether in organized meetings, or just in the corridor – snap out their phone and show me the key tool they use to run their business, right there in their hand. As one said, if it’s not mobile, it’s not real.
- For the senior decision makers who, to my mind, make up the most distinctive category of Domo users, data on the desktop just won’t cut it.
- The CFO of a major internet media company was remarkably hands-on with his business data. As you might expect, the dashboards – built over the already highly-mobile Xero accounting platform – are critical to him. But what he really enjoys is the mash-up of that data with web metrics from Adobe Analytics (which was originally, Omniture, the previous success of Domo’s CEO Josh James.) Being constantly on the road, the mobile app is essential.
- What’s more, he built most of the integration himself, and still does. I did ask him if that is a wise use of his time, but he sees it as highly productive and insightul work. And he’s the CFO so I guess he’s watching the ROI!
- One of the most impressive customers I met was Devon Horton of the East St Louis School District. What extraordinary work they have done in one of the most troubled school districts in the US! It was really very humbling to talk with Devon whose commitment to students was powerfully personal. Their turnaround team has indeed turned around the lives of students, teachers and schools.
- Devon constantly uses his Domo app. Every meeting he attends, every school he visits, right down to every classroom or student intervention: he has the supporting data with him. That is cool in itself, but I could build that in other tools. The Domo mobile features go beyond just being a ready reference for Devon: the alerting and collaboration features proactively engage him when a project, task or assignment needs attention. So, in a meeting, he can support an argument with data – standard BI stuff – but there and then he can also set up metrics and alerts and a discussion flow to keep in touch with the situation from then on.
Help! I need somebody
- I know these are super positive stories. I’ll forgive if you think I have been waterboarded with Domo koolaid. Well, I did see plenty to be critical about, and that will come in later posts about technology and strategy. But in conversations with customers, three things did stand out. Firstly, the decision-making workflow enabled by collaboration and alerting features. Secondofly, the experience of using Domo is genuinely mobile-first in a way that leaves other BI applications looking tethered to the desktop and rather dated with it.
- Finally – as other analyst attendees noted – customers just fall over themselves to praise Domo’s Customer Success teams.
- With a critical, or cynical eye, you might wonder why so many customers need the help of the customer success team. Isn’t the software easy to use? Is it difficult to deploy? What about the CFO building his own dashboards and workflows?
- To be clear, there were plenty of stories about issues along the way to a successful Domo deployment. Sometimes, despite their so called Magic ETL, Domo users just find data issues to be difficult. That’s understandable: not all data is structured in a way that non-technical users can readily understand, and even advanced ETL developers regularly come across thorny integration problems. So yes, the Customer Success teams get involved there, as you would expect. But I discovered that they are typically involved even more.
- Josh James, the Domo CEO, recalled in his keynote that in their first year, Domo retained only 50% of their signed up customers. Ouch! I suspect it is from that experience that they have built a customer success process that is very assertive. Today, Domo claim to retain well over 90% of customers, which is a good number for a BI cloud vendor.
- The driven, energetic approach of Domo’s customer success probably explains their much higher profile with customers. Rather than being a troubleshooting team of last resort – when technical support has failed to resolve an issue – Domo’s team engage to solve business scenarios rather than technical problems. As a result, they are often involved before technical roadblocks arise.
- Frankly, this must be a very expensive way to retain customers. Whether it is sustainable or scalable or not is something I’ll consider in a later post about the company and its culture. Whatever the cost, it does buy Domo a great deal of loyalty and enthusiasm from their customers.
Ā, Domo. Hajimemashite!
- The title of my post is a handy phrase I picked up from my Japanese teacher, Jun Akutsu. あっ、ども。はじめまして! It means something like: Hi! I am pleased to meet you. After some years of watching Domo emerge as a new company, it was indeed a pleasure to meet the team and their customers in person.
- In my next post, I’ll dig in to some of the Domo technologies. There are some fascinating goings-on under the hood, not all of them positive, but all intriguing! Watch this space …