Story-First Data App Lands in North America, Tells ‘Only What You Need To Know’

Ted Cuzzillo,
Principal Analyst – Data Analytics

Summary Bullets:

• The new tool’s story-first approach may succeed in winning over the vast numbers of business users who never use data.

• The software maker, Toucan, should consider new messaging and take more seriously the threat from other vendors to imitate its approach.

How do you present data to those who would rather run away at the first sight of a dashboard? Multiple surveys over the years all come to a similar conclusion: roughly three quarters of business people feel this way. They could use data but never do. Now a product out of Paris, France works on a radical idea: message first, data second to deliver only what people “need to know.”

That data-second concept bucks the conventional assumption, that users want data to make their own observations and conclusions. And they want to drill down as far as questions may lead them.

Toucan Toco’s top down approach is absolutely not self-service. Presentations are created by authors, who are forced to simplify and focus data in a lockstep path with very few choices. Authors can’t even change fonts. Toucan Toco enforces simplicity.

Messages have such primacy that creators can actually sketch out a presentation with fake data to create placeholders for real data. That’s easy to do because Toco ignores an old assumption, that those engaged in data like to drill down. Toco gives them, as the product literature puts it, only what they “need to know.”

Toucan’s bold rejection of analytics industry dogma — self-service, data’s primacy, and almost infinite accommodation to a user’s inquiries — naturally inspires a question. What market is there?

According to Toucan, sales during the roughly 12 months of its aggressive marketing in the U.S. has won two clients. The company insists that this is good in a new market, especially given the COVID-19 disturbance. Worldwide, Toucan has won 142 new clients over the last 12 months. That’s slightly fewer than the previous 12 months, but Toucan insists they’re happy to just stay afloat this year. The vendor specifically emphasizes banks and governments among its clientele.

Another reason for the lopsided results could be messaging. Feeding a European audience with “only what it needs to know” goes down better than to the average American audience, which tends to tilt more toward individualism.

Another unfortunate term in Toucan marketing is the almost meaningless “easy to use.” To any longtime recipient of software briefings, that phrase has either no meaning at all or indicates poor positioning.

Toucan’s simplicity also inspires a second question: What prevents more established vendors, such as Qlik, Microsoft, and Tableau, from simply duplicating Toco’s features? Once any vendor becomes convinced of Toucan’s market, couldn’t it strip down its analytics app to a barebones imitation?

Toucan acknowledges the threat but dismisses it for reasons that fail to convince and, worse, hint at a failure to have thought it through. It’s true, as Toucan points out, that established vendors seem intent on stuffing their software with ever more features. But what’s to keep them from issuing a tool that’s ultra-simple?

The other vendors do offer a storytelling capability, says Toucan, but without built-in design guidance. Again, what’s to prevent those established vendors from doing so?

The coming year or two will tell whether Toucan’s bold and worthy foray will pay off. It has indeed found a niche that has stood empty for too long. Its best hope is to have time enough to establish a beachhead before more established vendors grasp the message-first imperative.

 

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