Data visualization technologies are supposed to make information easier to understand, faster to comprehend and provide an opportunity for all users (including non-technical ones) to see trends, outliers and anomalies. Given this drive for clarity of vision, it would have been disappointing to see a firm in this space try to label its annual technical convention as anything less than a virtual attempt to replicate what a normal industry gathering normally looks like.
As a company in the information business, Tableau Software thankfully saw the need for a bit of self-deprecating humor in the year of Covid-19 and so called its event Tableau Conference-ish.
Hands-on real-world (virtual) whoops
The company normally uses its annual convention to get hands-on and real world with its users; as such, keynotes are typically filled with corporate big picture statements that are quickly followed up with practical use case demonstrations. Now past its first full year as a Salesforce company after acquisition in June 2019, the company obviously had to shift those demonstrations online. The audience whoops were virtual (users really get excited about this stuff), but the love was still there for the most part.
Tableau president and CEO Adam Selipsky is still in place post-Salesforce — and Tableau Conference looks set (in a post Covid world) to carry on as a standalone event given the size of the company in its own right and the size of its user base.
Key among the news items this year were plans to bring together Tableau’s data analytics and visualization technologies with parent company Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics. If further proof of keeping the Tableau brand name intact were needed, Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics will now be renamed Tableau CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and form part of the Salesforce CRM workflow technology proposition.
Tableau has of course gone beyond the point where it describes itself as a data visualization specialist. Just as cloud database organizations now give themselves labels like ‘enterprise operations empowerment’ companies, Tableau extends is descriptor to call itself a ‘data exploration and visual analytics’ specialist. Further, the company talks about self-service analytics i.e. its technology is designed to be usable outside of pure data science spheres by businesspeople to help predict business outcomes and provide recommendations directly within a workflow.
“The events of 2020 accelerated the need for companies to adapt to an all-digital, work from anywhere world and empower everyone to make better decisions faster,“ said Selipsky. “By bringing together the Tableau and Einstein Analytics teams earlier this year and tapping into the power of the overall Salesforce ecosystem, we are putting rocket boosters on our innovation and accelerating our mission to help people see and understand data.”
Did Selipsky really say rocket-boosted innovation? Clearly, he’s been spending time with ebullient Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, so perhaps some of the zingy corporate effervescence is rubbing off. Regardless of showpersonship, Tableau chief product officer Francois Ajenstat has described the firm’s mission as one centered around data [analytics] democratization.
“We’re always focused on making analytics easy and accessible to more people and organizations. Integrating Einstein Discovery’s powerful predictions platform adds to the range of options for augmented analysis and helps people get more value from their data,” said Ajenstat.
Other future alignment plans include the process of connecting Tableau natively to the Einstein Analytics data store, which will take advantage of the performance optimizations and native Salesforce security integration. The company will also focus on ‘content portability’ between its own technology stack and that of its parent. Data preparation capabilities will also be ramped up so that that read and write to both Tableau and Einstein Analytics is made easier.
Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere
Einstein himself was obvious the originator of many famous quotes, the most pertinent of which in context here was, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
The meaning we can perhaps infer from this (had Einstein known that PC-based data visualization platforms were on the way 65-years after his time) is that Tableau (with Salesforce) is providing all the back end data analytics muscle, all the data dashboards and visuals to make information digestible and easier to interpret — and it is providing all the cross-, inter- and intra-platform integration needed to put data science tool functionality into layperson’s software applications… but unless a user can imagine a business idea and think about how the information parameters in it should be processed and analyzed, then you’ll only get so far.
Tableau and Salesforce will provide enough guidance to shape analytics from A to Z, but to get truly off the page you need imagination. Albert might have quite liked that idea.