Tableau Conference 2021 is Over — Here’s What You Need to Know

What are some of the themes you saw come out of TC21 this year?

The umbrella term to encompass it all is the Tableau Economy, which consists of customers, individuals, Tableau partners like Atrium, and technology. That might sound dry on the surface, but it’s these core ingredients that make it exciting:

  • The #DataFam — an incredibly passionate community that is constantly innovating and engaging in the largest public data visualization ecosystem
  • Inclusive and equitable focus — with an increased focus on accessible and equitable design, initiatives to close data literacy gaps, and programs to help women and girls hone essential data skills, Tableau demonstrated its commitment to helping everyone understand data
  • Cohesive platform — the goal of helping everyone achieve success with data really shone with the introduction of the Tableau Exchange with dashboard accelerators, the integration of a proven and mature prediction engine like Einstein Discovery, increased collaborative capabilities via Slack, and the ability to take action upon insights from dashboards

It was great watching Tableau recognize the barriers and obstacles preventing people and organizations from gaining insights. It’s about all people and organizations benefiting from insights and actions while focusing on the right things.

 

Can you elaborate on the focus on inclusiveness and equity awareness?

Two initiatives worth highlighting are Tableau’s commitment to training 10 million people in five years and Tableau Foundation’s $5M initiative to support organizations helping women and girls learn essential data skills.

There were episodes like Krystal Tsosie’s Indigenous Data EmPOWERment and Emily Kund’s Inclusive Design: Making Dashboards Engaging, Informative, and Accessible, to mention two, plus many Braindates focused on inclusion and accessibility. Tableau’s racial equity hub also featured the recent Do No Harm guide and an interview with its authors. The guide did a great job of laying out recommendations for equitable data visualizations that pair well with conversations on ethical AI.

Also, I want to call out a special “thank you” to Kelly Gupton (host), Doc Kevin Lee Elder, Catherine Tsouvaltsidis, and our own Galvin Olsen-Smith for leading a great discussion on creating more accessible dashboards. I’m really excited to see how solutions could adapt to bring in people with additional perspectives because of the benefit to a broader audience.

 

Why do you think the Tableau Exchange matters since the community already had Tableau Public?

I think they have different audiences, or at least the audience’s goal will differ between the two. Tableau Public will continue to be an excellent forum for demonstrating the art of what’s possible, getting inspired, and providing superb opportunities to learn. 

The Tableau Exchange will still inspire ideas, but it addresses the “blank canvas” problem. It will do for Tableau dashboard authoring what the cloud did for IT infrastructure by offering customizable solutions to organizations at any stage of the creation process, enabling them to focus on insights and actions.

 

How about the platform itself? What announced innovations caught your attention most there?

There was a lot to digest here, and it’s hard to pick. TC21’s Devs on Stage impressed as always.

There were a few features that struck me as very beneficial to organizations in particular:

  • Enhanced integration with Slack — it seems as though Slack will make strides in addressing swivel chair (monitor?) problems by allowing folks to access analytics and take action within their natural workflow
  • Tableau Broadcast — organizations using Tableau Online might see the return of the ability to share visualizations publicly for unauthenticated users
  • Embedded authoring capabilities — we already could embed Tableau’s analytical capabilities in other applications for exploration, but Tableau will bring authoring capabilities which opens up an entirely new avenue

My personal favorites seem a bit geeky and could break down into features that benefit analysts or architecture. Announcements that would make analysts happy included:

  • Viz extensions — rather than reverse-engineering vizzes on Tableau Public and watching tutorials, viz extensions will allow an author to more easily add a particular type of data viz to their dashboard, akin to configuring a PC versus building your own from scratch
  • Dynamic layouts — these represent another stride out of “container hell”, giving users the ability to adapt a layout based on parameters
  • Controlling View Data output — great for both the export-to-Excel and “show me the data” crowds alike by enabling the author to choose both the order and fields available when viewing detailed data
  • Workbook optimizer — a push-button “Data Doctor” to help analyze potential detractors for workbook performance
  • Prep flows on Tableau Public — allowing users to publish, but not run, Flows on Public will help democratize the learning in the data pipeline arena and possibly be joined up by Prep Extensions as well in the future

On the IT/architecture side, we have:

  • Tableau in containers — at the very least, this is a step toward more straightforward and consistent self-healing Tableau deployments
  • Auto-scaling backgrounders — these processes manage the execution of data extract refreshes and subscriptions, so it’s great that they could scale based on demand
  • Virtual connections and data policies — as part of the data management add-on, these enhancements would alleviate some of the pain points Tableau has had around connection maintenance and row-level security

 

If someone skipped straight to the end, what would you say is especially notable?

Definitely watch the nerve-wracking Iron Viz episode, where the contestants produced some fantastic visualizations in an obscenely short amount of time. Kudos to Lisa Trescott who won and demonstrated the power of having your data ducks in a row in advance with Tableau Prep!

If you care about product features, be sure to watch Devs on Stage. All episodes are available by exploring at https://www.tableau.com/events/conference.

And if you prefer to read instead of watching videos, there is an excellent recap with Tableau’s CPO, Francois Ajenstat, here.

It was a fantastic conference and inspiring to see such a diverse community of backgrounds sharing their passions and enthusiasm about data, aka the #DataFam, come together.

 

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