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As the pandemic drives enterprises to adopt digital tools, they’re becoming aware of the need for data observability technologies. Observability technologies monitor systems and apps via logs and other sources, enabling businesses to receive feedback from their systems, services, and apps. A 2021 study from ClearPath Technologies found that 61% of companies now practice observability, up 8 percentage points from last year. And according to New Relic, 75% of businesses expect to increase their observability spend in 2022, while 50% are in the process of implementing an observability practice for completion within the next year.
Against this backdrop, Observable, which provides a data visualization platform for developers and data scientists, is seeing usage of its observability products increase. The San Francisco, California-based company, which was cofounded by former Google VP of engineering Melody Meckfessel, aims to help customers including Stitch Fix, Trase, The Washington Post, and MIT make better business decisions using data.
Observable was launched in 2016 by Meckfessel and Mike Bostock, who created a programming foundation for interactive data visualization called D3.js. According to Meckfessel, while data-driven decision making is core to the success of businesses, “tool hopping” is currently required get analytics work done. Traditional data work is dependent on many different tools — a reality that can be slow and error-prone.
“[We] saw an unaddressed gap in how enterprises analyze and action their data,” Meckfessel told VentureBeat via email. “Whether it’s business unit silos or manual data processing or long review and feedback cycles, there remain huge unaddressed roadblocks in how enterprises are able to make use of data quickly. [We] set out to fill this gap by combining their unique areas of expertise to build an entirely new way to collaborate and communicate with data.”
Above: Observable’s data analytics platform.
Observable connects across lines of business to let users explore, analyze, and build reports and dashboards for data analysis teams. Data practitioners can open a web browser and start working from predesigned templates or code snippets, or reuse one of the examples created by the Observable community of more than five million people. The platform can also connect data from databases including Snowflake, BigQuery, and cloud-connected files such as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets. Users can export the resulting visualizations to external apps and environments if they choose.
“Observable’s value to enterprises comes in its ability to combine and compact workflows in two key ways. First, it provides a live collaboration environment for all members on a project team to work synchronously … Second, by ingesting data from across the organization, it allows teams to stitch together previously disparate datasets,” Meckfessel explained. “The technical decision maker or C-level manager in the IT department can review any dataset … visually to pull meaningful insights. More importantly, they can manipulate the data and the visualization in real time to interrogate assumptions, explore alternative scenarios and change variables.”
A 2019 Forrester study found that between 60% and 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics. Accenture similarly estimates that only 27% of companies are deriving actionable recommendations from data and analytics projects.
The promise of platforms like Observable is helping companies realize the value of the data that they already have. In a Deloitte report, 49% of companies that have implemented data observability platforms say that analytics helps them make better decisions. A further 16% say that it better enables key strategic initiatives, while 10% say that it helps them improve relationships with both customers and business partners.
With 28 employees, Observable competes to some extent with Cribl, Monte Carlo, and Bigeye, the last of which augments instruments data with monitoring and anomaly detection capabilities. Another rival is Acceldata, which develops products that offer observability across data quality, data pipelines, and data system infrastructure.
Above: A visualization created with Observable’s tools.
Investors aren’t shying away from placing bets on Observable, though, which claims to count over 180 enterprises as customers. The company today announced that it raised $35.6 million in series B funding led by Menlo Ventures with participation from Sequoia Capital and Acrew Capital, bringing Observable’s total raised to $46.1 million.
“We’ve had an incredible year of growth, backed by the need for stronger digital collaboration tools. The nature of the pandemic means that businesses have to constantly re-analyze and re-forecast, making business decisions on the turn of a dime,” Meckfessel said. “They need tools that can keep pace, and they need to be able to access those tools from anywhere — our web-based collaboration environment supports that collaborative rapid decision-making and the market response affirms that value.”
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