“Figma for X” might not be as common a startup trope as “Uber for X” but it’s definitely catching up over the last few years. My main beef with catchphrases like these are how often they get thrown around without any context unpacking what they mean. So bear with me while we don't make that mistake here.
Figma for X
Before Figma came along, Adobe and Sketch ruled the design tooling roost. Things were steady for a while, and then Google Docs went mainstream and the world started to realize that web apps are not only viable from a cost perspective, but also a vastly better experience for collaboration since files don’t live locally on your computer a la Microsoft Word and friends. So Figma jumped on this and nailed the landing.
So for our purposes, "Figma for X" is bringing a previously local experience to the web for a better multi-player experience.” Said another way: take something that has been silo’ed to your local machine and bring it into a web app so that multiple people can collaborate on the same objects.
Now that we have our hammer, let’s do a little thought exercise and search for a nail in the analytics and BI landscape. There are a few common places where analytics goes multi-player right now:
💻 Reviewing new artifacts
Whether it’s a transformation, metric, visualization, or the underlying SQL involved, it’s not controversial to say that many analytics artifacts should better follow software engineering best practices. This is a lot of the core philosophy behind dbt, which is awesome. Extended to the BI world, you don’t see as much of this. Some products try to weave in a Git-like experience with varying success. I suspect we’ll see more of this. My read is that this isn’t as much about collaborating real time as it is enabling collaboration through version control and review systems.
🗣 Conversation about artifacts
This is the most obvious point, but worth calling out. Arguably the whole point of analytics is to drive conversations and aspirationally, decisions. That conversation should happen within the analytics product, serve as documentation moving forward, and be surfaced in-context for future viewers.
⛳️ Flagging things when broken
I’ve written about this a bit before. Once some analytics artifact is generated, it usually doesn’t stay static forever. It’s a living, breathing thing that must be maintained in order to keep providing value over time. And as we all know, things break. When that does happen, there should be a baked-in way for users to flag problems and surface them within the analytics product so that analysts can check it out.
Let’s summarize the places where I see potential multiplayer analytics improvements: 1) Reviews 2) Conversation 3) Troubleshooting. If we can nail these three use cases then BI and analytics products would be better off, in my humble opinion. Of course the question still remains, how do we get there? I'll leave this cliffhanger for now. Give it some thought.