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Tableau update highlighted by new embedded analytics tool

In addition to Embedding Playground, the longtime BI vendor's latest platform update features new metadata management capabilities and an integration with Google Docs.

Tableau unveiled its third platform update of the year, highlighted by new embedded analytics capabilities.

Tableau historically has released four updates a year, one in each quarter. In late September, however, three months after the launch of Tableau 2023.2 when the vendor would previously have introduced its third-quarter platform update, Tableau put out a statement that it is switching to three platform updates per year.

Its third update was thus pushed back to the fourth quarter, and there will be no fourth platform update of 2023.

According to Tableau, it made the change to enable more comprehensive research in preparation for each update as well as allow for more time to test new analytics features and receive customer feedback.

Tableau Cloud and Tableau Desktop will now be updated about every four months. Tableau Server, which is updated in every other new release, will now be updated every eight months.

Tableau Pulse -- a generative AI tool that automatically reveals insights, first introduced in preview in May -- is still scheduled for its initial release in December 2023.

The new release cycle comes amid a period of change for Tableau. The analytics vendor has twice changed CEOs in the past two-plus years, with Mark Nelson taking over following Adam Selipsky's departure for AWS and Ryan Aytay taking over in May 2023 following six months without a CEO after Nelson resigned.

Salesforce, Tableau's parent company since 2019, initially planned to manage Tableau without a CEO following Nelson's departure but went in a different direction with the promotion of Aytay.

New capabilities

Introduced on Oct. 24 in a blog post authored by Kuber Sharma, director of product marketing, Tableau 2023.3 features the launch of Tableau's new Embedding Playground.

Analytics use within organizations has been stagnant for decades, largely the domain of trained data scientists and analysts with the computer science skills to write code and mathematics training to interpret statistics.

Depending on the study, it's been found that only a quarter to a third of employees within organizations use analytics as part of their job.

Low-code/no-code tools aimed to foster self-service analysis make analytics accessible to more people. But most BI platforms were built for experts, and retrofitting them for business users hasn't significantly changed much. In addition, self-service users still required significant data literacy training to reliably interpret data.

Freeform natural language processing as well as automated insights enabled by generative AI and large language models (LLMs) might finally expand BI use beyond its current limited reach.

But so might embedded analytics, which removes data and analysis from complex BI platforms and infuses not only data but also data products, such as dashboards and reports, directly in business users' normal workflows.

It eliminates the need to learn a new platform and enables users to work with analytics in a familiar environment.

Tools such as Tableau's new Embedding Playground, Domo's Everywhere and Sisense's Extense Framework are therefore significant advances, according to Wayne Eckerson, founder and analyst at Eckerson Group.

"Embedded analytics … puts analytics at [users'] fingertips, eliminating the need to toggle between applications and hunt for the right analytic within a BI tool," he said. "In essence, it makes the BI tool invisible by embedding analytic output into business processes. This expands BI usage and propagates data democratization."

Specifically, Tableau's Embedding Playground is a tool for developers designed to simplify embedding analytics into the workflows of business users. Using the Embedding Playground, developers can generate the JavaScript code needed to embed analytics with just a few clicks, according to Tableau.

Tableau has long offered embedded analytics capabilities, but making the embedding process simpler is good for the vendor's customers, Eckerson noted.

"It puts a very nice [graphical user interface] on top of the embedding process … where you insert JavaScript into application code," he said. "The Playground makes it easy to generate the JavaScript."

Beyond the Embedding Playground, Tableau's latest analytics platform update includes the following:

  • Custom data labels, a new metadata management tool that enables data creators to define their data so it can easily be found and used to inform decisions.
  • Dynamic axis ranges to expand the Tableau's data visualization development capabilities.
  • New integration capabilities named the Lightning Web Component that lets users embed Tableau visualizations into various Salesforce applications.
  • An expansion of Tableau's integration with Google that allows joint customers to access Tableau Cloud from within Google Docs.

The Embedding Playground is the most significant new feature, according to Eckerson. However, he noted that other new tools, while relatively small in the scope of Tableau's overall platform, are also beneficial.

"I like the Playground but wonder who it's targeted toward," Eckerson said. "The custom labeling is pretty neat, as is the custom axis creation, but those are minor new features."

Next steps

While Tableau 2023.3 doesn't include any generative AI features, generative AI is a significant part of Tableau's roadmap.

Embedded analytics … puts analytics at [users'] fingertips, eliminating the need to toggle between applications and hunt for the right analytic within a BI tool. It makes the BI tool invisible by embedding analytic output into business processes.
Wayne EckersonFounder and analyst, Eckerson Group

In addition to Tableau Pulse, Tableau GPT is also under development. Tableau GPT is a combination of Tableau's existing analytics capabilities with Einstein GPT, a generative AI tool within Salesforce's Einstein AI platform.

Tableau is right to focus on generative AI, Eckerson said.

Generative AI has been the dominant trend in analytics over the 11 months since OpenAI released ChatGPT, which greatly improved generative AI and LLM capabilities over what had previously been available.

Beyond what Tableau has already unveiled, the vendor should make sure to enable users to integrate any generative AI model with Tableau, whether one an organization develops on its own outside the Tableau environment or one using the vendor's capabilities, according to Eckerson.

"The big thing now is LLM integration," Eckerson said. "Tableau has already released some capabilities there. But adding the flexibility to incorporate any models into the tools for use with the tool and data will be important."

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

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