Self-service BI

Review: Tableau makes sophisticated analysis a snap

Innovative, self-service, interactive data visualization tool makes quick work of exploratory data analysis from 50-odd sources

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At a Glance
  • Tableau Software Tableau 9.0

Data science is best left to Ph.D. statisticians who can program in R and Python, compose complex SQL and MDX queries in their sleep, and leap tall Hadoop data sets in a single bound. Right?

Not according to Tableau. The company claims its products make analytics easy not only for analysts but for “executives, IT, everyone.” While my own training (a doctorate in physics with lots of statistics, SQL, and programming experience) is more than adequate for conventional data science, I tested Tableau 9.0, hot off the presses, with a “beginner’s mind.”

Tableau is considered the market leader in the BI and analytics space, having usurped Qlik, which in turn displaced Cognos (now IBM Cognos) and the other first-generation enterprise BI tools. Tableau is a prime exemplar of the business-user-driven data discovery and interactive analysis trend in BI that has largely taken over from traditional IT-driven reporting and analytics.

New in Tableau 9.0

If you’re already familiar with Tableau, you might want to know what’s new and different in the latest version. The two big areas of improvement:

  1. The tool is smarter about what you are doing.
  2. It's faster to process data and show you analyses.

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