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Tableau to add new business science tools to analytics suite

Self-service data science tools are among the capabilities the analytics vendor unveiled during its virtual user conference and plans to add to its platform in coming updates.

Self-service data science capabilities and integrations with Slack highlight the latest Tableau analytics platform upgrades.

Tableau, founded in 2003 and based in Seattle, unveiled new capabilities -- not all of which are generally available -- on Tuesday during Tableau Conference 2021, the vendor's virtual user conference.

Both the self-service data science capabilities and Slack integrations are slated for general availability in 2022. And according to Francois Ajenstat, Tableau's chief product officer, the impetus for developing both was Tableau's mission of enabling people to better see and understand data.

"What we're trying to do is make analytics easier to use for anyone, anywhere, with any data, and we're trying to do that by broadening access to analytics so that it's available to everyone," he said on Nov. 8 during a virtual press conference. "We need to make analytics dramatically easier to use -- more accessible and more collaborative."

The self-service data science capabilities aim to extend predictive analytics capabilities beyond data scientists while the integrations with Slack enable collaboration, Ajenstat continued.

"We're going to extend the advanced capabilities of the platform, [and] and we're going to bring analytics in the flow of business so that everyone can be a data person," he said.

Tableau chief product officer Francois Ajenstat (left) speaks with Kate Wright, senior vice president of product development.
Tableau chief product officer Francois Ajenstat (left) speaks with Kate Wright, senior vice president of product development, during a virtual press conference.

Business science

Tableau, which was acquired by Salesforce in June 2019, introduced the concept of business science in March 2021 when it unveiled its first integration with Salesforce's Einstein Analytics in Tableau 2021.1. Business science, as defined by Tableau, is enabling business users without training in statistics and computer science with data science capabilities using augmented intelligence and machine learning.

The integration added Einstein Discovery -- a no-code tool in Salesforce's Einstein Analytics platform -- to Tableau to give Tableau customers the ability to do predictive modeling and generate prescriptive recommendations.

In 2022, Tableau analytics platform updates will build on the initial business science capabilities enabled by Einstein Discovery with the additions of Model Builder and Scenario Planning.

Model Builder is designed to help teams collaboratively develop and consume predictive models within their Tableau workflows using Einstein Discovery. Scenario Planning, meanwhile, takes advantage of Einstein's AI capabilities to enable users to compare scenarios, build models and understand expected outcomes to better make data-driven decisions.

The business science capabilities are very interesting to me. With solutions that enable business agility being so important today, Model Builder and Scenario Planning will prove to be a difference-maker in the future direction of modern businesses.
Mike LeoneAnalyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

Once generally available next year, the two capabilities will be significant for users, according to Mike Leone, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"The business science capabilities are very interesting to me," he said. "With solutions that enable business agility being so important today, Model Builder and Scenario Planning will prove to be a difference-maker in the future direction of modern businesses."

The key to their effectiveness will be their ability to simplify what are otherwise complex tasks, Leone continued.

"What-if analysis can be a difficult endeavor without the right data and tools, but with Tableau expanding their business science capabilities, they are looking to drastically simplify planning, prediction and outcome analysis in a collaborative way rooted in AI and self-service," he said.

Likewise, Boris Evelson, an analyst at Forrester Research, noted that Tableau is at the forefront of adding augmented analytics capabilities to its platform, but noted that the vendor is not alone in that respect.

"What we now call Augmented BI -- BI infused with AI -- is a capability that most modern BI platforms have already invested in," he said.

"In our recent [research], Tableau was found as one of the leaders in that evaluation, but so were Microsoft, Oracle, Tibco, Sisense and Domo," Evelson said, referring to other tech giants and independent vendors with popular analytics systems.

Slack integrations

In addition to the added business science capabilities, Tableau analytics platform updates next year will include three new integrations with Slack, which Salesforce acquired for $27.7 billion in December 2020.

When ready for release, Tableau users will have access to Ask Data in Slack, Explain Data in Slack and Einstein Discovery in Slack.

Ask Data is an AI capability that enables users to query data using natural language rather than requiring them to write code, while Explain Data is automatically generates explanations of data points. Both were first introduced in 2019 and were upgraded in Tableau's June 2021 analytics platform update.

"The Slack integration is very notable," Evelson said.

It's notable, he continued, because most people who use data to inform their decisions don't spend the majority of their time in their analytics platform environments. Instead, they spend most of their time in work applications and collaboration platforms.

"BI platforms are not what we call systems of work -- digital workspaces where people live 9 to 5," Evelson said. "These decision-makers' systems of work are ERP, CRM, planning/budgeting or other business applications, or productivity applications such as email, calendar, and increasingly -- due to remote work -- collaboration tools like Slack."

Similarly, Leone noted that Tableau's integrations with Slack are in line with what data workers now require and have the potential to enable new discovery.

"I think collaboration enablement is critical to the next level of data-centric adoption, and Tableau's announcements are aligned perfectly," he said. "Imagine being in a Slack channel and seeing a team member ask a data question with an instant answer. That answer could introduce a new data angle to attack a problem or spark an open discussion that leads down a new innovation path."

Additional capabilities

Beyond the expansion of its business science capabilities and Slack integrations, Tableau unveiled a host of other features both generally available now and scheduled for upcoming analytics platform updates.

Among them are security, administration, community engagement and collaboration tools, including:

  • Virtual Connections, which enables site administrators to centrally create access points to data sources so the data can be shared throughout organizations;
  • Centralized Row-Level Security to enable administrators to centrally configure which users and groups have access to what data;
  • Share Prep Flows in Tableau Public, which fosters collaboration by allowing people to share their flows in the community and helps people share best practices, standardize, replicate and learn data preparation;
  • Tableau Exchange, an evolution of Tableau's Extensions gallery, is a hub where users can browse offerings from others within the Tableau community to help their own data analysis;
  • A Hire Me button in Tableau Public that helps members of the Tableau community connect to professional opportunities;
  • Tableau Actions, a capability aimed at making it easier to turn insights into action by adding context and interactivity to customers' data, that will include Tableau Actions for Salesforce Flow to enable customers to take action directly anywhere in Salesforce;
  • Embedded analytics tools that make it easy for customers and partners to embed Tableau dashboards, Ask Data and Metrics into their applications; and
  • Connected Applications, which enables administrators to set up trusted relationships with external services using standard protocols that ensure security and ease of use.

Virtual Connections, Centralized Row-Level Security, the Tableau Exchange and Hire Me button in Tableau Public are now generally available.

Connected Applications will be available with the release of Tableau 2021.4 before the end of the year, and all other capabilities are expected to be generally available in 2022, according to Tableau.

Beyond helping users better see and understand their data, data governance is a priority for Tableau, according to Ajenstat. Features such as Centralized Row-Level Security and Share Prep Flows are aimed at addressing the trustworthiness and security of data.

"Having access to data is really important, but we need to also make sure people can trust the data," Ajenstat said. "If you can't trust the data, you can't trust the insight, and this is why we need to make trust a fundamental part of the Tableau platform."

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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