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Tableau adds data storytelling tool in latest update

Six months after the analytics vendor's acquisition of Narrative Science comes Data Stories, a new tool aimed at enabling more employees within organizations to work with data.

Tableau launched a new automated data storytelling tool as part of the analytics vendor's latest platform update.

Tableau, founded in 2003 and based in Seattle, on Wednesday unveiled version 2022.2 of its platform, which includes the availability of Data Stories in Tableau Cloud and the coming availability of the tool in Tableau Server.

Data Stories was unveiled in preview in May 2022 during the vendor's annual user conference, which this year was a hybrid event with attendees able to join both virtually and in person. The tool is the result of Tableau's 2021 acquisition of data storytelling vendor Narrative Science.

In part because of the inclusion of Data Stories, but also because of features such as Quick Search to find analytics content more quickly and the inclusion of ready-to-use dashboards called Accelerators, Tableau 2022.2 is one of the vendor's strongest updates in quite a while, according to Donald Farmer, founder and principal at TreeHive Strategy.

The vendor released its previous platform update in March 2022; it featured new natural language query capabilities and tools to enable the easier development of dashboards.

Meanwhile, during TrailblazerDX '22, a conference for developers hosted by Tableau's parent company Salesforce in April, Tableau unveiled new tools for developers designed to enhance their ability to customize and embed data and analytics assets in applications.

Many other updates over the past few years have been focused on integrations with Salesforce.

"This is the strongest update for some time," Farmer said. "Over the last couple of years we have seen a lot of infrastructure and Salesforce integration. Now we are seeing the fruit of that work -- and for me, it's quite tasty."

Data narratives

Data storytelling is the automated translation of data into common language so business users can read a narrative about the information they're working with rather than view a broad spreadsheet full of numbers or a graph visualizing those numbers that need to be interpreted.

This is the strongest update for some time. Over the last couple of years we have seen a lot of infrastructure and Salesforce integration. Now we are seeing the fruit of that work -- and for me, it's quite tasty.
Donald FarmerFounder and principal, TreeHive Strategy

Those automatically generated narratives are one way analytics vendors are attempting to make the use of data-informed insights more widespread across organizations, along with the implementation of embedded BI and augmented intelligence capabilities like natural language processing.

Depending on the source, it's estimated that only about one-quarter to one-third of employees in most organizations use data to inform decisions as part of their work. And that percentage has remained steady despite advances in AI and embedded analytics.

As a result, Gartner predicts that data storytelling, which removes much of the burden of data interpretation, will become the most widespread means of consuming analytics by 2025 with 75% of the data narratives automatically generated.

With Data Stories, Tableau now has an automated data storytelling tool in its platform.

Specifically, the tool summarizes key insights from data visualizations with a bulleted list that updates automatically as the data underlying the visualization changes.

And because of its potential to enable more business users to work with data, it's a powerful addition to the Tableau platform, according to Donald Farmer, founder and principal at TreeHive Strategy.

"Data stories are not just a neat feature -- they really help to develop the next level of data literacy and awareness because they can draw attention to notable points in the data or give more context than a visualization on its own," Farmer said. "They really help to increase engagement and understanding with a wider base of business users."

Similarly, Mike Leone, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, noted that Data Stories is an important addition to Tableau because it can enable more people to work with data.

"This is an emerging area in the BI world, especially as business-centric personas are being empowered to bring data to every decision," he said. "And this is just the start. There continues to be enormous opportunity for vendors in this space to expand the way they utilize natural language explanations to understand insight and more rapidly act on that insight in a meaningful way."

Other features

Beyond the new data storytelling tool, Tableau 2022.2 includes:

  • Accelerators, ready-to-use dashboards built by data experts that are available on the Tableau Exchange;
  • Metrics, a feature that enables customers to track their most important data without having to open dashboards;
  • Quick Search, a tool that designed to reduce the time it takes users to find the data assets they require by enabling them to view past searches, search for related content and receive content suggestions;
  • a new capability within Tableau Prep, the vendor's data preparation tool, which enables users to program their preparation flows to automatically discover and join data tables based on search criteria; and
  • Autosave in the browser so that all edits are continuously stored in a draft until the user is ready to publish.

Accelerators, in particular, will be useful to Tableau customers, according to Farmer.

Like Data Stories, Accelerators have the potential to enable a broader array of users to work with their organization's data, he noted.

"I think Accelerators will prove to be important in engaging more users with analytics," Farmer said. "When it comes to data analysis, just getting started is often the most difficult step -- connecting, getting to grips with the metadata, laying out the visualization or dashboard to make sense of it. Accelerators should enable business users to get straight down to work analyzing, not getting their data in order."

Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget.

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