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Tableau platform update features upgraded AI tools

Tableau on June 29 unveiled new versions of Ask Data and Explain Data, tools that enable users with natural language processing, and two new integrations with Salesforce.

Upgraded augmented intelligence tools highlight the latest Tableau Software platform update.

In addition, Tableau unveiled two new integrations with Salesforce, which acquired Tableau for $15.7 billion in June 2019, one of which is generally available, while the other is expected to be made available early in 2022.

Tableau, an analytics vendor founded in 2003 and based in Seattle, released version 2021.2 of its platform in general availability on June 29.

Question and answer

Included in the Tableau platform update are upgrades to Ask Data and Explain Data, tools that use augmented intelligence capabilities to enable users to query and understand their data using natural language.

Tableau first unveiled Ask Data in 2019, but despite enabling queries using natural language, it was still geared toward trained analysts.

The updated version opens the tool to more potential users by making it available for both Tableau Server and Tableau Online, and using AI and machine learning (ML) to add personalized guidance capabilities that help customers of any skill level ask the most relevant questions of their data.

Explain Data, meanwhile, was also first introduced 2019 and automatically generates explanations of data points.

The newest version, like the Ask Data update, opens a tool previously geared toward trained analysts to more potential users. It is also now available for both Tableau Server and Tableau Online and adds a new user interface to make it easier to navigate and reduce the risk of an erroneous explanation by searching the entire data source, rather than just what is shown in a given data visualization.

With 2021.2, they are now available to casual users and not just analysts, [and] since this is the community that will most benefit from these features, that's a significant improvement.
David MenningerSenior vice president and research director, Ventana Research

Motivation for the updates to Ask Data and Explain Data came from a mix of customer feedback and Tableau's own plans to make the tools more accessible, according to Francois Ajenstat, chief product officer at Tableau.

"When we introduced Ask Data and Explain Data two years ago, the feedback was enthusiastically positive, but to truly achieve its potential, customers wanted to enable this functionality to every user," he said. "In addition, we knew that by enabling everyone with natural language query, we had to make the experience even easier to use and intuitive."

Because both Ask Data and Explain Data are now usable by a wider audience, the upgraded versions are compelling, according to David Menninger, senior vice president and research director at Ventana Research.

"With 2021.2, they are now available to casual users and not just analysts, [and] since this is the community that will most benefit from these features, that's a significant improvement," he said.

Similarly, Mike Leone, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said the updates to Ask Data and Explain Data are substantial because they will make the tools available to more users.

"Addressing data-centric skills gaps will go a long way in enabling a data-centric culture," he said. "Technology infused with AI and self-service [capabilities] will enable business adopters to further separate themselves from the competitive pack. Generalists are empowered to do more with data, while data rock stars are freed of their data-centric operational burdens."

Leone added that AI tools such as Ask Data and Explain Data are popular with analytics users, with ESG predicting 88% growth in the adoption of augmented analytics tools over the next 12 months.

"Of all the capabilities that organizations plan to invest in over the next year in support of business intelligence and data-driven initiatives, augmented analytics is definitively at the top of the list," he said.

Integrations with Salesforce

Beyond Tableau 2021.2, Tableau revealed Ask Data for Salesforce and Einstein Discovery for Salesforce Reports. The tools mark the latest integrations between Salesforce and Tableau after Tableau 2021.1, released in March 2021, included Einstein Discovery, a no-code tool that uses AI and ML to enable predictive modeling and deliver prescriptive recommendations.

Einstein Discovery for Salesforce Reports, which was included in the Salesforce Summer '21 release, is a tool that automatically analyzes data from Salesforce reports and surfaces insights with easy-to-understand charts and explanations.

Ask Data for Salesforce, meanwhile, will enable Salesforce users to search and query their data using natural language and quickly receive answers in the form of reports and recommended dashboards. It is scheduled for release in early 2022.

An Explain Data dashboard from Tableau.
An Explain Data dashboard from Tableau displays bike rental information in Boston.

Coming after Einstein Discovery's inclusion in Tableau 2021.1, the additions of Ask Data for Salesforce and Einstein Discovery for Salesforce Reports demonstrate the integration between Salesforce and Tableau is finally starting to show results, according to Menninger.

It took nearly two years for the companies to blend capabilities, but now there seems to be momentum building that will benefit Tableau customers.

"The integration of Salesforce and Tableau technologies was slow out of the gate, but it seems to be picking up steam," Menninger said. "Einstein is one of Salesforce's most valuable analytic assets, [and now] there have been multiple releases increasing the integration of Einstein into Tableau, which should significantly benefit the Tableau customers."

Platform update

In addition to the updated versions of Ask Data and Explain Data, the Tableau platform update includes:

  • Amazon SageMaker for Tableau, an integration that enables joint Tableau and AWS customers to embed ML models built on SageMaker directly within Tableau dashboards;
  • area spatial calculation capabilities that enable customers to measure the square footage of a selected area on a map and improve the impact of spatial joins;
  • Collections, a tool that enables users to curate content so they can more easily share it with colleagues and collaborate across their organization;
  • Containers, which allow customers to run Tableau Server in a single container -- including Kubernetes and Docker containers for Linux -- so they can more easily and efficiently deploy Tableau;
  • Jumpstart Your Salesforce Connection, a capability that will help Salesforce users start using Tableau by prepopulating their Tableau Online site with data sources and workbooks that will speed their work with Salesforce data;
  • Write to Google BigQuery from Tableau Prep, which will enable joint Tableau and BigQuery users to add or update data in BigQuery with cleaned and prepared data;
  • the ability to transition smoothly from web authoring to Tableau Desktop for an improved authoring workflow; and
  • a new Canada Tableau Online Pod that will improve performance for Tableau's customers in Canada.

Beyond the inclusion of Einstein Discovery in Tableau, the March Tableau platform update included synergies with Microsoft Azure.

Meanwhile, the vendor's roadmap is expected to include more integrations between the Tableau platform and Salesforce's suite of tools guided by Tableau's aim of trying to help everyone see and understand their data.

"We are working on making data easier to use, bringing analytics where people work and democratizing data science with augmented analytics and business science," Ajenstat said. "The goal is to bring analytics for every user, integrated into every business process, and make analytics contextual, predictive and actionable."

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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