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How Tableau Changed the World of Business Intelligence

Picture – Courtesy of Tableau Software

A few years ago, I would have never guessed that I would ever work in data visualization field. Things were straightforward to me. Study economics, statistics and machine learning. That was my choice of work. Today things are the same, only supplemented with the field of data visualization. The main reason is the moment I met Tableau Desktop for the first time. I remember that day as it was yesterday. My problem was that I had a lot of data that needed to be visualized and now I could get simple and informative insights, which I couldn’t get with, for example, machine learning or statistics. I have heard of Tableau some months back, but this was when I finally tried to use it to help solve one of my problems and a moment when I finally met it.

Firstly, the most important thing that I noticed and instantly fell in love with, was its simplicity. I was amazed with its clever design and level of easiness. It looked for a second like it’s not even real. Yes, that was the moment of discovery when all my previous work in business intelligence (when we speak about reporting) seemed extremely boring compared to now, speaking from Tableau perspective. Tableau changed my way of understanding data and made my play with data much more interesting. Also, the interesting things are of course its beautiful graphs, the easy way of building calculations, dashboards, interactivity and dynamics behind it. I started following Tableau’s work when it was just a small company trying to succeed. Now, Tableau is a respectable company and a known leader in Business intelligence. They have made some big improvements in last versions of the software, but we can expect even more in the upcoming versions since Tableau’s R&D investments amount up to$96 million of their total revenue – $358 million, and this was just back when they were going public in May 2013.

Tableau’s CEO, Christian Chabot, pledged to invest more in R&D over the next two years than the company did in the last 10 years (founded in 2003.). These are the things that make Tableau the leader. They recognized R&D as their crucial strategy for future growth but also for making new innovative ways and approaches in the traditional business intelligence market. Tableau is a nice example of a perfect combination of best practices in microeconomics and visual analytics. Let me explain.

When we take a look from the microeconomics point of view, we can notice Tableau’s client-oriented way of operating. Their community is getting bigger every year. They have forums, groups, Viz Talk, conferences, trainings, materials and tutorials, as well as webinars available for free on their website. Maybe the most interesting thing and a proof for Tableau’s client orientation is its “Ideas” page on their website. Here people can present their new ideas for future improvements and those ideas get voted. For now, the most voted idea is, the so called, Dynamic parameter, and I’m looking forward to see the new steps Tableau is going to take in this area. My favorite idea is the „Implement Network Graphs (SNA)“, posted a couple months ago by one of the users, but unfortunately it is not on the top of the Idea leaderboard. But for sure, this feature will be extremely helpful since we work with these kind of insights. The goal of Tableau is to involve average users and Muggles in the Business intelligence world. Muggle, as you may know, is a person who lacks any sort of magical ability and was not born into the magical world, but with help of Tableau, they can become magicians. As we can see from the community example, Tableau listens to their users and builds their strategy around them.

Secondly, it is computer graphics and databases – called visual analytics. Maybe the best indicator that explains this is the R&D expenditure. With huge amounts of Tableau’s budget spent on R&D, it is an obvious signal that this is not just a relatively new company in BI world that strives to succeed (as someone would think), but a signal of their client oriented strategy, mentioned previously, and their visionary view of future BI world. They already changed the way people in Bi think, but that view will be changed again and again in years to come. It’s always nice to see „newcomers“ that are enthusiastic and have fresh ideas in our old world of BI. It’s also nice to see these „newcomers“ showing to the big guys how it’s done. So to conclude, don’t believe nothing I say, just download a free trial and you’ll get convinced in seconds.

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