Getty Images/iStockphoto

Tableau analytics platform tightens connection to Salesforce

The update includes a tightened connection to Salesforce aimed at making it easier for joint customers to work with their customer data. The update also provides more functions.

Tableau on Thursday launched its second analytics platform update of 2023, highlighted by an improved connector to Salesforce Data Cloud.

Tableau 2023.2 includes more than 20 new features, all of which are now generally available.

Based in Seattle and owned by Salesforce, Tableau is an analytics vendor that seeks to make business intelligence use as widespread as possible through the use of its self-service tools.

In May during its annual user conference, the vendor unveiled Tableau GPT, an integration with Einstein GPT from Salesforce that is designed to infuse Tableau's platform with generative AI and large language model technology. In addition, the vendor introduced Tableau Pulse, a tool that uses generative AI to automatically surface insights.

Both Tableau GPT and Tableau Pulse are in preview.

Just days before the conference, Ryan Aytay was appointed Tableau's new CEO, about six months after former CEO Mark Nelson resigned.

Despite the volume of new features included in Tableau's latest analytics platform update -- with the upgraded connector to Salesforce Data Cloud its most significant feature -- Constellation Research analyst Doug Henschen called the update "incremental."

There's nothing particularly earth-shattering in this release. But we have to keep in mind that the company recently announced Tableau Pulse and Tableau GPT at the Tableau Conference in May, so there are plenty of significant new capabilities in development.
Doug HenschenAnalyst, Constellation Research

"There's nothing particularly earth-shattering in this release," he said. "But we have to keep in mind that the company recently announced Tableau Pulse and Tableau GPT … so there are plenty of significant new capabilities in development."

Similarly, Mike Leone, an analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group, noted that while nothing in Tableau 2023.2 is as interesting as new tools featuring generative AI, the update advances the overall capabilities of Tableau's platform.

"Everything being announced here are capabilities that are being requested from customers," he said. "While generative AI announcements are grabbing headlines … there is still a long list of nice-to-have capabilities that can directly impact the customer experience."

New capabilities

Data Cloud is part of Salesforce's customer relationship management platform, storing data and updating customer profiles in real time based on activity.

Salesforce first launched Data Cloud in September 2022. In February 2023, Tableau and Salesforce introduced a connector that makes all Salesforce data natively available in Tableau so users can apply Tableau's analytics tools to the data and derive insights from that data.

The new connector is designed to improve upon the initial integration and requires no installation.

Perhaps the most significant improvement, according to Henschen, is that it is aware of Data Spaces, personalized areas within Tableau where users can save content -- including metadata, data and processes -- before it's ready to be shared. Within Data Spaces, users can create new workbooks or save existing workbooks as a separate copy.

Beyond its awareness of Data Spaces, the updated connector is driverless and aims to create a more user-friendly interface that makes objects easier to find. In all, it comes with more than 10 new functions designed to better enable Tableau users to work with their Salesforce data.

"The Data Cloud connector is an obvious must-have addition, given the importance of this platform to Salesforce," Henschen said. "I'm glad it's more than just an open database connectivity/Java database connectivity type connection in that it's Data Spaces aware and supports data functions such as date/time functions."

In addition to the updated Salesforce connector, other connectors in Tableau's analytics platform update include generally available ones between Tableau and Google Analytics 4 and Amazon Athena. There's also a connector to Amazon S3 that's now in beta testing.

Beyond connectors, new capabilities in Tableau 2023.2 include the following:

  • Multi-row calculations such as "difference from" and "percent difference from" in Tableau Prep without having to write complex code or do complicated calculations.
  • Line Patterns, designed to give users more customization and flexibility when creating data visualizations by enabling them to highlight areas of interest with solid, dashed or dotted lines.
  • More control over end users' personal access tokens (PATs) within Tableau Cloud -- managing who can create PATs and setting their validity period from one day to one year -- so that administrators can better enforce organizational security standards.
  • And enabling content authors to edit automatically generated alt text so they can provide detailed descriptions of a visualization's content, up to 2,500 characters.

"These announcements highlight the importance of not losing sight of where most of your customers are today, even though there are shiny GPT announcements virtually everywhere," Leone said.

And like Henschen, he added that the new connector to Data Cloud stands out.

"I think the Salesforce connector will be particularly useful as organizations continue to look for ways to simplify data accessibility and analysis," Leone said.

Not included in the platform update, as noted by Leone, are any tools that feature generative AI. While Tableau GPT and Tableau Pulse were unveiled more than a month ago, they're not scheduled for general availability until late in 2023 or perhaps even 2024.

Many data management and analytics vendors have revealed integrations with generative AI capabilities since OpenAI's launch of ChatGPT in November 2022 -- a release that represented a substantial improvement in generative AI and LLM capabilities. But like Tableau, most are exercising caution given the accuracy and security concerns associated with generative AI tools and have largely not yet made the tools available beyond the testing stage.

As a result, the absence of generative AI capabilities in Tableau 2023.2 is no surprise, according to Henschen.

"Software releases are all about what's becoming generally available -- after being announced six-to-nine months earlier or more -- so I'm not at all surprised that there are no generative AI capabilities in the latest release," he said.

In addition, Henschen noted that Tableau GPT -- once available -- will be aided by AI Cloud and its Einstein GPT Trust Layer, which Salesforce unveiled Monday.

"Tableau GPT will be among the generative capabilities that will benefit from those investments and developments," Henschen said.

Next steps

With Tableau GPT not scheduled for a pilot preview program until November, it's unlikely that Tableau's next analytics platform update will include any generative AI capabilities.

What it will likely include are more integrations and added support for Data Cloud, according to Henschen.

Meanwhile, with economic conditions still uncertain more than three years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one way Tableau could significantly benefit users is by including more financial operations and cost-analysis tools, he continued.

Cloud computing costs often exceed organizations' expectations, and helping customers better predict and monitor those costs would be beneficial.

"With current economic conditions in mind, I would prioritize more FinOps and analytic cost-analysis capabilities -- anything to help customers optimize their Tableau deployments and keep a lid on cloud costs," Henschen said.

Eric Avidon is a senior news writer for TechTarget Editorial and is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He covers analytics and data management.

Dig Deeper on Business intelligence technology

Data Management
Content Management