Summary:

A startup called DataRPM is hosting what it calls an “askathon” where business analysts compete to see who can come up with the best set of questions to ask their CRM system. It’s hardly a Red-Bull-fueled all-nighter but, hey, this is business intelligence.

If you’ve ever wondered what a hackathon for business intelligence would look like, you’re about to find out. A BI startup called DataRPM is holding its first one, officially called an “askathon,” later this month.

The “hackathon for the BI world” phrase comes direct from DataRPM Co-founder and CEO Sundeep Sanghavi, although I suspect it will be a little different in practice. That’s because the event is not so much about a bunch of developers chugging Red Bull and Diet Mountain Dew on the corporate campus, but more about a bunch of business analysts submitting CRM queries, in this case, via the web. Participants just need to submit their ideal set of questions for their CRM system, along with the expected answer and how they’d prefer the results to be visualized.

Submissions will be judged by a panel that includes Facebook Head of Analytics Ken Rudin, Eloqua (now part of Oracle) CFO Don Clarke and analytics expert/analyst Seth Grimes. The winner — that is the entry with the most-comprehensive set of questions — will receive a $5,000 prize. Additionally, Sanghavi said, DataRPM will publish the top 20 questions as a way of opening analysts’ minds with regard to the types of things they can ask their systems.

instant-homeOf course, the “askathon” is probably as much a ploy to publicize DataRPM’s software as it is to enlighten the world’s CRM users. Sanghavi gave me a demo of the product, and it certainly looks useful: Rather than a collection of dashboards and pre-defined functions, the interface is a search bar that supports natural language queries and tracks down results using search-engine-like computations and architecture. It also has a voice-recognition engine for verbal questions.

DataRPM software connects to a variety of databases, SaaS applications and even Hadoop. It’s also a SaaS product itself, hosted on the Amazon Web Services cloud. Essentially, it’s what you’d expect from a next-generation BI tool in terms of simplicity and ease of use with the search-like experience being the primary point of distinction from something like Tableau or anything created in its image.

Sanghavi told me the askathon is set to take place for 24 hours beginning at 2 p.m ET on Aug. 8.

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