Yesterday, Wednesday November 1st, Tableau hosted the Tableau Innovation Day 2023 in TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht. Starting the day in typical Dutch fashion with complaints about long bike rides, bad weather and delayed trains, the stage was set for an interesting recap of all the latest innovations presented at Dreamforce, the Salesforce conference held mid-September. Some reflections on e-bikes, generative AI and building data communities.

By: Tim Bakker

Imagine having to cycle 36 kilometres today. For most, that’s quite the trip. But when Erik ten Bruggencate, Regional Vice-President for Tableau, was still in high school, it was his daily commute, whatever the weather. He ended up hating driving his bike “with a vengeance”. That is, until his wife suggested buying e-bikes to get out more often during the Covid-19 pandemic. Erik, hesitant, eventually succumbed to her pressure. 

Riding an e-bike is still very much like riding a regular bike, but for Erik it made all the difference. That little bit of extra kick from the electromotor got him to go out more often, to explore more of our country, to exercise more and to even enjoy doing so. The message is clear: there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes all we need is just a little extra support to drive value. 

Erik ten Bruggencate opened the day

Tableau Pulse

For Tableau, that’s where Tableau Pulse comes in, supposedly somewhere next month. Tableau Pulse was presented at the Tableau Conference in May this year as Tableau’s answer to the sudden surge of generative AI. The combined power of AI, personalised metrics and background analysis will be great for anyone looking to find quick answers, or even to find questions they didn’t know they had. 

And yet, most of Tableau Pulse’s functionality was already there. Ask Data (2019.1), Metrics (2020.2) and the Data Guide (2022.3) were readily available for anyone with a Tableau Cloud licence or the latest Server updates. But the addition of Large Language Models (LLM) is what makes all the difference. Using natural language to interact with an ever smarter system is going to help people use the data they have at their disposal. Isn’t that what every company wants?

Artificial vs. Human Intelligence

Pretty much, yes. According to Tableau, 83% of CEO’s want their company to be data driven. Yet, only 30% of employees believe that they are right now. That’s a large gap and it was refreshing to hear Matthew Miller, Tableau’s Senior Director of Product Management, acknowledge it. Not just that, but also the notion that being data driven is not just a matter of technological innovation. Technology doesn’t change people and the way they think about data. You have to change their mindset first, and only then give them the right tooling. 

So while the demonstrations and breakout sessions on Salesforce’s AI architecture, Einstein Trust Layer, and CoPilot functionality were all very interesting, it was the presentation of Interfood’s Data Analyst & Community Builder Iris Wijers that resonated with me most. Instead of jumping the AI innovation bandwagon, she instead focused on human intelligence and enthusiasm to build a data community. 

Iris Wijers presenting her formula for valuable reports

Building a data community

Every company has people that are experts at what they do. They know how things work, they feel what’s right and what isn’t. But when we want to provide these experts with the data they need, we tend to get an IT or BI team to build a report. And while they know all about the technological aspects of building report, they often lack relevant expertise. The results are delays, disappointment and a forgotten dashboard covered in digital dust.

But why go through the trouble of translating back and forth between teams that speak a different language? Especially if building reports using Tableau is so easy. Why not democratise data and let the experts build their own reports? Promoting the idea of data for everyone, Iris has helped Interfood create an ecosystem where each team has a data champion that functions as a first point of contact for all data matters. 

The key to become data driven as a company, is to start with employees that are naturally data driven, critical and experts in their fields. By helping them become more data adept and providing them with the support, time and tools they need, they in turn can help their colleagues feel more secure and enthusiastic about using data in their day-to-day work. Building a data community is a grassroots movement, but one that is doomed to fail without company wide endorsement.

People first, tools second

Every CEO looking to increase their company’s value will be interested in the endless possibilities that AI has to offer. And yes, Tableau’s and Salesforce’s new features are interesting. But becoming data driven is not just about technological innovation. You first have to get on your bike – so to speak – to benefit from the potential support. And since Erik ten Bruggencate’s wife is already married, companies would do well to their own ways to inspire their employees and invest in setting up a data community, before investing in shiny new tools. 

But boy, are they shiny!

Thank you for reading this blog. Also check out our other blogs page to view more blogs on Tableau, Alteryx, and Snowflake here.

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