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Tableau 8 incorporates predictive analytics
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The software enables users to create clean visualisations of data, which highlights trends and patterns.

By Cathleen O'Grady Johannesburg, 10 May 2013

It is also a vehicle for the visual data analysis software provider to spread its message about best practice in data visualisation and analysis. Todd Currie, VP of Tableau’s EMEA sales team, highlighted best practice as one of Tableau’s central missions. “We allow people to focus on the data itself, without worrying about presentation.”

Keeping the approach simple and accessible allows people to incorporate data into the decision-making process at an earlier stage and with greater ease, says Currie, and the clean visualisations created by the software enable people to instantaneously spot trends and patterns they might not otherwise have seen.

The system is designed to be as simple as possible, added Currie. “A key differentiator of this system is that all the data can stay in the data store, so analysts are able to work with the data where it is.” Mobile apps and Web-based access also play a role in keeping data at everyone’s fingertips.

Although many analysts advocate for the role of data scientists, Currie argued that it’s important to cater for data enthusiasts as well as scientists. “Tableau is about empowering people closer to the business, who are responsible for the decision-making, and who often have a sense for what the data means for the business,” he explained.

In order to popularise the idea of data visualisation as best practice, Tableau also offers free tools, such as software subscription for students, and Tableau Public, a tool that allows anyone to create visualisations to be shared online. Not only does this publicise the Tableau message of visualisation as best practice, but it also allows the company to research the maintenance and performance metrics of public-facing servers.

Despite the ever-growing business intelligence (BI) trend, many businesses have yet to successfully leverage their data, said Marc Scheepbouwer, MD of local Tableau partner Zetta. “Businesses have automated many processes, but they haven’t truly looked at information.”

This is a worldwide trend, added Currie, with even the most sophisticated organisations having plenty of space for growth in terms of best practice.

While there is room for growth, Currie feels SA is keeping pace with the rest of the world, despite infrastructural challenges. “BI can get around infrastructure problems,” he said, “but people are ready for BI everywhere.”