Tableau’s new features put a data scientist in your pocket to unlock the meaning, insight and power of your data
Francois Ajenstat, Chief Product Officer of Tableau, spoke with iTWire at the company’s TC22 conference this week, explaining that Tableau customers of all sizes around the world love using the product’s advanced analytics to make impactful data-driven decisions.
While it is known that data-driven organizations are more successful, the reality is that many companies are not data-driven and their employees are unable to access the data they need to take informed decisions or to commit to them. In fact, while much more data than ever is being collected, it has the effect of creating data chaos for organizations that want and need to access data in more places and are unable to get that data. or derive meaning from that data.
It’s an issue that Tableau takes seriously and is tackling its announcements this week.
“Tableau’s mission is to help people see and use data, to democratize it, and to put it in the hands of people who can work with it and use it,” Ajenstat said, speaking from Las Vegas. where the company’s Tableau 2022 conference – or TC22 for short – is held as a face-to-face event. “It’s always been a special type of event. Unlike most tech conferences, TC is more like a rock concert. It’s a gathering of people who have found their calling, their tribe, their community,” said he declared. “It’s special to be back for the first time since the pandemic and it feels like a reunion, like going back to basics with the community.”
Yet, says Ajenstat, “so many areas of data have been out of reach.” One is data science, which offers “incredible innovation,” he says, “but has been reserved for specialists.”
Tableau has already worked to democratize data to make it accessible to more people, but recognizes that data is still intimidating to many people. Here, Ajenstat reminds us that not all companies are technology companies. For example, Feeding America is a wonderful nonprofit that aims to ensure people have access to food and supplies, and that food banks are full and able to give to the needy. It is an important cause that serves the community. Yet Feeding America is not a tech company, and its employees are good, smart, determined, compassionate, and humanitarian people who need speed and agility to reach food banks, manage logistics, and deliver aid. to underserved populations.
The next generation of Tableau, announced this week at TC22, is for them. It’s for you, for me, and for anyone who wants to make sense of their data, regardless of how data savvy they are, what field their business is in, and whether or not they have access to data scientists. and data analysts.
The three major announcements are Tableau Cloud, Einstein Model Builder and Data Stories.
While cloud computing is mainstream and here to stay, it’s still an emerging area in the data space, Ajenstat said. However, “what we’re seeing more and more is that as more and more data goes into the cloud, more and more customers are putting analytics into the cloud as well. We’re now seeing more 70% of our customers are getting started in the cloud, and the biggest companies are going full cloud.”
As such, Tableau Online has been rebranded as Tableau Cloud and includes new innovations to increase productivity by providing intelligent, powerful, and easy-to-use analytical tools to help anyone discover insights and confidently make decisions based on the data. “It brings more administration, more governance and more accelerators,” Ajenstat said, with accelerators being out-of-the-box solutions for various industries and use cases that help create engagement through deep integrations with Slack and other areas of SalesForce.
As part of the launch, Tableau is working with Snowflake to provide an extended promotional trial that includes Tableau Cloud licenses for Snowflake customers and, subject to program requirements, Snowflake credits upon conversion to a Tableau Cloud customer.
Einstein Model Builder
When Tableau joined SalesForce two and a half years ago, “one of the first things we did was find SalesForce technology that we could bring to Tableau,” Ajenstat said. One of the biggest was SalesForce’s Einstein Discover – an enterprise-wide tool that brings billions and billions of recommendations to SalesForce users every day, recommending emails and actions that SalesForce users could undertake to improve their activities.
Tableau has now extended Einstein to power predictions inside Tableau, helping its users move from “what happened” to data to “what could happen, and what can I do about it?” said Ajenstat.
Einstein Model Builder will connect to the SalesForce flow to enable automation and workflows to trigger business processes from analysis. On a practical level, this allows organizations like Feeding America to do scenario planning — like how the organization should respond if there were a hurricane or flooding in part of the country.
What is data if it does not reveal actionable information and meaning? It doesn’t matter how visually pleasing a dashboard is if it doesn’t basically speak people’s language. “If you can’t bring data to people, you haven’t reached your potential,” Ajenstat said.
Introducing Data Stories, a hugely compelling feature and a iTWire love. With just a few clicks, your dashboards and visuals can be enhanced with an articulate and insightful text panel with an AI-powered story bringing to life what the numbers and charts say.
Ajenstat demonstrated this to iTWireand while Ajenstat was obviously a data-driven, technology-driven C-suite executive, it still has to be said that the feature was so simple that even a CEO could use it.
It presented a typical dashboard – sales figures by region over a period of time. However, it is undoubtedly your experience, and it is iTWire‘s own experience that such a graphic does not convey much. Then, with one click, Ajenstat introduced a Data Story pane in the dashboard describing what it meant and what led to the result.
For example, “Each of the four features grew from January 2014 to December 2017, with East growing the most (4,505%) and South growing the least (63%) during that time” and “the sum sales experienced cyclicality, repeating every cycle approximately every four periods. There was also a pattern of smaller cycles repeating approximately every three periods” and “East and West had a moderate positive correlation, suggesting that when one (East) rises, the other (West) usually does too, or vice versa.”
Each dot shed light on the meaning of the numbers and, most importantly, provided information that could not be gleaned otherwise. It showed trends and relationships that may not have been realized before.
With a few more clicks, Ajenstat demonstrated that the story was tied to user selections; you can highlight any particular part of a chart to explore what’s going on there, or you can filter by different elements – just as you’d expect linked visuals to react to each other, from even the story answered what else makes you on screen.
Additionally, Ajenstat showed that with a bit more customization, you could improve the way the story was told. For example, “SUM(Sales)” could be replaced with “Total sales”, or qualities could be assigned to the magnitude of the values. Increase in income is a good thing while increase in expenses is not so good. These refinements were easily configured through a simple options panel, but sharpened the clarity and sense of story.
It’s something that Ajenstat said: “I’m really excited about it; that’s what Tableau set out to do – make data accessible” and the feature is currently in preview, typically to be released later in the quarter.
It’s a feature iTWire the writer is particularly excited about too. On a personal level, in my 30 years in professional computing, I’ve developed software, implemented infrastructure, and done many things – but I’ve always found the most impactful to be putting information – releasing the value of previously inaccessible data – in the hands of those who can use it to manage and drive their business. It’s something I’ve done and talked about with enthusiasm.
iTWireof course, reports the news in a factual and objective way, but for me, personally, this new capability within Tableau is one that I can confidently say is a wonderful addition and one that truly brings ability to transform organizations.
Data stories can be complemented by Tableau’s existing Explain feature, providing the “why” behind the data. Using Explain, you can see anomalies, outliers, and potential data issues. You can also see what your visuals look like if these anomalies have been removed. Again, you don’t have to do anything: Tableau’s advanced statistics and analytics work in the background to draw your attention to issues that might otherwise go unrecognized. For example, you may have highly profitable items but not realize that the majority of your orders are in fact not profitable – and are taken away by the most profitable ones.
The explanation exists now, but combining it with Data Stories is like having a data scientist always with you as you seek to understand what your data is telling you and why it is what it is.
Well-known Australian companies using Tableau include Transurban, which works with tens of billions of data to go beyond standard reports to understand and model congestion and traffic flow, and Rugby Australia, which gives coaches great insight into team and player performance.
“Quite frankly, I’m delighted to be here” (at TC22), Ajenstat said. “It’s like a family reunion, and it’s a time when we hear stories from customers around the world who are using data to impact their careers and their communities.”
“It’s inspiring for us,” he said.