Sigma Computing is a data analytics tool emerging onto the scene with some help from Snowflake. Though Sigma has been around for a few years, they have released some substantial features so far in 2022. In this post, we’ll explore what is new in Sigma for 2022 (so far!) and how we can expect to use these features in future data analytics work.
What is New in Sigma for 2022?
Sigma Computing has had a meteoric rise in the last year due to its focus on upgrading an analytics staple: the spreadsheet. Sigma has reformed the humble spreadsheet into a modern data visualization and interactive investigation tool that unlocks the raw data for all levels of analytics. Sigma thrives on growing the unpredictable and sometimes drawn-out nature of ad hoc analyses into consistent and approachable insight. Because of Sigma’s familiar spreadsheet experience, beginner end-users are empowered to perform their own analyses through quick glances at data and equally quick in-depth analyses.
Sigma is great for ad hoc analyses and can even reduce the amount of back and forth between teams in answering a simple question like, “What SKUs contribute to our dip in profit in July?” or “What stock tickers are overvalued?” By empowering the end-user to do their own analyses, Sigma allows for quick glances at data and equally quick in-depth analyses.
With Sigma off to a great start to 2022, let’s get into what’s new this year:
Enhanced Look Ups
One of the best features in Sigma is their lookup function. A lookup function allows you to look up a value in one column when referencing another. This feature is extremely familiar to any Excel power user, and Sigma makes it easy to implement in their platform. This feature has existed in Sigma for some time, but it was enhanced for early 2022 and includes the following changes:
- Sigma introduced lookups done via the GUI in their last release. This is done by selecting a column in edit mode, selecting the drop-down using the downward facing arrow, and going to ‘Add Column via Lookup.’ From here, you will see this screen:
- Next, select the column you would like to add and specify the element this new column will be derived from. If necessary, you can also select to aggregate the value (avg, sum, countd, etc).
- In the second section, select the join key. You will see the percentage of matches for this join, as seen above. These two bars will show a single match or multiple matches. If there are multiple matches, you will need to select an aggregate in section 1. For example, if you join on department ID and want a sum of sales by department ID, or an average price per unit and the data includes multiple matches with no aggregate specified, you will see an asterisk.
- This lookup column can be added via the GUI outlined above, or manually by using the LOOKUP() function. The GUI creates a function/column which can be manually updated as well.
- The look up functionality can match various levels of granularity in one calculation, making it similar to an Level of Detail (LOD) calculation in Tableau.
In my opinion, templates are one of the most incredible features of Sigma. There have been countless times where I have ended up recreating the same visualization across several different metrics and data sources. Sigma’s reusable templates can be saved and shared across organizations freeing teams to devote their time to meaningful analysis and not duplicative configurations.
- Templates for dashboards have existed previously, but a new feature is templates specifically in Sigma workbooks.
- There are provider templates (that Sigma makes) that are like Google Slide templates, and these templates are great jumping-off points to start with something that has already been made. phData has a team of expert consultants that can create templates to enable your organization with quick, reusable dashboards.
- Templates are accessible via the main menu on the left-hand side. There are a few template options from Sigma, but there are plans to introduce more templates in the future. Click on the template to launch it, and click ‘Exploration Mode’ to have full access to the template.
- If you make a dashboard that you feel is reusable and will save others time, you can save your workbook as a template. Click the drop-down next to your workbook title and you should see this:
- You can save your dashboard as a template for others to use. One thing to note is when selecting who to share this with; you’re sharing the template, not the workbook. If you would like to share a workbook with someone else, you will need to do that separately.
- Additionally, the icon next to the workbook name will change to a blue star to indicate that it is a template.
- One question is: when do I use “Save As” vs. “Save As Template”?
- ‘Save As Template’ is when you want to do exactly that. This allows people to use the workbook you saved as a starting point for future analyses.
- ‘Save As’ is usually just for you when you are working on your own workbook.
Pivot Table Totals
Pivot tables are yet another friendly face in the world of data analysis. Sigma allows you to create a pivot table incredibly quickly from an existing visualization with just a few clicks. Pivot tables have been a feature for a while in Sigma, but some changes were made this year:
- Pivot tables now enable you to create “pseudo columns” that allow you to compute percentage calculations based on column/row totals and subtotals. These columns aren’t real columns (i.e., they will not change your underlying data structure), but they allow you to add columns in your pivot tables.
- When adding a new column to your pivot table, if you select a metric (Profit, seen below), Sigma automatically adds row total values and column total values. These are not real values in the data set; Sigma simply calculates them for you for ease of use.
- You can also create a calculation for a percentage of total with the “pseudo column.” This allows you to use the row/column total metric in a calculation. Below, I took sum of profit and divided it by the column total to get a percentage:
Another feature that was enhanced in 2022, conditional formatting is one feature in spreadsheet-based data visualization tools that is commonly asked for in data visualizations. These changes are mainly quality of life enhancements, allowing you to select multiple columns at once, among other changes:
- Conditional formatting has been around in Sigma, but some improvements include (see image below):
- Select all columns to make changes across them
- Ability to do conditional formatting on row totals (not just rows or columns)
- Formula based conditions
- Formula-based conditions mean that you can add your own custom formulas for business logic in conditional formatting. In this simple example, I wrote “If [Store Region] = ‘Midwest’,” which resolves to true. This applies formatting to the Midwest row seen below.
Custom Email Branding
Custom email branding has been a feature that users have inquired about for a while. Sigma has the ability to send scheduled emails/communications out from the tool, but the emails are branded with Sigma branding. Sigma has now allowed users to create their own custom templates to include their corporate branding. This feature is great for the communications side of data analysis.
Enhancement to Drill Downs
Another item that has existed in Sigma, enhancement to drill downs, has been significantly upgraded. Drill downs and drill paths are something that most users will interact within Sigma, and now it is even easier:
- Date drill downs are now available to go from a year, for example, down to quarter/month/week/day or even down to the hour, minute, and second.
- You can now right-click on a date element and select ‘Drill Down’. The screen below will show up. You can select the date you want to drill down into, and the DATETRUNC() function will automatically update for you.
- You may also now limit which columns can be used for drill downs if you do not want your end-user to interact with the data visualization in an unintended way. If you want your user to be able to drill into the month but not region, you may now dictate this ability in Sigma.
- Predefined drill paths are also new and show up underneath a visualization. You may create a predefined drill path for year -> quarter -> month, if this is how your end-users typically interact with the data. This allows the end-user to clearly see how the visualization is intended to be interacted with.
- For example, if I selected 2019 to drill down into, Sigma automatically only filters for that year, so extra years are automatically excluded.
Zip Codes in Maps
Sigma now includes f zip codes natively in the maps. This is new for 2022 and allows for you to show your geographic data at the state or zip code level if desired. Zipcode level maps can be great for more pointed analyses for your end-user.
Sigma has now introduced the use of APIs. You can now interact with Sigma programmatically to create workflows and to integrate Sigma with other tools. This is a lengthier and more technical new feature, so here is a link to Sigma’s blog on introducing APIs: APIs in Sigma.
Lastly, Sigma has introduced custom plugins to introduce other visualization types beyond what is out of the box in Sigma.
- A custom plugin uses a workbook element, and the input comes from another workbook element.
- One thing to note is that custom plugins are rendered as an iframe.
Overall, Sigma is quickly introducing several new features for the new year. Some are quality of life improvers; many are incredible technical improvements. Play around with these new features and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our team of experts!
If you’re ready to start exploring your data today, get your Sigma trial account up and running in minutes and try it for free for 14 days!