AI-Generated Reports Are the Write Stuff

Artificial intelligence-generated writing solutions can present a narrative to complement all those numbers and charts.

6Feb

Complete information, faster conclusions, and better decision-making — digital-era success hinges on them. But an organization with a single version of the truth, spreadsheets filled with accurate data, is still a few rungs short of success. One reason: management needs easy-to-digest reports that interpret the numbers. That tends to lead to cleaner interpretations and crisper decision-making.

Enter artificial intelligence-generated writing solutions that can present a narrative to complement all those numbers and charts. These products drill-down into ab organization's database and auto-produce easy-to-understand, written reports from the same data that Microsoft Excel uses to generate graphics.

Some of these relatively new AI tools — also known as natural language generation, or NLG, software — are variations of the same technology that helps major media organizations produce computer-written news items. One vendor, Automated Insights, made its name helping the Associated Press churn out sports stories from its databases.

Anna Schena, a senior product manager at Narrative Science, another AI-generated writing toolmaker, says that “data storytelling” means users don’t have to learn how to analyze spreadsheets or glean insights from long rows of dashboard dials.

“Easy-to-understand language and one-click collaboration features ensure that everyone in a company actually understands the data, all the time,” Schena says. Report narratives can also be personalized for teams and departments.

Says Sharon Daniels, CEO of Arria: “NLG-driven, multi-dimensional narratives are the breakthrough that [data-generated] visuals were years ago. The big data problem was partially addressed with the evolution of business intelligence dashboards,” she explains.

“But while visuals paint a picture, they’re not the complete picture.”

Adds Daniels: “The ability to access key information in near real-time — communicated as if written by the company’s top analyst, without bias, at an NLG writing-speed — is truly astonishing.”

Put to Work

Deep inside analytics departments, NLG tools are gaining traction. Adam Heitzman, a managing partner at HigherVisibility, a digital marketing firm, is an early adopter. Heitzman used AI-generated writing software from Arria NLG to punch-up reports containing the graphics rendered by his propriety business intelligence (BI) software.

“We’ve developed narratives on massive amounts of data to be able to instantly and clearly articulate the marketing value we’re bringing to our clients," Heitzman says. "The [Arria NLG] platform has dramatically reduced the amount of time and effort to uncover insights."

Brian O'Connor, lead director, advanced analytics global business services at biopharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, enhanced the graphics produced by Microsoft’s Power BI.

"Arria NLG Studio's BI analytical and linguistic capabilities provide us with the technology to dramatically improve the speed and efficiency of our reporting," O'Connor says.

Meanwhile, chip goliath Nvidia is enhancing its Tableau dashboard with Automated Insights: "Automated Insights’ Wordsmith has completely changed how our team interacts with Tableau," says LaSandra Brill, head of digital planning and insights at Nvidia. "We can now ask the most pertinent questions directly within Tableau and receive real-time analysis from Wordsmith."

IT solutions provider Macrocomm adds narrative to its analytics program’s output as well: "By adding narratives to Eureka, we can produce summary findings in multiple languages that can be shared with stakeholders at a speed and scale not previously possible,” says Vinny Perumal, a managing director in the compnay’s utilities division.

Integration

Some of the more popular business intelligence software packages that can be integrated with AI-generated writing programs include the aforementioned Excel, Power BI, Microstrategy, Qlik, Spotfire, SAP, and Tableau.

Many of the integrations feature real-time updating of data in both formats – text and images – which makes it easier to keep up with changes in analysis.

For example: If a graph you're looking at in your BI software report suddenly takes a 20% dive, many AI-generated writing programs can instantly explain the change with an updated text description.

Having an automated report writer in-house offers a CFO the opportunity to generate reports on a more frequent basis if necessary. Why be satisfied with a performance report on sales each month when you can auto-produce that performance report each week?


In fact, some seasoned users of these writing/graphics integrations set their reports to auto-refresh every time they open-up their BI applications.

Business analysts also welcome the new freedom AI-generated writing offers them to engage in more in-depth analysis.

"With automation, the analysts put their expertise into the software and the software writes the reports," says Adela Schneider, a spokesperson for AX Semantics. "The experts are thus relieved of their workload and can concentrate on their main assignments."

Of course, integrating an AI-generated writing tool with a company’s BI software doesn’t happen overnight.

“People must invest a significant amount of time and resources to set-up and perfect NLG software on the front end,” says Brian Everett, senior partner, MindShare Strategies, a transportation and logistics consultancy. In addition, “after reports and articles are generated, people still need to review and tweak the text to ensure it makes sense and is error-free.”

Key Players

Automated Insights, Narrative Science, and Arria are the top-three players in AI-generated writing, according to a 2018 report by Forrester.

Their solutions that demonstrate the greatest ability to auto-generate richly worded text from data, according to Forrester. They also offer the most customization, in terms of the kinds of reports that can be generated, as well as the number of writing styles that can be used. And the three offer solutions in more languages than their competitors do.

Given the great value AI-generated writing offers businesses, look for a number of new AI-generated writing providers to emerge. Such solutions will come in the form of stand-alone tools — like those from Automated Insights and Arria. Others will emerge as add-on tools to comprehensive business software suites like SAP and Salesforce.

Bottom line: Even if you’re not in the market for AI-generated writing right now, you’ll want to track this tech closely.

Data reports auto-created with AI-generated writing make insight and decision-making at a company much easier because “everyone knows the same story,” says Pooja Parthasarathy, a senior product manager at Narrative Science. “There’s no interpretation and there’s no element of guesswork or (alternative) perspective that goes into it.”

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