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Tableau update enables direct action from analytics insights

The vendor's fourth-quarter update includes an integration with Salesforce Flow that enables users to trigger actions in business applications directly from their BI dashboards.

A new integration with Salesforce Flow that enables Tableau users to act directly from dashboards highlights Tableau's latest analytics platform update.

Founded in 2003 and based in Seattle, Tableau was acquired by Salesforce in 2019 and is now a subsidiary of the CRM giant. Since the acquisition, Salesforce and Tableau have developed a series of integrations, including connections between the analytics platform and Salesforce tools such as Einstein Analytics, Slack and Genie.

The newest integration, titled Tableau External Actions, is included in Tableau 2022.4, which was unveiled Tuesday and is the analytics vendor's final platform update of 2022.

The platform update, meanwhile, comes just 11 days after Tableau President and CEO Mark Nelson resigned after less than two years leading the analytics organization. Following Nelson's resignation, Salesforce revealed that it does not plan to name a replacement and will instead have Tableau's product and engineering teams report to Salesforce leaders.

Fast action

Historically, BI software users have had to toggle between environments to act on the insights they have derived from their data.

In the past few years, however, some analytics vendors have developed capabilities that connect dashboards directly to the external applications that customers use to manage their business and enable those customers to act -- often by automating workflows -- without leaving their BI environment.

For example Microsoft now offers Power Automate as part of Power BI, Qlik built automation capabilities as part of its ethos of "active intelligence" and Tibco recently launched Spotfire Actions.

Tableau is now offering similar capabilities through its integration with Salesforce Flow.

Salesforce Flow is a tool customers can use to automate workflows. By integrating Tableau and Salesforce Flow to create External Actions, Tableau users can now automate their Salesforce workflows from Tableau dashboards with a mouse click. The result is a more efficient workflow that reduces the amount of time and effort needed to go from insight to action, according to Tableau.

That is significant, according to Doug Henschen, an analyst at Constellation Research.

"The integration with Salesforce Flow will be an attractive option for … the very large Salesforce community," he said. "The 'External Actions' concept has taken on -- and will continue to take on -- an even larger life through embedding, APIs and other options as folks realize the power of taking insight into action. Action doesn't happen within reports and dashboards."

Henschen added that although the ability to trigger actions directly from analytics products like reports and dashboards is not unique, Tableau is nevertheless providing its users with an important capability.

"This is just the latest way in which Tableau is jumping on a big wave that has been building for years and that has seen broad support," he said.

A sample Tableau dashboard
A sample Tableau dashboard tracks the utilization of an organization's data products.

Additional capabilities

In addition to Tableau External Actions, the vendor's latest analytics platform update is made up of five other new features.

They include the following:

  • Image Role, a new semantic field that enables developers to add images to their dashboards to help users better understand charts and other data visualizations;
  • the ability to replace data sources for individual worksheets when previously replacing a data source would affect all worksheets drawing data from that data source;
  • a Usage tab in workbooks that show how frequently an individual workbook is being used and enables workbook authors to better understand what content is most useful for their organization to improve their content management;
  • Custom Views REST API, a feature that enables developers to save personalized versions of APIs so they don't have to filter and sort every time they build a new workbook and more efficiently build personalized experiences that can be embedded in end users' workflows; and
  • new usage-based licensing for Tableau Cloud Embedded Analytics so customers pay only for their actual use of embedded data products and can scale their embedded BI use as much or as little as the need.

In addition to External Actions, Henschen highlighted Custom Views REST API and the new pricing model for Tableau Cloud Embedded Analytics as most useful for Tableau customers.

"All three are about harnessing the power of analytics outside of the context of conventional BI deployments," he said.

Action doesn't happen within reports and dashboards.
Doug HenschenAnalyst, Constellation Research

Of note is the new pricing option for Tableau Cloud Embedded Analytics, according to Henschen.

Tableau, which did not provide specifics for its new pay-per-use model, has historically charged flat fees for subscriptions. For example, Tableau Cloud comes in options of $70, $42 and $15 per user per month with no flexibility built in for actual usage. Similarly, Tableau Server comes in options of $70, $35 and $12 per user per month.

The pay-per-use option for Tableau Cloud Embedded Analytics could be a sign that Tableau is evolving to add more flexible pricing models, according to Henschen.

"The release itself is fairly typical of the scale of improvements you'd see in one of four annual updates. But the larger change in play is the introduction of new licensing options, such as the new pay-per-use model," he said. "I expect to see more changes on this front as Tableau looks to reach a broader base of users."

Change at the top

Tableau's 2022.4 release follows a tumultuous stretch for Salesforce.

In addition to Nelson's departure from Tableau on Dec. 2, Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor resigned on Nov. 30, leaving Salesforce founder and longtime CEO Mark Benioff again the CRM giant's sole leader. And on Dec. 5 Slack co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield revealed he will be leaving in January about two years after Slack was acquired by Salesforce for $27.7 billion.

While Salesforce named Lidiane Jones as Butterfield's successor, it will not replace Nelson.

Adam Selipsky was Tableau's CEO when Salesforce acquired the analytics vendor in 2019 but left to become CEO of AWS in March 2021. He was succeeded by Nelson.

But with Salesforce exerting more influence over Tableau as times passes, the analytics vendor no longer needs its own CEO, Henschen noted.

"Tableau is now a part of Salesforce, and it's clear that the leadership and decision making is coming out of San Francisco," he said.

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