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Start off blank ,together. Data collaboration on canvas

Imagine you and I need to solve a puzzle together. There are quite some puzzle pieces to combine. You got a handful pieces and so do I. It will take us forever if we described to each other the puzzle pieces we have. What we really need is a canvas big enough to spread out all the puzzle pieces, inspect and sort them, try different combinations, move things around. It will be much easier for us to solve the puzzle this way!

Working with data often leaves us puzzled

Data, let it be the numbers stored in table or the text in a document, are the puzzle pieces we face every day at work. Staring at bunch of numbers in isolation tells us fairly little. Only in connecting the dots between different pieces of data, we are able to put them in context and derive actual information. In that sense, the data point “1500$” is fairly inconclusive. Only a glance in a data dictionary tells us whether what we are looking at reflects a price, actual revenue or even an expenditure. If we assume our fictional data point represents an expenditure, a bunch of questions pop up in our minds: Is it high or is it low?”, “Is this a typical expense after all?”. To move from information to actionable insight, we need to bring in a healthy dose of judgement. What it often takes is a conversation with a valued colleague who, thanks to his knowhow and experience, presents a piece of information in the right light.

The example we walked you through might sound dull and self-explanatory but isn’t it a gentle abstraction of the kinds of trouble we regularly face at work? Oftentimes, all we get to start with is a spreadsheet with some data attached to an e-mail with fairly little guidance on what it all means . What follows are a series of lengthy e-mails, messages and calls to seek contributions from several people – data scientists, engineers and business owners – to collectively move from out-of-context data to information and eventually insight. Having all parties talking to each other is essential to solve the puzzle but does it have to be that tedious and time-consuming for everybody involved?

We see enterprises modernizing their IT infrastructure and architecture to collect evermore data in evermore places while teams tasked to decide on the grounds of this data are trapped in traditional collaboration patterns. These routines simply cannot keep up with today's information landscape which features data in all imaginable shapes and sizes: PowerPoint slides, Word documents, dashboards, Python notebooks, database tables comprising dozens or even hundreds of dimensions. Sadly, available tooling insufficiently addresses the requirements of collaborative data discovery. Data analysis and visualization software rests on the premise that a few power users build useful dashboards for others to look at. Within this top-down workflow, there is no notion of sharing and integrating contributions from multiple users, observing each other’s activities, or communicating with other users of the system. Existing productivity solutions such as Figma or Overleaf, on the other hand, support multi-user interaction for light-weight operations (e.g., editing text, drawing shapes, adding multimedia elements). Strinkingly, these tools do not offer the possibility of accessing and collaboratively editing databases and machine-readable data at scale.

The magic of digital whiteboards

At detective, we address the need for unbounded multi-user collaboration on data of any type or size through a freeform digital whiteboard with big data access. Yes, a whiteboard! In the physical world, we turn to our beloved big, white spaces for a variety of reasons: brainstorming, explaining complex ideas, refining concepts, telling stories. After all, bringing the whiteboard experience into the digital realm overcomes several limitations we know too well from our offline whiteboard encounters. The off-putting feeling when you are about to get drawing, but your pencils are empty. The running out of space because your handwriting and ideas are bigger than the space at your disposal. The bitter aftertaste when all that remains is a static, low-resolution photo of your whiteboard scribbles when the workshop is over.

When teams interact with their enterprise data through the detective platform, they never run out of space, ink or computational power. Users can upload whatever data they have, drop all elements with the click of a button onto a blank canvas and arrange everything in a way that fits their mental model. To help users stay on top of things as the discovery expands, collaborators can track each other's mouse movements, and a mini-map provides an eagle-eye view of where work is currently happening on the canvas. Using a range of annotation and notification features such as sticky notes, pens, free-text commentary and tags, users can annotate, draw, comment and notify at will. Most importantly, point-and-click analyses and free-text database queries empower business owners to take the lead in the exploratory stages of the analytical process. With that, the detective platform provides an egalitarian workspace where the team member most suited to answer a particular question is empowered to do so. Wherever you or your team members go, your canvas travels with you. The detective platform is accessible through any browser via desktop or smartphone. Meetings can be joined and organized on the fly. Any user can open up a canvas, invite participants with a few clicks and get going. After all, contents are auto-saved and remain accessible for all users way beyond the session, to look up what has been discussed, make edits afterwards or pick up right where the last meeting ended when running additional follow-ups.

Empower your teams to work on data with ease and creativity to solve the most challenging puzzles in your organization using our data co-working canvas. Sign up for our newsletter and schedule a demo with us today to find out how you can foster effective data collaboration at your organization using the detective platform.

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