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Tableau platform update focuses on broad analytics adoption

Tableau 2021.3 doesn't include fancy new AI or machine learning features, instead focusing on capabilities that enable enterprises to scale their analytics programs to more users.

Rather than focus on fancy new features or a new integration with Salesforce, the latest Tableau platform update aims to enable enterprises to adopt analytics across the entire organization.

Tableau Software, an analytics vendor founded in 2003 and based in Seattle, unveiled the 2021.3 version of its platform on Thursday.

Included are updated data management, data governance and data security capabilities all aimed at making it easier to manage data at scale, as enterprises collect and produce new data at increasing speed and attempt to make analytics part of more employees' workflows.

That desire to broaden the reach of analytics to more users has come with challenges, however, and Tableau 2021.3's focus on enabling wider adoption was spurred by some of the challenges the vendor's customers are experiencing, according to Francois Ajenstat, chief product officer at Tableau.

"We've seen a significant growth in the number of customers driving analytics across the enterprise and wanting to build a data culture," he said. "As a result, IT leaders want to accelerate their success in driving governed self-service and deliver analytics to every single person for any data. However, the democratization of data is presenting new challenges for IT leaders."

And the capabilities included in the latest Tableau platform update are aimed at easing those new challenges, Ajenstat continued.

"The new features we're announcing will help IT teams address some of their biggest challenges -- streamlining governance, security, compliance, maintenance and support -- to scale analytics and empower everyone with data," he said.

The update

Specifically, the data management, data governance and data security improvements include:

  • an upgraded version of Tableau Prep that simplifies the process of reducing loads on servers in Linked Tasks and more easily generates rows so users can map trends in Prep Conductor;
  • new governance capabilities that ensure and maintain data quality by sending automatic alerts regarding any potential issues, as well as a Catalog update that gives better visibility into the type of data being used and where it came from; and
  • centralized row security that enables Tableau administrators to centrally manage which individuals and groups of users have access to which data.
The latest version of Tableau includes row-level security capabilities.
A sample Tableau 2021.3 dashboard displays new centralized row security measures for Tableau administrators.

In addition, the Tableau platform update includes storage and resource management capabilities designed to handle the increasing amounts of data. They include:

  • technology-agnostic deployment guidelines that provide a reference architecture for scaling platforms across entire enterprises;
  • a new feature called Dynamic Scaling that enables enterprises to have the resources for their deployment by ensuring enough containers are available during peak demand times and scaled down during low demand times; and
  • resource management capabilities that enable IT teams to define application resource limits to better optimize the performance of Tableau Server.

Despite the absence of an advanced new tool, significant augmented intelligence and machine learning (ML) capabilities or another integration with Salesforce -- which acquired Tableau for $15.7 billion in 2019 -- the Tableau platform update, nevertheless, has the potential to be significant, according to Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"This release is about promoting enterprise-wide adoption, so most of the features are tied to making big deployments easier," he said. "The Enterprise Deployment Guidelines are technology-agnostic best practices, rather than product features, but here, too, it's about making it easier to scale up and support big deployments."

In particular, the new data governance capabilities have the potential to promote broader adoption, according to Mike Leone, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"The governance component is especially important as organizations look to scale the use of data and analytics access within and across teams," he said. "This capability will help ensure trust in the access of high-quality data, the data itself and the use of insights derived from it."

Leone added that the capabilities aimed at IT teams represent a trend in analytics, given that they are often first in line when end users need support.

"The inclusion of IT-specific features and functionality -- resource management, deployment flexibility, etc. -- speaks to a growing trend of IT becoming more influential in the business intelligence buying decision," he said. "I expect to see more IT messaging in the BI space going forward, as they become more involved in buying, procurement/deployment, ongoing management and support."

This release is about promoting enterprise-wide adoption, so most of the features are tied to making big deployments easier.
Doug HenschenPrincipal analyst, Constellation Research

Finally, Tableau introduced new subscription pricing plans designed to make it easier to deploy the platform across entire enterprises.

Tableau, however, did not reveal details of the new pricing plans.

"From a product standpoint, it's an incremental release, but the new enterprise subscription plans options are potentially significant," Henschen said. "Tableau clearly did a deep assessment of customer deployment patterns and came up with simplified and more inclusive packaging and more aggressive, volume-based discounts to promote broader adoption."

Salesforce integrations

While the new Tableau platform update doesn't include new integrations with Salesforce, the vendor included integrations in other recent releases.

The inclusion of Salesforce's Einstein Discovery -- a no-code tool within Salesforce's Einstein Analytics platform that uses AI and ML to enable predictive modeling and prescriptive recommendations -- in Tableau was unveiled in Tableau 2021.1 in March and marked the first integration between the analytics vendor and its parent company.

And, most recently, in June Tableau 2021.2 included Ask Data for Salesforce and Einstein Discovery for Salesforce Reports.

Integrations, however, have been methodical, given that Salesforce and Tableau still have different pricing platforms, according to Henschen. Once Tableau's pricing is better aligned with Salesforce, new integrations could be more frequent.

"The integration between Tableau and Salesforce continues, but, at this point, the two companies are still on separate subscription and customer-quoting platforms," Henschen said. "I would expect more bundled offers sometime in 2022, when the terms can be analyzed and delivered programmatically, once both companies are on the same pricing and quoting platform."

Ajenstat confirmed that more integrations with Salesforce are in the works, specifically tied to improving the information organizations have about their customers.

"With Salesforce, we are making the entire Customer 360 smarter with Tableau [by] helping customers unlock the value of their Salesforce data and getting a complete picture of their customers to deliver successful outcomes," he said.

Regarding the rest of Tableau's roadmap, Ajenstat added that -- in line with the focus of the vendor's latest platform update -- future innovations will be designed to make analytics accessible to more users within their everyday workflows. Among them are integrations with Slack, which Salesforce just acquired for $27.7 billion.

"This includes new capabilities to drive self-service data management and help customers tame the chaos, continuing to deliver new business science capabilities to scale data science techniques to more people and enabling contextual and actionable analytics in the flow of business," he said. "These new capabilities help [users] stay on top of their data and bring data into their conversations."

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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