Building community crucial to data platform success: Tableau

July 08, 2019 17:47
Tableau’s Chief Technology Officer Andrew Beers (R) and the firm’s head of Greater China operations Thomas Yap (L) say their company aims to promote a data-driven culture among enterprises and individuals. Photos: Tableau

US-based analytics platform Tableau (NYSE: DATA), which offers data visualization and analytics software that it says are easy enough for non-technical people to use, opened an office in Hong Kong last month.

The facility, which is Tableau's third office in the Greater China region, will support customers and partners in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, enabling businesses to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the Greater Bay Area development plan, company executives said.

"Companies in Hong Kong need to put the power of data into the hands of everyone in order to navigate the era of disruption and manage the market’s susceptibility to changes in the global economy,” Thomas Yap, Head of Greater China operations at Tableau, told EJ Insight.

The new Hong Kong office will meet the growing analytics needs of local businesses and help them tap opportunities arising from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA), according to Yap, who sees Hong Kong as an ideal place for global data analytics companies from which to extend their reach to the GBA and elsewhere in the region.

"Hong Kong will be an important node in the development of the GBA, and Tableau's presence in the market demonstrates our commitment to helping businesses here harness the value of data and capitalise on the opportunities presented by the GBA,” he said.

Founded in 2003, Tableau has focused on providing analytics tools, such as Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server, Tableau Online, among others, designed to offer financial and other data to the non-techie types with enterprises. The platform also uses visuals and natural language, so people of different skill levels are empowered to use analytics.

After an initial public offering which raised US$25 million in 2013, Tableau has become a leading player in the business intelligence industry. The company achieved sales of US$1.16 billion in 2018 under a new revenue recognition standard. According to the firm, it added 15,700 new customers during the year, growing its user base by 23 percent to more than 86,000 customer accounts.

In June, Salesforce, a leading provider of cloud solutions for business management, announced that it is acquiring 16-year-old Tableau for US$15.7 billion in an all-stock deal, in a bid to step up its work in data visualization.

There are several companies and vendors which are taking a visual approach to enterprise analytics. What makes Tableau different, according to the firm, is how its graphics makes its reports a pleasant departure from the rather dry visualizations users get from traditional applications like Excel.

“We built the product with a solid foundation that others find it tough to replicate,” said Andrew Beers, Tableau’s chief technology officer.

In a discussion with EJ Insight, Beers and his colleague Yap shared their vision on empowering people to work and “play” with data, and offered insights on how Tableau achieved its success.

The executives demonstrated how users can use Tableau to slice and dice customer data by different attributes with ease, so that they can leverage analytics to glean insights on the business.

The other thing that sets Tableau apart from other vendors in the space, according to Beers, is the community that is built around Tableau, which has grown to hundreds of thousands of people around the world over the years.

There are learning-focused efforts where people can get questions answered and learn from more experienced Tableau users, and recognition programs such as Tableau Ambassador that highlight the most capable and helpful within the community.

“The community is a result of the passion people have for using our product and have a strong desire to help others find the same value,” said Beers.

He highlighted the community around the company’s free application, Tableau Public, which allows anyone to download the software, analyze his or her own data, and publish the analysis to the “gallery” on the cloud platform, “almost like a version of ‘YouTube for Tableau’,” where users can learn from and share each other’s best practices.

Tableau also helps enterprises hold internal workshops, community-driven education sessions, and even company-wide contests on the use of data analytics.

“This community is probably one of the greatest secrets to not just our success, but to the success of so many of our customers who have built internal communities to share the value of analytics and help spread the culture of data within their organizations,” Beers said.

Tableau emphasizes a mission of helping people see and understand data. To Beers, what Tableau is doing is to assist enterprises and individuals in their transformation journey to a data-driven culture.

Tableau aims to build the data-driven culture with three major elements, which include a strong component of sharing.

Correspondingly, Tableau has been working on boosting data literacy among enterprises and individuals, making data a common “language”.

To make the software flexible and adapted to users’ demands, it keeps on adding new capabilities in its software platform, with over 140 new functions and features released in 2018, according to the company.

Thirdly, it emphasizes the “sharing” of the “data culture” by building and growing the Tableau community.

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EJ Insight writer