Big Data No Longer Lost in Translation

Traditional BI makes it very difficult for people in the business who know the story behind the data to actually gain direct access to the data.  Instead, they submit data requirements to IT and when IT does finally deliver the data, it is typically only a subset or incomplete data, and in the wrong format.  When data gets lost in translation, business users become frustrated, abandon analytics altogether, and operate on hunches and guesses.  Fortunately Tableau solves this problem through its Self Service BI paradigm whereby any user in the organization can quickly gain direct access to the data needed, with flexibility to create any visualization imaginable (goodbye Excel!).  But wait, there is more.  Tableau has partnered with Pivotal to add a social element to these Self Service BI capabilities, whereby people in the business, data scientists, and IT can come together as a team to collaborate around data sets, visualizations, predictive models, and more to uncover new and better insight.  The result – Big Data No Longer Lost in Translation.

Click inside to watch 11 Tableau customers talk about how Self Service BI has changed the way they do business

I spoke with Ted Wasserman, a Product Manager at Tableau to learn more about the value of their technology and partnership with Pivotal.

1.  Let’s first talk about Tableau. Describe what part of the analytical process Tableau fits in and what problems it solves?

Our Mission is simple – we want to empower the ordinary person to see and understand their data.  Sure we want to help data scientists, business users, etc be more effective in their analysis, but we also want to make sure the average person can also ask and answer questions with data.

Tableau removes the time, cost, and frustration associated with the analytic process so organizations of any size can quickly start visualizing and analyzing data without having to wait for development cycles, training, chart limitations, and performance constraints.  Tableau has built-in intelligence to quickly visualize data sets according to best practices so users can immediately gain insight, while continuing to experiment and have fun with the data to solve real business problems.  From Microsoft Excel applications that small businesses use, to large enterprises that use traditional business Intelligence tools, our customers span every vertical and across all business units.

2.  How does Tableau integrate into the Big Data or Hadoop ecosystem?

Big Data means different things to different organizations. I like using Gartner’s definition of Big Data, which commonly refers to it by the “3 V” characteristics:  Volume, Velocity, and Variety. I argue that Tableau is the fourth “V”: Value.  (What good is data sitting in a silo if it can’t be accessed or processed by the people who make decisions?)  Tableau can integrate into any data architecture so that users have fast and easy access to their data.  Because data can reside in so many places, we have partnerships with many of the prominent data warehouse, data mart, analytic database, and Hadoop vendors. We are also looking into new types of data sources – web, NoSQL, application, and unstructured data.


3.  How does Tableau solve some of the problems around Big Data?

We solve several challenges, but let me describe two of the most important ones.  The first issue we address is around accessibility.  Working with Big Data was typically limited to an elite few up until now.  These were the Data Scientists, Programmers, and Data Engineers who had the skills to write the programs and queries needed to access data stored in Hadoop, Cassandra, etc., leaving the experts in the business to rely on these programmers to deliver the right data and insight.  With Tableau, we make Big Data more accessible to a broader range of users so nothing gets lost in translation.  Experts in the business have direct access to the data and the ability to ask their own questions in a self-service, self-reliant fashion.

A second issue we address is working with the data in a visual paradigm that makes it easy and fun to do the analysis.  Try spotting trends or outliers in a billion row spreadsheet! Our brains aren’t designed to do that.  With Tableau, users can easily move into a visual paradigm to quickly see what their data is telling them.  And it’s not just about the final result.  While the final results are beautiful and rich, we focus on all parts of the cycle of visual analysis, from accessing the data, to finding different views of the data, to sharing results that tell a story.

4.  You have several partners that you integrate with. What makes the Pivotal partnership unique and compelling?

Greenplum, now Pivotal, has a culture of innovation and is serious about growing the Big Data ecosystem to address customer needs.  We have a successful history working with the Greenplum team and database.  We are also looking at some of the newest technologies like Pivotal HD/HAWQ as they will change the game for doing analytics on Hadoop data.

Last year, we also began working with Chorus product team on the integration of Tableau Server and Pivotal Chorus.  This provides a compelling solution for teams of people needing a framework to collaborate and do analytics over big data.  The notion of social or team-based analytics is gaining traction, and Chorus provides an interesting platform to enable that.  As part of Chorus being contributed to the open source community, we worked with the Pivotal team to show how Chorus could be used to integrate with a BI tool like Tableau.  The integration uses new APIs in Tableau 8 to build Tableau into the project-based workflow.  For example, you can publish a dataset from within a Chorus workspace as a Tableau Workbook, and then view a published dataset by having it open automatically in Tableau.


5.  What are the most memorable stories customers have told with their data?

There are so many that it is hard to choose from.  Customers all over the world are using Tableau to cut costs, increase productivity, and improve lives.  One that comes to mind is Seattle Children’s Hospital where Tableau enabled them to reduce the amount of time patients needed to be in the hospital.  If you’re a parent, you understand how important that is.  I recommend visiting the Tableau website if you’re interested in hearing what some of our customers are saying.  Tableau also offers a free service to the world called Tableau Public that anyone can use to create interesting visualizations with their data. Many journalists, bloggers, and others use Tableau to help tell their stories with data.

About the Author: Mona Patel