My third Tableau anniversary is soon coming up. Three years of working with Tableau almost daily has brought me a lot of joy and has immensely increased my visualization and data analysis skills. But as with any long-term relationship, it also comes with its frustrations. I’ve recently been reflecting a lot on where Tableau as a tool is going and how my personal relationship with it will evolve. That’s why I’ve been very interested to hear the opening keynote speech at this year’s Tableau Conference. Well, #data22 is done and I have some thoughts…
Read about the new features and innovations introduced in the Tableau Conference keynote 2022 here.
Tableau’s place in the enterprise infrastructure:
Tableau’s acquisition by Salesforce and its integration into the Salesforce environment remains an important topic. I understand the vision of having all enterprise analytics needs combined in a single environment. Slack integration is along the same lines. I see why those topics are being heavily pushed as they are also a necessary counterpart to what Microsoft is doing. Personally, however, I remain utterly uninterested in any of that, and the main reason is that none of my customers use Salesforce or Slack. I realize that both tools are big players in the US which is also Tableau’s biggest market. But for the first time, it feels as though we as European customers are at a disadvantage since so much energy is spend on something we will not benefit profit from.
Up in the cloud:
The push towards the cloud makes complete sense to me. It is a clear trend with many tools and companies making the move to the cloud. However, I hope Tableau will keep its on-premise possibility. In my experience from working with customers, the ability to work 100% on premise this is still a huge selling point and distinguishes Tableau from many competitors.
The first innovation presented in the keynote was the new automated data storytelling feature. I’ve been waiting for this ever since Tableau acquired a company specialized on this. Smart Analytics features are a very hot topic that all the big analytics providers are pushing right now. My first impression is – I’m intrigued. I can see my clients using this in their business dashboards. However, it will all depend on how well it actually works. I’m a big fan of Explain Data as well but the truth is that it often doesn’t work as well as one would hope. A smaller concern I have is that it will probably only be available in English which makes for some very awkward, not at all natural-sounding sentences if your data is not in English. In any way, I’m excited to dig into this more once it is available.
Data Science for everybody is another idea Tableau has been pushing for a while – an idea I am totally on board with and am excited about in theory. However, we’ve had similar-sounding announcements in the past that ended up being only available to Salesforce users (or as part of ridiculously expensive add-ons). That’s why I’m holding back my excitement about this until I have more details about how it will actually be executed.
New features in the “Devs on stage” section of the speech:
“Devs on Stage” is always one of the highlights of Tableau conference and this year it was integrated as part of the keynote speech. The new features presented in this section were: new data modeling capabilities with shared dimensions (or “pasta salad” as I like to call it), new connectivity to web data and Python/R code, some new features for Tableau Prep, improvements for Ask Data, a new data orientation pane and dynamically rendered images.
How do I feel about these new features? I guess the data and connectivity features will be useful in some specific cases. The improvements for Prep are probably much needed. Personally, I am not convinced that Tableau Prep is a viable data prep option on an enterprise level. The data orientation pane could be useful and I’m excited to see it in action. The rest of the new features are also… fine, I guess? Overall, I’m not mad about these new features, but I’m also not blown-away. I feel like Tableau Desktop (or authoring if you want to call it that) features got the short end of the stick. Where are the new tools that make life easier for me as an author and that will save me time? Where are some new UX features that will make the experience better for dashboard users (without authors jumping through hoops and implementing a hundred hacks)?
– CONCLUSION –
Tableau is making some important steps towards bringing advanced analytics capabilities to everyone and improving Tableau’s enterprise readiness. It remains to be seen whether these will only be useful for a certain customer base or if everyone will be able to benefit from these improvements. I feel a bit disappointed with the lack of improvement in the daily life of Tableau authors. I remain convinced that Tableau has the best user community of any BI tool out there. But I start to think that maybe it has become too good. The #datafam is so full of talent and creativity that they are able to solve any dashboard challenge and create the most amazing visualizations. Maybe because of that Tableau is starting to forget the need for software improvements that would render some of the trickery unnecessary.
After looking back at the year that was in my last two posts, it’s now time to think about what lies ahead. So here are my new year’s resolutions for 2021:
- Quality over quantity – 2020 was all about putting as much content out there as possible. This year, I want to push myself to put the best possible content out there even if it means not making as many vizzes as last year.
- Creating my own content – Most of the vizzes I created in 2020 were initiated by one of the many great community initiatives like MakeoverMonday. That also means that most of the time I did not really chose the topic myself. So, this year, I’ll try to create more content of my own accord.
- Data storytelling – Many of the vizzes I made in 2020 were pretty simple. Most often they were straight to the point with a single chart. This year, I want to improve my data storytelling. I want to focus more on longform vizzes, dashboarding and vizzes containing multiple charts.
- Collaboration – I would love to work on some vizzes together with someone from the dataviz community. So, if you’re reading this and this sounds like something you could imagine doing – please get in touch with me!
2020 has been my first full year in the data viz community. I first started using Tableau at my new job in September 2019. I spent a few months deep-diving into the tool and by the end of 2019, I decided to become more active in the community. I wanted to keep practicing and improving my skills and consistently produce content. The initial goal I set myself for 2020 was to participate in every #MakeoverMonday in 2020 – a goal I (almost) reached (still missing 3 at this point, I think) and which I’ll write a separate blog post about. But overall, I ended up publishing more than 70 vizzes to my Tableau Public profile:
- 50 MakeoverMonday vizzes
- 8 WorkoutWednesday vizzes
- 1 IronViz feeder submission
- 5 IronQuest submissions
- 13 vizzes just for fun
Let’s take a look back at some of my personal favorites…
My two Vizzes of the Day
We’re starting with something I have very conflicting feelings about. So… I got two #VOTD! That’s obviously an incredible honor and on paper probably my biggest success. #VOTD is a big source of inspiration for me and it features some incredible work. So getting it twice and this early in my data viz journey is mindblowing to me.
But I guess that’s where my conflicting feelings start. See, I got the first one for my Week 5 #MakeoverMonday viz and the second one in March for my first ever #IronQuest submission. Which is crazy. But the point is I don’t think those vizzes are in any way exceptional. I don’t dislike them. I think they’re fine. But compared to other VOTD they are pretty boring. And I think even within my own portfolio they don’t stand out to me. I’ve done better things since. At least I hope I’ve improved since. So, yeah, I’m just not quite sure what to make of this…
The viz I would frame and hang on my wall
This is the one viz in my portfolio I might consider data art. I love Van Gogh and felt inspired by his iconic use of color. I like how minimalistic and abstract this viz is and that it doesn’t even look like a data viz at first.
The viz is best enjoyed while listening to this:
My first multi-part viz series
I always wanted to combine data viz with my love for Broadway and musicals. So I spent a few evenings collecting data on one of my favorite musicals – Hamilton and chanelled the results into a three-part viz series.
My most underrated viz
My ‚Hot 100 again‘ viz barely got any attention on Twitter and has a whopping 18 views on Tableau Public (most of which I probably generated myself). However, I still like it. The topic is interesting – why do some hits reenter the charts years after they have first been successful? The colors are fun and I tried that kinda storypoint interactivity for the first time. So maybe give this one a try if you’re reading this?
My proudest moment
My proudest data viz moment this year came when I published this viz. Somehow it found its way to the man himself Steve Wexler who messaged me on Twitter and called it a rare good use case for pie charts.
Even though 2020 sucked in many ways, it was a good year on my own data viz journey. I feel so much more confident in my data viz abilities. Even though I still feel like I have a lot to learn or still struggle to find my voice at times, this look back at the year that was showed me that I did make progress. I’m so grateful to be a part of the #datafam and am excited to see what we’ll all come up with next year!