Guided analytics tool highlights Tableau platform update

OCT 18, 2022

Tableau on Tuesday unveiled Data Guide, a new analytics tool designed to help users quickly surface and explain changes in their data and then take action.

The analytics vendor, based in Seattle, released Data Guide as part of its third platform update of 2022. In addition to Data Guide, among other features, Tableau 2022.3 includes new dashboard development capabilities and a tool that enables users to more easily infuse data models with predictive analytics.

In September, Tableau launched an integration with Salesforce Genie, the CRM giant's new customer data platform. And in June, Tableau released its second 2022 platform update, which was highlighted by a new data storytelling tool that resulted from the vendor's 2021 acquisition of Narrative Science.

A guided experience

As organizations attempt to make data the driving force in their decision-making process, many are doing so by increasing the number of employees using analytics as part of their jobs.

But self-service analytics requires some degree of preparation for users, even if users don't need data science or coding experience.

Even with extensive training, there's a learning curve for self-service users, and it takes time for them to learn to navigate their data and be confident in the conclusions they derive from data.

Tableau's Data Guide is intended to make it easier for beginners to work with dashboards and other analytics assets and those just starting on projects to get familiar with their new data resources. And its capabilities can make the work of an expert faster by automatically surfacing data outliers users might otherwise take significant time to uncover.

Data Guide comes with descriptions that help novices acclimate to data along with other tools intended to give users full visibility into their data.

In addition, it comes with augmented intelligence capabilities titled Data Change Radar and Explain the Viz.

Like Sisu Data's platform, Data Change Radar automatically exposes unusual changes in data that users might not otherwise discover -- or take significant time to discover. Explain the Viz automatically identifies outliers and interprets why the outliers occurred.

Given the potential Data Guide has to better enable users unfamiliar with their data to use analytics to drive decision-making, the tool is a significant addition to the Tableau platform, said Mike Leone, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"The guided experiences through the Data Guide will be a big help to folks, especially those that are just starting out on a new project or initiative," Leone said. "They'll get a good foundation of what’s available in a dashboard without having to wait for a response from the creator or teammate responsible for managing it."

Similarly, Donald Farmer, founder and principal of TreeHive Strategy, noted the potential of Data Guide to help escort users through the analytics process.

He cautioned, however, that it remains to be seen how well the tool delivers on its promise.

Other vendors including Yellowfin and Domo have tools that guide users as they work with data, and those tools provide users with an experience that is honed to their needs while not completely taking over the workflow, according to Farmer. Likewise, MicroStrategy has a tool called Guided Insights that automatically surfaces changes in data.

"Data Guide is one of the most intriguing features in the release, but it remains to be seen how useful it really is in practice," he said. "In particular, we need to see how insightful Data Guide is in real-world scenarios."

Other features

Beyond Data Guide, Tableau 2022.3 includes new dashboard development capabilities that allow for more customization.

Dashboards don't always fit the needs of each potential user because work roles differ widely. Depending on someone's responsibilities, some information in a dashboard may be relevant, other information may be of no use, and some key information may be missing entirely.

To address different needs of employees based on their roles, many organizations have tailored workflows to meet the various needs of their workers, creating different experiences based on role. Embedded analytics vendor GoodData and Google's Looker service have developed what they term composable analytics platforms that enable users to assemble their own data experiences.

Dashboards need that same treatment to enable the different needs of their many users, according to Tableau.

So to efficiently personalize dashboards, the vendor added what it calls dynamic zone visibility, a capability that empowers developers to program what data gets shown to a given user with just a few clicks.

"It's a worthy attempt to tackle the problem of one-size-fits-all dashboards," Farmer said.

Other features in the Tableau analytics update include:

  • Table Extensions, a tool for data scientists to enrich data models with scripting languages and prescriptions with an API called Analytics Extensions that enables modifications with languages like Python and R and tools including Einstein Discovery;
  • a scheduling tool titled Advanced Management for Tableau Server designed to help organizations control costs by scheduling background processes; and
  • the availability of Activity Log in Advanced Management for Tableau Server -- it was previously made available in Advanced Management for Tableau Server in Tableau 2022.2 -- enabling organizations to log employees' use of Tableau to see how the analytics platform is being used.

Together, the new features show that Tableau continues to deliver useful analytics capabilities in its quarterly updates, according to Farmer.

"Tableau is still evolving features and functionality at a good pace," he said.

The update should appease users who fear that Tableau is losing its independence now that it is part of Salesforce, which acquired Tableau in 2019, Farmer noted.

Although the analytics vendor continues to integrate with its parent company, its quarterly releases -- including Tableau 2022.3 -- have largely been tailored to Tableau users whether they also use Salesforce or not.

"There's definitely a sense in the market and the community that Tableau is gradually disappearing into Salesforce and that standalone Tableau use cases are increasingly underserved," Farmer said. "This release does not counter that broad narrative, but really nothing here is Salesforce-specific either, so I suspect the Tableau community will be pleased."

Next steps

In September, Tableau said decision intelligence -- enabling action by assisting humans with AI technology and automation -- will be a prominent part of its product roadmap.

Vendors including Oracle, Pyramid Analytics and Sisu have made decision intelligence a primary focus based on the strategy that as the volume and complexity of data continues to grow, humans will need the help of AI and automation.

The launch of Data Guide is part of Tableau's plan to prioritize decision intelligence, as is a tool called External Actions that is now in preview.

External Actions, when generally available, will enable users to analyze data in Tableau dashboards and automate subsequent actions from those dashboards so they don't have to toggle to different environments to take action.

Among other analytics vendors, Tibco included a similar capability in Spotfire 12.

That focus on decision intelligence, meanwhile, is important for Tableau, according to Leone.

"Tableau continues to be a leader in the analytics and BI space, and I believe continuing to focus on user empowerment will ensure they maintain their positioning," he said. "With that in mind, self-service, no-code experiences enhanced by machine learning will remain critical."

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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