Tableau 7: Sleepless In Seattle Because Data Never Sleeps

SEATTLE: It’s been my experience that when a vendor hosts an annual customer event, there are new products being launched and orders being taken,, but the seventh Tableau Conference wasn’t about the products so much as about the customers and how to get the most out of Tableau’s BI tools.

The 5,500 customers and partners, almost double last year’s attendance of 3,000, were more than politely interested in what was previewed – Project Elastic and new features and functions in Tableau 9 – but they’re not going to ship until sometime next year. As Francois Ajenstat, Senior Director of Product Management, put it, they’ll ship the products when the customers tell Tableau they’re ready.

TC14 was about the customers, their success stories, workshops and certifications, industry breakouts (i.e. manufacturing, banking and finance, government, education and retail) and a healthy dose of Tableau Doctor appointments, one-on-one consultations and group sessions. More than 100 Tableau customers shared their success stories and business intelligence wins, including Citrix, Coca Cola, Facebook, GM, Goodwill, Kelly Services, Verizon, VMware and Wells Fargo.

“At Tableau, we believe that empowering people to unleash their creative genius is the most important goal which drives modern strategy,” said Tableau CEO Christian Chabot in his keynote.

I had a chance to talk to a couple of Tableau’s customers, who shared some of their experiences with “The Art of Analytics”. The following are some highlights of what EMC and the University of Washington had to say.

“We recognized that we needed to do strategic analysis on our data,” said Ann Wunderlin, Education & Communication Manager, Data & Analytics, Information Technology, University of Washington.

One of the reasons the university decided on Tableau was a desire to have an easier way to deliver this data, said Bart Pietrzak, Business Intelligence Architect/Technology Manager, UW-IT. They wanted to make it accessible to a much broader range of users.

The legacy systems were too complicated, so UW moved to Tableau and started building dashboards. The university said Tableau met two different needs: to expose the data, and to explore it. “Tableau freed us up,” said Pietrzak.

Tableau was used as a catalyst of change, he said. “Time and time again we heard we need to put the people’s hands on data.” But the data needed to be cleaned up and made easy to access, and users were getting frustrated and stopped using the existing tools.

However, this is a journey, and will take time, added Wunderlin. People are living with real data now, not anecdotal, but it takes time to get familiar with that, she said. But the change will come, because as one user put it, in their 32 years of experience, they’ve never had this level of data analysis.

The university’s data is still siloed, and outside sources of information also need to be integrated. In addition, a lot more training needs to be done.

Pietrzak said UW has developed a tool like Elastic, called Michelangelo. So they’re very interested in seeing how Tableau moves forward with it.

EMC has been using analytics – and Tableau — in a number of areas, including customer satisfaction and service and support. The storage, information management, security and virtualization vendor has been using data collected from service engineers in the field to optimize processes, said Steve Scales, Consultant Program Manager, EMC. Having been doing this for a while with its own staff, the company is also determining the best way to incorporate their channel partners’ services. “We need to figure out the best way to get those metrics.

Another application is providing customers with mitigation tools, i.e. end of life for products, said Jenny Beazley, Director, Global Quality, Total Customer Experience, EMC. The service has made it much easier for customers to understand where they are, and what their options are, she said.

Tableau dashboards are also helping customers better understand their IT environments, added Wendy Gradek, Senior Manager, BI and Analytics, Engineering Operations Services and Solutions, EMC. They’ve also helped EMC management make critical business decisions faster. What used to take weeks, you can no go to a URL, quickly view several dashboards, and in a few minutes get a good understanding of a specific customer’s situation, she said.

Dashboards and analytics are also helping with internal communications across multiple functions and divisions, said Gradek. Internally, we’re leveraging our own data. “I think we’re at the cusp of something very big, it’s going to revolutionize the way we do business.”

Like UW, EMC agrees that analytics is a journey, not a destination. “It’s a journey from reactive to proactive to predictive, which is where we need to be,” explained Scales. “We expect the trend will be that the customers will want more from us.”

Customers have some data on EMC’s Web site, but not their own dashboards. However, they’ve been seeing these dashboards at recent events, and have gotten quite interested, he said. “They become immediate converts.”

Gradek agreed that showcasing the Tableau capabilities and the ability to do what-if analyses is compelling. “The sell of using Tableau technology is really easy… within minutes you’ve got data”.

Tableau’s upcoming products, especially Elastic and their initiatives, got strong endorsements from EMC. Scales said he was “floored” by Elastic and the ease with automatically dragging and dropping data without doing all the background work. “Mobility is huge,” stated Gradek.

“Where EMC is going, will be more and more real time, live data. We’re already starting on that, we’re on the way.
DISCLAIMER: Tableau looked after travel and accommodation expenses.

Author: Steve Wexler

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