Tableau CEO: We're the Google of data visualization

Christian Chabot, in an exclusive interview, explains how Tableau Software is putting a consumerized face on business intelligence and analytics

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Q: So you can distribute this capability throughout your customers' companies. Your model facilitates that?

A: Even the full Tableau Desktop version can be used by virtually anyone. We use Tableau within Tableau, as you can imagine. Every department uses it. Our sales team is over 300 people. Every single one of them uses Tableau Desktop to dive into their performance and their accounts.

Q: But there's still room for the data scientists, right?

A: Yeah, but I think honestly all the excitement about the data scientists is in the wrong direction. We already had data scientists. That was the problem: We had this small priesthood of people where everything gets slowed down because of the resource constraint. So I'm telling you 18 months from today talk of data scientists will be gone. It's totally the wrong thing to be focused on. The thing to be focused on is empowering your people, not your data scientist.

Q: It's always been a two-pronged thing. The data scientist is the one who knows the tooling and the data analyst is the one who knows the data. Right?

A: Tableau is for people who understand data. And what a total absurdity that the people who understand data largely cannot operate the systems that help them analyze it.

Q: Why aren't the incumbent players going to come after you and trump you?

A: It depends on the company. Most of our partners, such as Teradata, are not interested in going in our direction. That's just not what they do. For the Oracles and Microsofts, it's the innovator's dilemma 50 to 70 percent of the revenue of every single one of those major companies is from the maintenance and services stream on the old school stack that requires all the development. They're in checkmate. They can't cannibalize it.

Q: What does "big data" mean to you within the context of what you're doing with your company? Is it even a meaningful phrase?

A: Sure, I think it is. At any given time you might call big data the datasets and data repositories that are not easily accommodated by the dominant database technology of the time. The dominant database technology of our time is the relational database, and it's not accommodating these massive data collections.

A new generation of tools has grown up to try to better accommodate that data expansion. And Tableau, as you can imagine, has run into this ecosystem and embraced it. We want to actively partner with everyone doing that and be the new standard for business analytics.

The reason Tableau is the fastest-growing company in software worldwide is because the current generation of database and BI technologies is too hard to use. Enter big data. Big data databases and big data programs are way more development-intensive than even Business Objects ever was.

Q: You're talking about Hadoop, right?

A: Hadoop is a programming platform. So in a big data context, Tableau is even more relevant. It's really been a tailwind for us.

Q: In the case of Cloudera, they have no interest in playing at the application level. They're all about having the best Hadoop distro and the best Hadoop management tools. They're not interested in moving their way up the stack.

A: It worked for Teradata. It worked for Informatica. I think it's a brilliant strategy.

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