What Business Leaders Should Be Excited About Coming Out Of Databricks’ Data and AI Summit 2024

Last week, over 20 of my colleagues and I attended the Databricks Data and AI Conference in San Francisco. This is a week I look forward to every year as it provides an incredible opportunity to spend time with our friends and partners at Databricks, enjoy some in-person fun with our customers, and hear from many other companies about their goals and innovations. Additionally, we celebrated a significant milestone for Lovelytics as we were named the Emerging Partner of the Year for the Americas.

I am always impressed by companies that can build a passionate and excited community around their product, and Databricks has done an incredible job of that. The excitement and energy at the conference this year were palpable.

Coming out of this week, I am even more excited about our partnership with Databricks, the innovation we can drive for our customers, and why we continue to bet our business on Databricks.

There were numerous technical announcements at the conference, and my colleagues will share their thoughts and excitement in our upcoming blogs. For me, I had four key takeaways from the week that I think business leaders and owners should be particularly excited about.

We Are Graduating to Solving Real Business Problems with AI

During the Wednesday keynote, the Databricks team showcased new functionality and incredible AI-centric demos around task automation, compound systems, agentic workflows, and applications that involve rationalizing and reasoning.

An exciting byproduct of the GenAI gold rush is a renewed focus on automation through more classic AI techniques. Not every use case is best solved by GenAI. As companies explore GenAI applications, they are discovering business workflows and processes where AI models can have a significant impact. This renewed focus on classic AI is driving innovation and efficiency in ways that complement advancements in GenAI.

More simply put – chatbots are great, but they aren’t solving business problems. Automation and intelligent task automation are solving major business problems, saving companies money, and/or making companies money.

For example, at Lovelytics, we worked with a global distributor of industrial products to improve the speed of onboarding new products to their catalog. The existing manual process involved writing product descriptions, classifying products, and optimizing pricing, which took several months. We implemented a compound AI system using GenAI to generate product descriptions and traditional ML to classify products in the catalog. This significantly reduced the time required to onboard new products, resulting in faster market entry and incremental revenue.

As an organization, we are easily the most excited about the opportunities that lie in this world, and I expect many of our customers to implement these types of compound AI solutions in the coming months. 

Databricks is Becoming Much Easier to Use & Accessible for Non-Technical Users

For non-technical executives and business users, two important announcements at the conference stood out to me:

  • AI/BI Genie: Databricks announced that AI/BI Genie is now available to the general public. AI/BI Genie is a chat-based tool that allows users to interact with their data using natural language. Our team enabled this in our internal Databricks environment for me a few months ago, and it has been incredibly useful for quickly accessing information about our sales and delivery teams’ performance. Most importantly, Genie provides an easy way for users who have never used Spark, SQL, or any coding languages to access their business data and get the answers they need quickly. 
  • Simplify Compute With Serverless:  It was also announced that all features and functionality are available on Databricks Serverless. A huge benefit of Serverless is getting automatic cluster sizing, configuration, and optimization. With the announcement that now all features and functionality are available, I expect many of our customers to make the move over to Serverless to increase their performance and reduce overall total-cost-of-ownership.

Databricks Will Be A Prominent Player in the BI Market

Another significant focus of the conference was the announcement of Databricks AI/BI, a new business intelligence product built from the ground up to deeply understand an organization’s data semantics and enable both technical and non-technical users to analyze data to answer their business questions. Many of our customers use Databricks alongside BI platforms like Tableau, Power BI, and Sigma. While the platform is still in its early stages, I am interested to see how it progresses. 

AI/BI is a significant step towards true self-service BI, significantly broadening the range of analytics that everyday users can perform in the Databricks platform. AI/BI Dashboards will allow users to access BI dashboards within Databricks, reducing the need to switch between platforms and potentially leading to tool consolidation, cost reduction, and centralized AI and BI in one platform. I anticipate the value of leveraging Databricks AI/BI  to be very compelling to many of our customers.

Looking into the near future, I anticipate as the product continues to mature quickly, organizations will begin to consider full migrations to the environment to reduce costs, centralize AI and BI in one platform, and provide users with a centralized location for all of their business questions.

Companies of All Sizes Are Realizing the Value

Data and AI are becoming the great equalizer between companies. In today’s world, a 5-person company with the best AI models or pre-built data solutions can compete with some of the largest companies in the world.

On Tuesday, I was invited to join a panel about how startups are using and building on Databricks to become leaders in their spaces. During the conversation, I had three main takeaways:

  • Faster, Better, More Cost Effective: For startups, cost is always going to be a big deal. With Databricks, there was consensus that many startups are seeing Databricks as more cost-effective than Snowflake and other competitors, while at the same time getting access to the best tools and technologies to make their products and solutions perform faster and have market-leading functionality. 
  • Engaging Databricks’ Team To Be a Force Multiplier: While Databricks provides great technology, they also have a massive team of sellers and go-to-market specialists. Many startups are working closely with Databricks’ sales teams to jointly go-to-market, leading to startups getting help from Databricks sellers to sell their products, while Databricks sellers are able to provide their customers with solutions that solve both technical and business challenges.  A win-win scenario. 
  • Databricks’ Revamped Startup Program: Steve Sobel, Databricks’ Startup Maestro (unofficial title), launched a revamped startup program where VC-backed startups can receive $21K in credits on Databricks to support development and launches. The program also offers incredible access to the Databricks team to support the growth of startups building on the platform. Learn more here.

Closing Thoughts

In the end, I could not be more excited about our decision to partner with Databricks over 5 years ago. The future solutions we can build for our customers, the continued exciting partnership opportunities with Databricks, and the chance for our team to continue to push the envelope in data, AI, and analytics is incredibly promising.