Is Your BI Tool Maximizing the Value of Your Startup’s Snowflake Investment?

Devon Tackels

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Sigma

Startups that thrive are always asking, “How can we do this better?” From process improvement to product development, startups are agile and looking for the most effective way to operate.

Most startups launch with this mindset from the beginning. For this reason, they use cloud solutions for their data and software needs. Why invest in traditional IT infrastructure, enterprise software that resides on that infrastructure, and on-prem data warehouse and BI tool? This setup is expensive, requires an army of IT talent, and doesn’t provide you with the flexibility you’ll need to be successful.

If you’re reading this as part of a startup team, chances are you’re using a collection of SaaS applications to keep your company moving. Your tech stack might include Salesforce, HubSpot, Drift, Workday, Slack, and Zendesk. And you probably use a modern cloud data warehouse (CDW) like Snowflake to process and store the data coming out of those apps. If you’re looking to get more value from that data, you want a BI tool that allows you to take full advantage of your CDW’s capabilities.

You need a tool that, like your company, was born in the cloud. Retrofitted tools designed for the on-prem era don’t directly connect to the cloud data warehouse, instead they rely on stale data extracts to power analysis. And they can’t write-back to the CDW to re-use analyses across your cloud ecosystem. Besides these limitations, they can take weeks to months to set up. All of which eats into your ROI.

To take advantage of all that’s possible with the modern cloud data warehouse and see the ROI you’re looking for, you need a modern, cloud-native BI tool. In this post, we’ll explore the common obstacles many popular on-prem era BI solutions present and how you can use a modern tool to make the most of your Snowflake investment.

Why you want to start off right with your BI solution

With all the benefits that come with being a data-driven company, it can be tempting to choose and implement a BI tool as quickly as possible. But you want to be sure you choose a tool that will accomplish what you need. Here’s why it’s so important to start with the right tool.

Limited analytics velocity slows you down

Speaking of moving fast, it’s invaluable to be able to access insights quickly since it allows you to take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities and fix issues before they become problematic.

One of the most significant benefits of the modern cloud data warehouse is that it allows you to work with vast amounts of data in different formats at lightning speed. This stems from storage and nearly infinite computing power. Why not take advantage of this capability to analyze data at the speed of thought? All your data (even semi-structured data like JSON) is consistent, secure, and available at a moment’s notice if you have a BI tool that allows you to plug into Snowflake’s capabilities.

Limited adoption requires investing in robust data teams

Many BI tools are anything but intuitive. Most require knowledge of SQL to go beyond high-level reports and static dashboards. But the most valuable insights lie below the surface. They come as a result of the follow-up questions that your marketing, sales, and finance teams ask to uncover the “why” behind metrics and trends. If your tool doesn’t allow business users to dive into the data and find their answers quickly, they must submit requests to a data team with the necessary technical skills. These teams of specialists are expensive to build, requiring a committed, long-term investment.

Reporting bottlenecks waste specialist skills and slow insights

If you choose to invest in people with technical skills, you probably want them working on more valuable tasks —like complex analysis and data modeling— instead of running endless reports for others. One recent survey showed that data analysts spend up to 50% of their time fulfilling ad hoc requests for business users who need insights but cannot generate them themselves. This is a waste of their skillset and leaves them unfilled.

And unless you’re able to invest in a large team, the number of ad hoc report requests are likely to overwhelm your data engineers and analysts, leading to delays that compromise your people’s ability to make decisions as quickly as they need to. This results in business users bypassing IT compliance and data governance initiatives to use whatever data they can get their hands on.

Rouge spreadsheet usages leads to data extract sprawl and creates security risks

Typically, when business users are desperate for insights, they work with the data they can access directly from their applications, bringing it into spreadsheets. This sprawling network of data living in spreadsheets doesn’t update automatically, so it quickly becomes outdated and inaccurate. And the insights derived from it aren’t reliable. Additionally, it creates a compliance nightmare, increasing the risks of security breaches.

Benefits of taking a cloud-native approach to A&BI

Cloud-native BI tools can address all of the problems outlined above since they were built precisely to solve the issues causing them. Here’s why you’ll want to choose a cloud-native tool like Sigma that has the functionality you need to take full advantage of Snowflake (or whatever CDW you’re using).

Accelerated data access

Snowflake streamlines data access so you can easily find and access data of any type from any source. Start by connecting a modern ELT (extract, load, transform) tool that extracts and loads your data into Snowflake. The custom transformation will then happen for each unique analytics task in real-time. This allows you to create a comprehensive source of information that’s always fresh, in a format you can use. But you can only take advantage of this capability with a BI tool that fully integrates with the cloud data warehouse and puts analysis into the hands of your people (even the ones without technical skills).

Accelerated insights

Snowflake excels in its processing speed thanks to its patented multi-cluster shared data architecture that quickly loads, integrates, and analyzes all structured and semi-structured data. This happens inside a unified repository that works across clouds and regions. Practically, this translates into enabling all your teams to query the same shared data at the same time without slowdown. Which means you don’t have to wait hours for that urgent report at the end of the quarter, or first thing Monday morning. Again, this capability does you no good if you don’t have a BI tool that fully integrates with Snowflake.

Accelerated adoption and ROI

Without a cloud-native BI tool that’s easy to use and makes collaboration simple, you’ll miss out on a large percentage of the ROI you could be experiencing. Sigma’s spreadsheet-like interface is intuitive for business users, and it converts their actions to corresponding SQL under-the-hood. You are no longer waiting around for the data team to deliver ad hoc reports. At the same time, technical users can dive into the SQL and work directly with it. Your teams can collaborate in shared workspaces, fully protected with robust security that’s governed by permissions. They can share analyses and quickly build upon one another’s work.


Learn more about maximizing the ROI of your cloud analytics investment with Snowflake and Sigma in our free eBook.

Want proof that cloud-native is the way to go?

Companies like yours already see greater ROI on their Snowflake investment thanks to Sigma. Here are just a few examples.


As a self-described “Snowflake shop,” Clover relies on their CDW to house information from dozens of sources that its business teams use daily — including MySQL, Salesforce, Google Analytics, Heap, and Greenhouse. But Clover lacked a way to make the information accessible to those without the SQL background to explore and analyze it, and bottlenecks were holding them back. The company used Sigma to achieve a 90% decrease in time to data insights and reduce its ad hoc reporting queue by deploying Sigma to 75 users across seven departments.

Read the case study to learn more.

The E.W. Scripps Company

The E.W. Scripps Company used Snowflake and Sigma to improve its speed to insights significantly. Before implementing the combined solution, 62% of employees were unable to access the data they needed in the time required. The company’s data experts experienced long report queues, and line-of-business teams had to make decisions blindly. E.W. Scripps was able to speed up data query times by up to 100x, reduce time to data insight by 90%+, and analyze twice as much data at no extra cost.

Check out the on-demand webinar to see how they did it.


Payload, an existing Snowflake customer, used Sigma to improve its data product, making it more valuable to customers. Payload achieved 7x faster delivery time while saving $8,000+ on every report they generated, and they opened up a new revenue channel. This allowed them to increase customer retention and land new business.

Learn how they achieved these savings by checking out the case study.

A modern cloud analytics stack is the ticket to fast, full ROI

Modern CDWs like Snowflake need a cloud-native analytics tool to fully extract the value they can deliver — many of their features can’t be utilized with BI tools built for on-prem servers.

With the combined power of Snowflake and Sigma, you can centralize your data sources, expand data access while increasing data governance and security, and unlock rapid analytical insights for anyone in your company.

Have more questions? Get answers by reading our Definitive Guide to Analytics and BI for Startups. 

Learn more about maximizing the ROI of your cloud analytics investment in our free eBook and on-demand webinar.  

Ready to maximize your ROI from Snowflake? 

Sigma can help: Schedule a demo or start a free trial today