Tableau is still a platform, says Chief Product Officer

Mark Chillingworth Profile picture for user Mark Chillingworth December 15, 2021 Audio mode
Slack-First Analytics is about connecting analytics to users, not a move back to being just a tool, says Tableau product leader

Businessman using tablet analyzing sales data and economic growth graph chart. Digital marketing and CRM. © PopTika - Shutterstock
(© PopTika - Shutterstock)

Amongst the announcements and customer stories of the Tableau Conference 2021, the release of Slack-First Analytics is perhaps the clearest indicator of the future trajectory of the data and analytics firm. Whatever the post-pandemic workplace looks like, working methods have changed. Collaboration suites such as Microsoft's Teams and Slack, now also part of the Salesforce family, have become the de-facto location for completing tasks, finding applications, resources and, of course, sharing with colleagues.  

Francois Ajenstat, Chief Product Officer at Tableau, virtually popped into diginomica to discuss why Slack-First Analytics will be significant for Tableau and its users. Announced in August 2021, Slack-First Analytics is part of the release of Tableau Online 2021.3 and for Tableau Server users that upgrade to 2021.3. He says: 

Historically, people have to go to the data. Now data is coming to them. Data will be opened up to dramatically more people who can use it more effectively.

Asked if Slack-First Analytics is a response to enterprise workers coalescing around the likes of Teams and Slack, he adds:

It is a critical component of how we have been expanding the mission of Tableau. By that, I mean, when you think of Slack-First Analytics, it is about bringing analytics into the flow of business and work. Another place is embedding analytics directly into the applications people use because, in the future, not only is every firm a data company, every person will be a data person, but also every process will be a data process.

The world has changed in the last two years and the way people work and collaborate. So for Tableau, it was a case of how do we bring all that into one place.

So is Tableau becoming a tool that users turn to from the platform that is Slack? After all, Microsoft boss Satya Nadella has admitted that Teams is the hub for using Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Ajenstat says: 

Tableau started as a tool, and we are moving to a platform, but in addition, there are platforms of platforms.

Ajenstat argues that Tableau is a platform and that this is demonstrated by what he calls the Tableau economy, where individuals specialize and focus their careers on mastering Tableau as an enterprise technology platform. Slack-First Analytics was announced alongside a series of platformesque developments, including the Tableau Exchange, an App store of integrations and services, as well as Tableau Public gaining a Hire Me widget where CIOs and CTOs can recruit Tableau developers directly. He adds: 

We have been expanding areas like business science, which is about bringing data science capabilities to the business user. We have also been expanding data management to help organizations trust their data and enthusing AI across the platform to make analytics easier to use.

Ajenstat doesn't believe that Tableau will become a tool serving super platforms like Slack. He argues: 

What has changed is that now you have academic programmes built on Tableau. People have become Tableau experts, and they are hired for their skills, and there are companies that are built on Tableau. That is a fundamental shift from five years ago where Tableau was seen as a tool. Now it is a platform for analytics, success and careers.

Connecting up

Whether the enterprise and its teams use Tableau via a collaboration tool, directly or through application programming interfaces (API), the key is what Ajenstat calls composability. He says: 

Users want to bring the best of breed services together. Take Cerner, for example; they have embedded Tableau directly into their solution. Health customers don't buy Tableau; they buy Cerner, but what we are able to do is provide insight so they can provide new services for improved care or better revenue management. We are able to surface the data that has empowered these new offerings.

Ajenstat has a point, and Cerner is a good example to highlight. CIOs and data leaders in healthcare are, once again, discussing the importance of interoperability between systems. This is being driven by a need to digitize healthcare processes for greater efficiency, but also a return to connecting health into wider communities. Therefore the processes and technology of a healthcare provider need to connect to and share data with other civic bodies.  

It was not that long ago that the Cerner healthcare technology stack was considered a one-stop-shop, the healthcare equivalent to an SAP or Oracle stack, if you will. Ajenstat adds: 

People want to utilize the capabilities of different platforms and bring together offerings.

Cerner is responding to the rising demand for data tools in healthcare and integrating data tools from the likes of Tableau to meet that demand.  

Data data everywhere

Interoperability/composability will be vital to organizations as they seek to become more data-centric. Ajenstat says:

Every form of business process will be a data process, so analytics is the flow of business. We are expanding analytics ubiquity so that anyone can do analytics with any data. Having access to data is not a nice to have; it is critical. So Slack-first Analytics is the linchpin for Tableau.

We are in a golden age of analytics. Customers want to unlock more from their data. When you look at the future economy, every digital transformation is a data transformation, and we are creating more data from our customers. We are seeing data monetization become increasingly important for organizations as they are looking to use data as a way to differentiate a service that they can offer to their customers.

As a result, data, alongside application development, cloud engineering and cybersecurity, are amongst the top skills CIOs and CTOs are looking to recruit. Ajenstat says Tableau has had one of its best years for recruitment in 2021. Ajenstat adds:

People are the number one asset that we have and our most strategic asset. Talent wants to work in growth areas, and employees are looking at the values of firms and Tableau and Salesforce really lead on this.

Mindful of this, Tableau announced at its conference plans to train 10 million people in data literacy over the next five years. A move that will, of course, benefit Tableau as a business.

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