|Tableau: noun ˈta-ˌblō, ta-ˈblō
I have been living the BusinessObjects Experience for the past decade. Last week, I spent a few hours immersed in The Tableau Experience, Tableau Software‘s roadshow. The event was held at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. I have no doubt that the location was chosen carefully to underscore the event’s key message. A hotel designed “to make contemporary art a part of more peoples’ daily lives” was an appropriate venue for a business analytics vendor “on a mission to help people see and understand data.” It was a stark contrast to typically bland vendor presentations at bland corporate hotels. The Tableau Experience was also an interesting juxtaposition to ASUG Developer Tools Day, held the following day at Northern Kentucky University.
The presenter, coincidentally a former sales consultant from SAP, spoke passionately about using data to “tell a story”. It reminded me of Infomersion’s original Xcelsius marketing theme of “stealing the show“. Clearly an analytics vendor on the offensive, there wasn’t much emphasis defending Tableau’s reputation against its bigger rivals or mentioning them by name. Still, I had to chuckle to myself when the presenter quickly demonstrated how easy it was to create customized groupings. You know, like the grouping button in SAP’s retired Desktop Intelligence that still hasn’t been ported to Web Intelligence? The emphasis underpinning all of the demonstrations was that you, regardless of your technical skill, could visualize your data with great speed. Speed was not only a reference to Tableau’s in-memory engine, but a person’s ability to do things themselves. While corporate IT departments were embraced rather than openly mocked, everyone understood that “doing things yourself” meant that you weren’t waiting for corporate IT.
Simplicity was also a key theme of The Tableau Experience. Tableau offers one primary user application: Tableau Desktop. It’s complemented by enterprise (Tableau Server) and cloud (Tableau Public) offerings. In addition, there is a free desktop viewer application and a free mobile application for iOS and Android.
SAP Visual Intelligence (now SAP Lumira), SAP’s new data discovery tool is an interesting tool that combines the visual capabilities of SAP BusinessObjects Explorer with the data engine of Sybase IQ. But it’s best understood as a direct response to Tableau (and other niche BI vendors like Qlik and Tibco) rather than a direct response to the analytic needs of business users. It may be liberating for business users to hear that SAP Visual Intelligence isn’t tied to the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence 4.0 platform. But many of SAP’s existing customers are deeply tied to the platform and its disparate collection of design tools. They need the BI platform to support their existing as well as future business intelligence initiatives. And after five support packs applied to the BI 4.0 platform, many of these customers are still waiting for a functionally cohesive and stable solution.
With native connections to SAP BW, SAP HANA, and SAP Sybase IQ, I’m sure that many of SAP’s traditional ERP customers are looking closely at Tableau. With native connections to a long list of other data sources, I’m sure that many of SAP’s traditional BusinessObjects customers are also looking closely. And IT organizations that have standardized on SAP BusinessObjects may be surprised to learn that their business users are already using Tableau, a testament to Tableau’s “land and expand” sales strategy (see Tableau Thrives in Providing Visual Discovery for Business Analytics by Tony Cosentino, Ventana Research).
As a long-time user of SAP BusinessObjects, I left Tableau’s presentation wondering why SAP thinks yet another tool is the solution to customers’ analytics challenges instead of continuous innovation in existing tools like Web Intelligence.
I doubt that I’m alone.
What are your thoughts on The Tableau Experience?