Recap: Tableau Conference and ThoughtSpot Beyond 2023

Two events, each hosted by a different data analytics software provider, signify the tech industry's increased focus on democratizing AI -- especially generative AI.

It's been a wild week of events across the tech industry, but the two that will be the focus of this recap are Tableau Conference and ThoughtSpot Beyond. Both companies shared their thoughts on the state of data and AI with new announcements, great partnerships and powerful customer stories.

Not so surprising was the ongoing theme of AI: How are we viewing and tackling generative AI, large language models (LLMs) and GPT-like experiences? Each vendor has its own approach and it's worth walking through some of those announcements made this week.

Tableau's focus on foundational AI and developer enablement

Tableau's announcements centered around three themes: broadening the reach of data with AI, embedding data everywhere and harmonizing all data. On the AI front, several of the Tableau announcements hinge on the success of what I view as their biggest announcement, Tableau GPT. This will serve as the foundational technology to power new experiences and add more intelligence. Just to be clear, Tableau has had capabilities of this nature in the past. Ask Data, Data Stories and Explain Data have been around for years, but Tableau GPT will add a new foundational level of intelligence throughout the Tableau platform.

A perfect example of this can be seen in the announcement of Tableau Pulse, which will represent a new experience for data consumers. To make data easy for everyone, it will surface personalized metrics, integrate data into workflows and facilitate rapid AI-powered insights at scale. Pulse is powered by Tableau GPT and will be utilized across various experiences inside Tableau and important collaboration tools such as Slack -- also under parent company Salesforce -- and Microsoft Teams.

Tableau will also add a metrics layer within its platform, enabling stakeholders to define new metrics. The important thing to understand here is that the industry has heard about democratizing data for far too long without seeing it happen. These Tableau announcements create an opportunity to execute that promise. These are not announcements geared toward data analysts. They're almost entirely focused on the data consumers.

Another key theme across several of Tableau's announcements was empowering developers. Developers are responsible for building data-driven applications. I agree with Tableau's stance on this matter: Every application should be an analytical application augmented with data, analytics and AI. This highlights the increased focus on embedded analytics, which is important since this is the fastest-growing side of Tableau's business.

The announcement to highlight here is the VizQL Data Service, which provides access to the Tableau engine everywhere. Think of this announcement as Tableau's foray into headless business intelligence (BI). Again, it's all about enabling developers to leverage centralized data models and infuse data experiences everywhere by simplifying application development. A great example of its power is the fact that Tableau Pulse was built using VizQL.

ThoughtSpot becomes a leader in AI-powered analytics

ThoughtSpot might have been the first vendor in this space to announce a GPT-like experience. ThoughtSpot is hyperfocused on the idea that AI-powered analytics should be as easy as using your favorite phone app. This is where ThoughtSpot Sage comes into play. Sage, first announced in March 2023, will be a continued and important area of focus for ThoughtSpot. Sage is all about delivering AI-curated engagement and insights to put GPT to work on business data. This includes the following capabilities:

  • AI-powered searches in natural language.
  • AI-generated answers.
  • AI-powered search recommendations.
  • AI-assisted data modeling.
  • AI continuous learning based on interactions.

One of the important announcements was ThoughtSpot Cloud now being available on Google Cloud, officially making ThoughtSpot Cloud a multi-cloud SaaS product. This partnership and several tool integration announcements highlight the importance of openness when it comes to supporting a diverse data ecosystem of tools from various vendors. They include the following features:

  • New platform connectors.
  • ThoughtSpot Search Cache for faster performance.
  • Improved data modeling capabilities through a guided UI.
  • Deeper integrations with leading data catalogs, offering bidirectional metadata sharing.

ThoughtSpot is really building momentum in this area. The event saw announcements related to Google Workspace with plugins for Google Sheets and Slides. There's ThoughtSpot for Excel, too, so Excel users can get AI-powered analytics for free. There's even Git integration for lifecycle management and CSS support for app builders to deliver better custom experiences fueled by data. For data app builders and data storytellers, it's really about enablement and efficiency. These announcements are making BI feel invisible and enabling key stakeholders to build the interactive data applications they hoped for with flexible APIs and customizability.

It's a GPT world and we're all just living in it

According to an old saying, if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, LLMs that power GPT-like experiences are now serving as virtually every vendor's hammer, and all aspects of their platforms are rapidly becoming the nails. While we're just getting started with generative AI and GPT-like experiences, I continue to be amazed by the speed at which these capabilities are becoming table stakes. Even as customers show some reluctance to trust recommendations or interactions, the efficiency gains cannot be overlooked.

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