What language does your business speak? That’s the question award winning innovator Neerav Parekh wants to answer for you with Phrazor from vPhrase.
Every business today is faced with a rather unique predicament brought on by a series of inflection points. First, we had to learn how to do business on the PC or the personal computer. Maintaining accounts, making presentations, creating marketing collateral – so on and so forth became the new regular a few decades ago with the advent of Macintosh and Microsoft. And then, came the second inflection point: the Internet.
The digital world has brought its own set of opportunities and challenges. Big data is one of the biggest challenges and at the same, it holds enormous opportunities as well. With the advent of the Internet and the subsequent rise of algorithm based search engines and the E Commerce realm, we have found a curious way of evolution – one that happens at a much faster and more frequent rate than all the past decades and centuries put together. Therefore, it would be difficult to decipher what has led to the explosion of usage, users and use of the Internet – the connectivity itself, or the third inflection point which would include devices like smartphones and other hand held devices.
While we go about our lives using our smart phones, we barely ever stop to understand what powers simple actions like having meetings online, buying grocery, posting nuggets of information about our lives on social media, banking and other such things online? What makes a company or a brand show up with relevant content in the relevant place, to help us make a choice we were pondering over? While many people may say this can be attributed to good SEO practices at the very base, and algorithms that power these practices as you go higher up; the answer is actually a simple one that powers entire industries and businesses – structured or big data. Or rather, being able to decode the same in a relevant and timely manner. This can be a game changer for any and every business out there.
The Boon and Bane of Structured Data
What happens when we are faced with structured data? We start looking left and right to find someone who would be able to help us understand the data. In layman terms. Whether you are looking to buy a garment online, or sell a book, there are mounds of big data that would need cracking and decoding. Imagine receiving a series of facts, figures and structured data from an analyst. You would have to set up a lengthy meeting with the said analyst in order to understand the following:
- What do those facts and figures mean for your business and its goals?
- How can you use these facts and figures in a language that would appeal to your end user?
The key lies in decoding the language in a way that helps you make use of the relevant information to articulate what your customer is looking for. Deconstructing analytics to get useful, actionable, measurable and reliable words, phrases, insights and more would be the need of the hour. And in a timely manner, without having to manually do so only to reach the finish line by the time the data or trend is already obsolete. Why do you need to do this? For attention. With the plethora of social media and E Commerce portals and platforms, the attention span of the customer has also become fickle. You need to harness this attention with the right words in the right place. And for this, combing and mining of the right data with translation into the right words is a requirement that many of us need urgently – on an automated basis. Basically, we need a strong consort between artificial intelligence and business intelligence.
But, the question is – why do you need this and what would it do for your business?
It means you have managed to take the gist of the big data by taking what your end user wants to hear, you have managed to get your foot in the door. NLG or Natural Language Generation is a practice that helps you make a place for yourself at the table. And vPhrase is one of the foremost companies doing so.
Laying the Foundation for Data Driven Operations
Neerav Parekh, the founder and innovator of VPhrase, the NLG leader in India, is dedicated to the cause of insights. When we say taking the gist of all the big data and creating a language that businesses and their customers can respond to; we are talking about what Neerav Parekh has mastered with his model, Phrazor. His innovation was intended for disruption in a market that was still relying on online marketing practices in a space where business intelligence was required heavily. People were just doing business online as an extension, not as a core practice where their business was, in fact, online.
So what inspired him in his design led pursuit of a model where BI meets AI?
“The inspiration behind vPhrase was an unmet user need I discovered while running my Performance Marketing Agency. We created and sent reports to various clients to help them assess sales performance. At the agency, the Project Managers spent a considerable amount of time creating reports for their respective accounts. On receiving these reports the clients wanted the PMs to visit their offices and explain the reports’ contents. The report, as a standalone document containing detailed numbers and charts, was unable to communicate performance levels to clients who were business owners and users. The charts needed explaining and the numbers needed interpretation in words the clients understood and that too quickly before the data became irrelevant,” Parekh tells us as he etches out the landscape as it stood before he began his journey of innovation.
“It was apparent that the approach to creating reports needed a major overhaul to serve user needs swiftly and independently without experts or professionals. I wanted to channel all my efforts in building a solution to meet this fairly large user need which is why I cut short my journey with the digital agency and founded vPhrase.” And thus began, vPhrase. The message is a simple one that greets you as soon as you visit the website – insights from data, in words. Tellingly, this shows just how efficient Parekh’s design thinking and consequent system would be.
Doing the Different: Data and Story Telling
The next question that automatically comes through is that there are many companies crunching big data and doing innovative things with the same. What is vPhrase doing differently?
“Data is widespread. Its availability, varied uses, and very many benefits have made their presence well known by now. So increasingly companies are trying to inculcate a culture of data within their teams. But the process and progress are slow in large part due to the unmet user need I spoke of earlier. Users want to use data and let it guide them but they don’t know how. And I am not talking about the data scientists and technologists but the business users whose work can benefit a great deal from data. Our product Phrazor bridges this gap between cold, cumbersome data and its potential benefits to businesses. It automates the reporting process and the interpretation of data is a seamless communication of insights in words using AI applications which include Natural Language Generation and Machine Learning. We are helping companies better understand their data without having to struggle with it.”
In this context, we brought up a well worn phrase that has become a mantra of sorts online: content is king. Translated, this means that there would have to a strong element of story telling in order to build a narrative from insights and big data. And it seems to be the exact bottom line that Phrazor is delivering.
A Language for Everyone to Understand
Parekh agrees with us when he says, “Language is key to the dynamic insights generated in Phrazor’s reports. And where there is a language that uses meaningful words to communicate, storytelling becomes the natural choice of transmitting the message because stories are most effective in setting context and making an impact. Data driven storytelling has become critical to communicating insights to users in a manner they understand and are urged to act upon. It is a combination of words and visuals. Data Storytelling in Phrazor’s context takes on different plots, characters, and storylines depending on the industry and function the report is catering to. Take for instance in the Talent Acquisition function, the Recruitment Performance Report tells the story of the rise and fall in the number of human resources by way of developments such as manning, open positions, vacancies, internal transfers. The plot thickens with comparing hiring costs of various recruitment sources (agencies, portals), zeroing in on locations where the bulk of this movement is taking place and which individuals (supervisors) have experienced losses (attrition) within teams. The data stories vary with each report, function, and industry and incorporate specific business domain context to make the report more insightful and relevant to the said user.”
This is apparent when you look at the deliverables promised by Phrazor, starting with new and unique inputs that would galvanize your operations and campaigns into relevant and significant action. Further, this action can be measured even as it makes for a stable and reliable system of doing business. In context story telling? Apparently that is what the Phrazor design is rather efficiently gunning for.
And that is not where the story ends. The features have been carefully married with languages for the benefit of a more widespread audience and to cater to more widespread needs. About this, Parekh says, “These data stories can be told in 20+ languages (regional and foreign) depending on what the user understands. The personalized portfolio analysis reports we developed for Motilal Oswal offer multilingual recommendations to the firm’s customers which is a very critical input for them to know if they should Buy/Sell/Hold an investment and why. The second use case that showcases the union of Phrazor insights and regional languages and successfully democratizes COVID-19 data is the Phrazor Insights dashboard. It provides real-time global updates in English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, and Telugu.”
Inclusive Systems for Exclusive Solutions
True to his word, on closer inspection, the Phrazor dashboard delivers an inclusive solution in keeping with the fact that the new normal as a result of the spread of the pandemic, has afflicted everyone uniformly – the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the employee, the boss. With credible sources like Johns Hopkins in the picture, among many others, the Phrazor dashboard delivers visualisations that would help grasp the exact data to portray the correct picture. Charts, graphs, trends and comparative scenarios are rendered in order to break down the data and present it in a relevant manner.
Providing Context in Data Interpretation
Feature heavy, static, lack of interpretation and ready insights – these are a few problems that Phrazor seems to be solving. How does this design work towards better decision making? While Parekh and his team have used an information + communication model to solve data-related problems, what makes this approach a wholesome and inclusive one?
“BI and visualization tools often get it wrong when the data scientist/engineer/designers’ bias creeps into making a solution not intended for either of these professionals. With Phrazor our complete focus is to avoid any design or development bias. The focus is on providing an intuitive user experience for business professionals and stakeholders who are not data or technology experts. We do this effectively with drag and drop capabilities instead of code windows to add charts, visuals, and insights all of which can be customized using the Graphical User Interface. No code is required. Users can incorporate their variable calculations within the descriptions and generate relevant and accurate insights in real time. But what we know is a real game-changer is our library of report templates which have been built for specific functions and industries. Each template incorporates relevant business context and generates actionable insights for specific business users. These templates provide bespoke reporting with a plug and play model for easy execution. Plug in the data and generate insights that speak directly to your role, function, and industry. The built-in business domain expertise combined with Business Analytics and NLG makes for really good insights that can impact decision making within enterprises in a big way.”
Design Thinking at the Core: Where AI Meets BI
Phrazor clearly has its end users in clear sight within its design. Therefore, the design works at different stages and phases of the value chain rather than limiting itself to a single level or type of end user. Parekh admits to this when he says, “We cater to three types of users – power users that include the C-suite, business users that include professionals contributing to various functions in the company value chain, and end-users that comprise customers and other stakeholders such as branch managers and field force personnel to name a few. Our clients span various industries because the use of good insights from data is a pressing need of all industries that want to use data to drive their business efforts.”
A simple focus on the Phrazor work flow shows evidence of this kind of design thinking thanks to the way it operates from creating an account, garnering insights, to distributing and publishing the data. Yet, this must lead to many challenges. And today’s design led practices must place much competition fueled pressure on the innovator. How does one thrive in a design led environment like this?
Here, Parekh doles out some stellar advice based on his own experience, “Our biggest challenge is being in step with rapidly evolving user needs and gauging the readiness of enterprises to adopt BI tools. We position ourselves as a user-first company providing a product as a service to simplify Business Intelligence and Business Analytics through insightful stories.”
The Parameters of Design Success
What are the parameters that one would typically use to create and present narratives within key insights? How does the Phrazor storytelling design allow for better interpretation of data?
“Data Storytelling is the vehicle but at the heart of the reporting lies the effective use of Business Analytics to ensure that the insights being provided are worth our clients’ time and resource investment. The insights must provide new and significant inputs and most importantly provide answers to questions such as – What is the implication of the analysis? What is the data telling us? And why should the end-user care? It must be actionable and capable of effecting change in real time. There are certain requisites for what makes good insights and we follow that to a T. This allows for data to be understood and used beyond the basic interpretation. It provides deeper analyses which can prove crucial in bagging competitive advantage within the industry, an ongoing pursuit of all enterprises,” says Parekh.
This brings us to the next big question in keeping with our opening discussion on the evolution of data and the way insights are garnered. Historical data to predictive and diagnostic insights – how does the vPhrase model create a correlation through its design? And where does AI fit into this narrative? While storytelling is the basis of the presentation here, how does AI fit into the picture for a unique narrative for each unique client and their needs?
Here, the design philosophy is a simple one as adopted by Parekh, “Our product Phrazor is built and developed by strategically linking Technology (AI + ML), Data Science, and Business Analytics. It generates useful and actionable insights in human language as per industry and function specifications. The uniqueness of the narratives stems from Phrazor’s analytical engine which is perpetually powered by built-in domain context and the wide range of use cases we deliver to our clients.”
The Road Ahead
Like all good things, this too is bound to evolve and replace the old with the new. How important is it to think of the next innovation when you design something disruptive today?
“It is imperative. It is the nature of the beast. Even while design and development for disruptive innovation are underway, you are already thinking of processes and thereby people and organizations that could benefit from an extended application of the solution,” Parekh asserts.
Finally, any advice for the startup owner enthusiastically looking to kickstart an innovation filled journey?
Much like his AI meets BI system, in just a few precious words, Neerav Parekh puts it perfectly when he says, “Think of the user, not the customer when innovating.”