What an incredible week of data lover industry and community events – Annual Tableau Customer Conference (TCC), SAP BusinessObjects User Conference, Tampa Analytics Group with Pentaho by Mark Kromer, South Florida BI with Chris Webb and SQL Saturday Orlando. I am EXHAUSTED and finally getting a chance to update the blog on a Saturday night again. Here is the latest and greatest Tableau scoop from TCC on Tableau v8.1 (Fall 2013), 8.2 (Early 2014) and a glimpse of 9.0 (TBD in 2014).

TCC 2013 was in Washington DC this year. The DATA crowd has grown to ~4,000 from over 40 countries.  I saw quite a few of my peers there from the Big 4 consulting firms, niche BI implementer firms and Microsoft Partner community. I also noticed a few Microsoft BI Program Managers and other competing BI vendors checking out TCC – Tableau is now “on their radar”. The big name BI industry analysts such as Rita Sallam, Claudia Imhoff, Cindi Howson, Wayne Eckerson, Andrew Brust, Steve Dine and other well-known names in the BI and analytics world were there.  TCC was THE place to be and I was not going to miss it this year.

Last year TCC  was held at the exact same time as PASS Summit so I could not go. However, I watched the key note recordings from my hotel room and literally cried when I saw the genuine BI beauty that I was seeing emerge from Tableau engineering team.  I will never forget that 2012 TCC key note, seeing the Devs on stage and listening to Christian Chabot. He is from Wisconsin – just like me. He was clearly listening to his customers and delivering top BI requests that I had also heard in the BI market. TCC 2012 is still my favorite Tableau key note. There were so many awesome features in Kraken/8.0 for Big Data Visualization, Mobile BI, Web Authoring, JavaScript API for ISV/OEM, TDE API, Forecasting, new vizzes like Heatmaps, and on and on and on.  It will be hard to  top that one.

The TCC 13 key note was  quite good and walked through upcoming features in 8.1, 8.2 and some 9.0. Here is a quick summary of what I saw and heard. A full summary of key note highlight features is also on the Tableau blog.

The opening theme was about Discovery. Christian Chabot talked about the pains of working with slow, cumbersome Traditional BI that crushes innovation, prevents on-the-fly thinking and data discovery impact potential. He compared Traditional BI to trying to write with a pencil taped to a large brick. Pictures of the Traditional BI process and change requests were shown on the screen. Anyone who has been through Traditional BI could totally relate to this message.

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Tableau is revolutionary. The highly intuitive dashboard design experience is  best in class. It is also shockingly easy and fast to set up a Tableau Server – literally a 15 to 30 minute process for some Tableau Server installs versus multiple week or month engagements in the Traditional BI world that I have grown up in all these years. To be fair, Traditional BI vendors do have a few more bells and whistles in the broader BI spectrum across master data, data quality services, ETL, operational reporting, predictive and alerting where Tableau is a focused BI dashboard and data discovery solution. However, just looking at development of a BI semantic layer and dashboards, Tableau is exceptionally better than all the other players. When I first learned Tableau Server – I kept thinking that I must be missing something, where is the catch, this can’t possibly scale out, etc. The reality is Tableau Server is  elegant – it is easy, fast to get rolling and it does scale out. Heck, it even upgrades, in-place easily. After experiencing life with Tableau, you never want to go back to the nightmare install, upgrade and development experiences of SharePoint BI, Microstrategy, IBM Cognos, SAP Business Objects or other Traditional BI players. Sorry to be so blunt about that pain but it is the cold, hard truth.  Traditional BI vendors take note. Cloud may be a nice future “easy-button”, plug and play alternative but on-premise is not going away soon – improve your offerings or continue to lose market share.

From there my favorite part of the TCC key note – Tableau Engineering Devs on Stage! This is where the developers that are building the products, not product marketing, CXO, or a conference presenter/vision sales demo guy, get on the stage to show & tell what they have been working on. It is refreshing –  I don’t know of another BI vendor that uses this approach. Tableau Engineering Devs opened with improvements to importing data into Tableau. What was shown looked a little like Data Explorer a.k.a. Power Query but less feature rich. They showed visual joins, some workflow and data prep/cleansing features.

Next up was statistics related features: box plots, easier ranking with percentiles, two pass totals, prediction bands and my #1 TOP FAVORITE new feature R integration. YAY! You could work with R and Tableau before – I have a deck and blog on it – but it was not ideal. Tableau chose to implement a R Serve hook approach similar to the one SAP uses with SAP Hana R and SAP Predictive Intelligence.

Then on to some other nice features like dashboard item transparency – imagine the creative applications that feature alone will allow. Some basic things like copying and pasting dashboard items between workbooks sheets, folders to categorize dimension attributes and measures in the shared semantic layer, a calendar control and quick filter formatting.  Mobile and web authoring also showcased great new features such as better branding color palettes, movable filters, resizing windows, improved personalization and dashboard authoring  in  the  Android App.

A feature set that the crowd seemed to really like but I didn’t quite understand or value  was called story telling. I won’t be able to give this one much justice but it looked to me like a new navigation control with variables from the worksheet data. Some audience members were tweeting bye-bye PowerPoint… nah, I don’t agree with that but I do see  value-add if Tableau has better PowerPoint integration or slickery presentation features for delivering analytic results to an audience.

Some of the BIGGEST high impact improvements for Tableau enterprise deployments were ones that most of this audience would not fully appreciate. Serious enterprise BI features such as SAML for Single Sign-On, IPv6, external load balancing support, automatic gateway fail over, host names versus IP addresses in configurations for easy machine swaps and finally 64-bit for both Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server were announced. The enterprise Tableau feature news was just huuuuge. Way to go!

One of the last announcements mentioned in the TCC 2013 key note was Tableau for the Mac – it got a standing ovation from the crowd. As a PC gal myself that can’t imagine life without my Lenovo W530 with Windows 8, I didn’t really care about Mac but this audience sure did. Tableau for Mac is expected in v9.0.

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To wrap up news from TCC 2013, I confess to keeping a secret for a few weeks. My secret = I was chosen as a Tableau Zen Master. It is an incredible honor and total SHOCK. I would not have guessed it in a million years. A Tableau Zen Master is like a Microsoft MVP but there are far less – less than 15 in the whole world. I was dying to tell people but I was sworn to secrecy. I am deeply grateful for this honor. I even had a wonderful, heart touching conversation with Christian Chabot. Zen Master was awarded right before Nate Silver’s TCC key note. It is hard to see me but I am wearing my favorite color “red”, standing in the middle of the pack on the stage in the photo above. With this award comes responsibility too – I promise to do my best to keep the Tableau community abreast of news, tips, tricks, keep the engineers on their toes, the sales team honest and also continue sharing my knowledge just as I have in the past year.

That concludes Tableau TCC 2013 updates.  I will share other  Pentaho and SAP news one of these days after getting some seriously overdue sleep.