Tableau CEO: Data Scientists Are Like Artists

by   |   September 11, 2014 5:30 am   |   0 Comments

SEATTLE – Comparing data users to artists, Tableau Software CEO Christian Chabot announced at the company’s annual conference a host of new features aimed at helping Tableau customers do more with the data they have, securely, regardless of device or where that data is located.

Christian Chabot, co-founder and CEO, Tableau Software

Christian Chabot, co-founder and CEO, Tableau Software

“We have a lot to learn by studying artists,” said Chabot. “We believe unleashing their creative genius is the most important goal of a modern business strategy.”

To achieve this vision, the company is focusing its R&D on four fundamental areas: fast prototyping, processing speed, expression, and control.

The idea is that, just as artists need immediate feedback about their ideas if they are to move them forward, business users need immediate feedback from their visualizations if they are going to useful and valuable. Painters don’t wait 10 minutes for a brush stroke to appear, yet people working with data often wait minutes, hours, or days to see the results of their ideas. This is too long if data is going to be used creatively to solve problems.

“That is an essential part of our design philosophy,” said Chabot.

To bring this vision to life, he said, the company plans to spend more on R&D over the next two years than it has in its entire 11-year history. Those investments will focus on visual analytics, performance, data preparation, storytelling, enterprise sharing and security, and cloud and mobile.

Speed

Tableau co-founder and Chief Development Officer Chris Stolte took the stage to demonstrate how Tableau users will be able to use Excel-like functionality in upcoming releases. Like Excel, users will be able to type either the name of a data set or a mathematical function directly into the field boxes inside of the visualization with which they are working. Calculations can be tried and discarded as quickly as users can type.

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“I was able to explore my thoughts like I was just sketching on a sketch pad,” said Stolte, keeping with the data-user-as-artist theme of the day.

Stolte also showed off new Radius and Lasso search capabilities that allow users to select an area on a map using either a concentric circle (radius) or  an area defined and outlined more less by hand (lasso) and look at just that data. As the selected area changes, so does the data being analyzed.

Moving over to a browser-based interface, Stolte demonstrated how search will be built into the browser so that lag time is eliminated as users interact with the data set.

“Each of these makes it possible to experiment and be creative in the analysis of your data,” he explained.

Next up was Vice President of Product Development Andrew Beers, who discussed a new data engine that will use vectorized instructions running on multicore processors to provide a four-times performance improvement.

In addition, to increase speed across the enterprise, the company will employ a persistent cache for shared workbooks, the files created during a data visualization and analysis session. Today, when workbooks are shared with colleagues, the user’s machine has to run the same calculations as the author’s machine when they interact with the workbook. This takes time. Persistent cache will keep a copy of the calculations that already have been done so information is processed more quickly.

Split

Senior Director of Product Management Marc Rueter talked about the new “Split” feature that allows users to divide existing data sets on the fly without creating a new database. So, for example, a data set that includes the fields loan, amount, address, income, and ZIP code can be taken apart by a user so that only the income or address fields show up in the visualizations.

The company also is working on a technology that will allow poorly constructed and messy spreadsheet files to be used right away with no master data management or other data clean-up activities having to be performed first. “We’re making Tableau smarter so it can automatically detect the structure of your Excel files, so you don’t have to,” Rueter said.

Security

Tableau is working on new security features so enterprise users can share their work across their organizations safely, said Director of Product Management, Francois Ajentstat.

In Tableau 8.3, the company is adding support for Kerberos to provide single sign-on (SSO) capabilities and protection from client to the database. Customers also will be able to use smart cards to log in. There will be a “permissions” tab associated with shared workbooks so an administrator can customize access via a checkbox interface, allowing some users greater functionality and others less.

“This gives people the right access to the right content all the time,” Ajentstat said.

Cloud and Mobile

On the cloud front, new versions will allow for data to be shared cross platform; so cloud data can be coupled with on-premise data as well as with data stored with other cloud providers a company might be using, said Vice President of Product Marketing Ellie Fields. By using Tableau’s data-sync function, a user will be able to embed interactive dashboards in the cloud services they consume.

For mobile, the company working on its existing app to make it smoother and more interactive, as well as building a new app, called Project Elastic, said Vice President of Mobile and Strategic Growth Dave Story. This will “allow you to explore data by feel and insights, and stretch the definition of mobile analytics,” he said.

For example, if a user receives a spreadsheet by email and clicks on it, Elastic immediately renders it as visualization. Filtering is done through dragging and dropping. Swiping changes fields and categories. Like the desktop and online versions, visualizations update as the data changes. Users can crop charts to drill down to just single points and the data will flow with them.

Now a freelance writer, in a former, not-too-distant life, Allen Bernard was the managing editor of CIOUpdate.com and numerous other technology websites. Since 2000, Allen has written, assigned, and edited thousands of articles that focus on intersection of technology and business. As well as content marketing and PR, he now writes for Data Informed and other high-quality publications. Originally from the Boston area, Allen now calls Columbus, Ohio, home. He can be reached at 614-937-2316 or abernie182@gmail.com. Please follow him on Twitter at @allen_bernard1, on Google+ or on Linked In.


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