Tableau’s right place, right time, right solution market momentum continues to fuel what seems to be unstoppable growth over the past five years. Hosted in New Orleans at the massive Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (MCCNO), Tableau Conference 2018 was bigger and better than ever. Over 17,000 data enthusiasts attended the gala this year. Gartner’s Cindi Howson tweeted stats shared in 2014. Since then the crowd has more than tripled.

Tableau Conference Flashback

Tableau Conference Flashback

Opening Keynote

Tableau’s CEO, Adam Selipsky, shared in the opening keynote that over 78,000 organizations worldwide use Tableau today. Tableau cloud has grown to 10,000 active users and Tableau Public has served 550,000 users. In the past year, Tableau Prep gained 9,000 users and over 25,000 users have downloaded extensions from Tableau’s Extension Gallery.

Tableau Extension Gallery


After touting key stats, Tableau then took us on a fun trip down memory lane. I literally felt like I was watching a variation of my own keynote presented at a competing analytics vendor event last June. I guess great minds think alike! In that section, we saw flashbacks of VisiCalc, America Online and many other technological progressions.

Tableau started revealing “smart” analytics enhancements

Moving on to current day analytics innovation, Tableau started revealing “smart” analytics enhancements. We saw Tableau Prep demos of intelligent recommendations, support for Python and R scripting, plus scheduling of Tableau Prep flows in an add-on product called Tableau Prep Conductor. Then Tableau showcased new add related objects features in Tableau Desktop for automatically creating improved dimensional data models. Following those demos, we finally saw the results of Tableau’s natural language query integration – referred to as Ask Data. Lastly in the first keynote, we heard about taking Tableau to the next level with advanced analytics partners like DataRobot, a market leading automated machine learning vendor, that added a new DataRobot Insights extension.

DataRobot + Tableau


Devs on Stage Keynote Highlights

Source: Tableau Software

During the popular Tableau Devs on Stage keynote, we saw demos of a much longer list of exciting new capabilities ranging from data artistry delighters to powerful analytics improvements. With the Tableau 2019.1 Beta, Tableau users can start enjoying what’s new, wild and exciting. Tableau 2019.1 Beta includes:

  • Export to PowerPoint – In Beta 2 later this quarter, you will finally be able to export a Tableau dashboard to a static PowerPoint file in one click. You can also navigate from Tableau dashboard to PowerPoint slides.
  • New Google Adwords connector
  • Additional ways to subscribe to visual data-driven alerts
  • Upgraded Tableau Mobile app with better UX and support for offline dashboards

Data Storytelling Artistry

It was lovely to see Tableau embracing data artistry. I’ve always said that what makes Tableau truly unique in a sea of look alike alternatives is the limitless potential to design anything you want – no ugly boxes. Your dashboards can be beautiful works of interactive art with data. Dashboard presentation matters. I have to imagine stellar data artists like Jonni Walker jumped for joy when the following announcements were shown to us.

Dashboard presentation matters.

In Tableau 2018.3, navigation buttons will simplify creating compelling data stories with guided analytics experiences between dashboards, sheets, and additional resources. We also saw background transparency – even on legends, toggle zone visibility that allows you to hide or show a dashboard zone and long-awaited export to PowerPoint.

Source: Tableau Software

During this keynote we also got a glimpse of what’s coming in 2019 with Tableau’s fast vector background mapping technology and it is fantastic. Demos of rapid rendering shape contours, street details and building outlines awed the crowd. New map backgrounds were also appealing.


Deeper Data Modeling

Additional roadmap items shared with us during Devs on Stage included deeper data modeling capabilities and multiple table storage for highly scalable extracts. Tableau discussed new support for advanced database concepts without custom SQL coding. In demonstrations, we saw Tableau automatically recognize complex data relationships from multiple tables leveraging star and snowflake schema data warehouse standards in databases like Oracle and SQL Server.

The boosted data modeling features will handle multiple levels of detail in a single data source. That one got a loud cheer. It will soon be much easier to slice and dice multi-dimensional data sources without having to write specialized aggregation calculations or be a dimensional data modeling expert.

Savvy Set-Based Analytics

Other news that I truly appreciated included filtered nested sorting, deeper set-based analytics capabilities and new parameter actions – cheers!  During the final sections of Devs on Stage, we witnessed magnificent demos of new sets actions available in Tableau 2018.3 and parameter actions coming in 2019. These features empower you to change members to filter charts and calculations without removing data. Old BI pros like me have missed those little things in the modern visual analytics tools that do make a big analytical context difference.

New Tableau set actions

Source: Tableau Software

Parameter actions place a selected mark’s value into the parameter, updating any charts or calculations that use that parameter to drive interactive visualizations. Tableau showed a practical time series year-over-year analysis scenario. Parameter actions make visual, quantitative comparison much easier.

Improved Data Security

For Tableau Server Administrators, Tableau shared encryption at rest is coming for extracts in 2019. The additional level of security can be applied with a simple button click. You can optionally delegate the choice of encryption to data publishers or enforce encryption for all extracts across a site. I know they showed more but I forget what. I probably was still enamored thinking about what I saw in data modeling, sets and parameters.

My Personal Perspective

This year the immense size of the New Orleans venue along with the sustained growth of Tableau’s community shocked me. I learned my lesson – I need to bring better walking shoes next year! I was also surprised that we did not see or hear much about the recent Empirical acquisition or other new augmented analytics debuts. Like last year, Tableau is being a bit more conservative in sharing the future roadmap. From what we saw, it seems like Tableau is going to market for advanced analytics right now with a partner strategy. It will be interesting to see how that evolves.

On another note, this was the first year I ever attended Tableau’s conference with a vendor. Historically, I always attended this event as an industry analyst. I did miss catching up with my favorite industry analyst minds to exchange notes and sit in on the briefings. Several of them stopped by my company’s booth in the Data Village to say hello.

Instead of analyst sessions, I was overjoyed in 2018 by the quantity and quality of conversations that I had with attendees at DataRobot’s booth and in my Building AI Driven Dashboards workshop. I woke up each day energized and elated to get back to the Data Village to meet customers, partners, and help peers’ advance analytics within their organizations.


The same thrill and anticipation that I felt about Tableau in 2013, I feel happening now with DataRobot – right place, right time, right solution market momentum.

DataRobot – right place, right time, right solution market momentum

DataRobot feels like a Tableau per se for machine learning. Much like Tableau simplifies the process of creating dashboards without coding, DataRobot simplifies the process of creating predictions without coding.

It is an honor to be part of something so special in an industry that I know and love deeply. I’m not the only one that sees where this is all heading. During the Tableau Conference, DataRobot announced landing a $100 million Series D led by highly respected Meritech and Sapphire Ventures. Ironically, Tableau also announced a $100 million donation to through Tableau Foundation to help solve global challenges. I’m not sure anything will ever top those $100 million event finales.

Speaking of innovation, I have my last Impact Analytix webinar this coming week with a super nice client who refused to cancel. If you are interested in a useful solution that I found late last year for unstructured analytics – analyzing customer 360, market intelligence, or scraped online data sources –  please tune into my webinar this Tuesday, October 30. This group also won a coveted Gartner Cool Vendor award.  Stratifyd

For More Information

To get the full scoop from Tableau Conference 2018, please refer to the following recommended resources.