The past month I have been fielding a lot of calls and email inquiries. Feel free to email me if you want to chat. Let me take this opportunity to reassure all of my Microsoft friends that I continue to LOVE Microsoft deeply with all my heart and soul. As mentioned in my previous post, in 2013 I will be advocating the best of combined Microsoft + Tableau solutions for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that Tableau has mature touch-friendly, “browser-based” mobile BI for a wide variety of mobile device types. Tableau published content is mobile aware and touch optimized with no extra coding or dual authoring – a publish once, view anywhere model. Tableau also has “native” mobile BI apps for both iOS and Android – by far the most popular BYOD mobile devices in the market today.  I anxiously await the Microsoft Surface Pro and I do hope that there will be market uptake of it. If you do have a Windows mobile device, you can use Tableau’s “browser-based” mobile BI option. Anyone that has followed me through the years knows that I have always tooled around with mobile gadgets since PocketPC and SQL Server CE in 1999/2000. I also need to apologize to Jen Stirrup because she was recommending this Microsoft + Tableau mobile BI combination last year and I kindly asked her as a Microsoft MVP to downplay it…now here I am only a little over a year later singing the praises of the solution she first evangelized. I am sorry Jen – you did find a great solution and I was slow to embrace it.

Other reasons for this shift in my thinking/change of heart per se is that Tableau does not “replace” Microsoft – it supplements the Microsoft front-end offering that has been lagging for years now since the Proclarity sunset. What about Excel Power View you may ask? If you evaluate the two products, Tableau v8 “Kraken” and Excel 2013 Power View, you will quickly see that they are light years apart in capabilities. Excel Power View is targeted for the masses, general Excel use cases versus deep analytics usage. Customers do need some deep analytics in a global, fast paced, uncertain economy to remain competitive and in business. They do not need to choose one or the other – they can use both for the appropriate use cases. Customers also want to retain their BI investments – not rip and replace them for deep analytics. Tableau as you can see in the architecture diagram above works alongside Microsoft to fill some voids.  That is the beauty of choosing the Microsoft platform – the Microsoft platform values interoperability and doesn’t trap customers into a proprietary silo like many other competing platforms. Tableau can be used with SharePoint (with SSPI, with Trusted Auth), SharePoint Lists, Excel, Power Pivot, SQL Server and SSAS to fully leverage your existing investments. You can also embed live Tableau visualizations in PowerPoint presentations. In the last blog, I played with SSAS Data Mining DMX Prediction Queries and Tableau. I am currently testing if SSRS data feeds work as OData feeds with Tableau. I will also be exploring how to combine the new Tableau v8  TDE extract API to possibly create an add-in TDE destination component for SSIS.  There is also a new JavaScript API for ISV, embedded and external ad-hoc data visualization use cases. I have all sorts of ideas for combining these two solutions together.

Why Tableau? Tableau has won many accolades from Gartner, Forrester and other analysts as the BI industry data visualization “sweetheart”. It has been best in class for a few years now. It also won the top award in SQL Server Pro magazine’s 2012 Best BI Reporting product. Tableau is data and BI platform vendor neutral and allows optional in-memory or direct connections. Tableau customers totally love them – much like I totally love Microsoft. I have never in my career replaced Tableau or heard bad things about them from customers. I have replaced QlikView quite often and heard cries for help only months after a QlikView purchase more than once. Spotfire seemed interesting to me especially with the R integration for predictive but I didn’t hear the amazing kind of customer feedback from Spotfire customers like I heard from Tableau customers. I also figured that I’d find a way to combine R with Tableau. When I tested Tableau I found it to be user friendly, functionally deep for analytics, had gorgeous ad-hoc data visualization with a huge, dreamy array of native direct data source connectivity and visualization options. The mobile BI aspects for iPad and Android sealed the deal per se.

For over 15 years I have been a consultant recommending, building and delivering the best, mixed  technology solutions.  It has only been in the past few years that I became vendor specific due to my role. I am a true engineer that does listen to her customers, admits when she is wrong, calls you up when you are wrong, and also likes nothing more than to explore what all the technology vendors offer to recommend the best solutions.  It is incredibly wonderful to have customers that evolve into true friends as the years pass…I thrive on hearing that a solution that I built or recommended a zillion years ago is still up, running and doing the job today.  It is no secret that I am motivated by making a difference – not by making the most money. If I can help people and be intellectually challenged while doing so than it is a fantastic day. Thank you to all of the people that have been reaching out to me. This is what I have been up to lately. I still love Microsoft and I am still a huge data geek.