As a user of Tableau for over 8 years, I'm sure I'm not the first to have a view of where the product should go or what features should be prioritised, but something I feel that gets lost when we critique just features and product is the experience. What's it like to use something? How can all these features be repurposed or organised to help me do what I can already do today even faster!
For the last 2 years, I've had an idea in my mind about this, and it largely aims to solve the oldest experience in tableau, The Tableau Creator experience, but I believe it scales and elegantly accommodates all users of the product whether in a browser or in an application.
The concept isn't perfect, it's got issues, but I'd love to put this idea out into the world to see where it ends up. Would love your thoughts in the comments below.
Timestamps 0:00 Intro 0:40 The Problem 5:59 Experience over Features 9:26 Inspiration for the solution 11:43 Tableau Experience Re-imagined 18:39 & Tableau 2023 1 Release
Join this channel to get access to the perks: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7HYxRWmaNlJux-X7rNLZyw/join
Oh, it's good to be back. Now one thing that's been going through my mind for the last two years is this, this problem with Tableau. And the problem is this, the way Tableau sells the product is completely detached from the way people use the product. And that might sound like a really bizarre concept.
And you're probably thinking, well, what do you mean by that? Well, in this video, I want to present that in two ways, essentially present the problem and then present the solution. As ever, let's get started. So we're not going to mess about, going to go straight to Tableau's pricing page. And I'm going to sort of try and tease this out. And I'm going to use a couple of analogies in the process. You see, when you buy Tableau, I have to say most people are actually removed from this process.
If you asked, if you asked every single user of Tableau, how on earth they got access to Tableau, the only thing they could probably tell you is who gave them the license key and you know, who's responsible for managing license keys in their organization. But very few people know the experience of buying Tableau. By buying Tableau, I mean procurement. I mean sitting down with Tableau and negotiating the total mix of creators, explorers and Tableau viewers in your organization. And as part of that process, what you kind of have to do is you have to have a really good idea of what the analysts in your organization are going to be doing. And Tableau have sort of broken that down into these three buckets.
Now there used to be a time where these three buckets didn't exist. There used to be a time where if you wanted Table au, you paid for Tableau server at the time cloud was fairly new. So Tableau server or Tableau cloud and you paid for desktop and there wasn't really sort of anything in between. And one of the downsides of that is that if you just wanted to use an access report, it was kind of a little bit ineffective in terms of cost because essentially you are paying sort of full whack for something that, you know, some users weren't just going to use all the features.
And so came this model, this model which has Tableau creator, explorer and viewer. And it's sort of demarcated by the expectation of what those users are going to get when they get access to the platform. So a viewer in simple terms is just someone who really just needs to see reports, needs to interact with reports and occasionally maybe even needs to type into their keyboard and get a chart back through features like RSt ated.
That's a Tableau viewer, the lowest level but probably the most common user inside of the Tableau ecosystem. Users are kind of a halfway house between creators and viewers. They get given a little bit more capability but on the same token, they're also quite limited so as soon as they hit the edge, they're almost definitely going to want creator access because as soon as you hit those boundaries in the Tableau explorer license, they're quite hard boundaries and it's quite easy to hit them if you end up sort of moving through the product.
And so the way Tableau sells its product and this is where I think there's a fundamental problem is it's demarcated by the way Tableau looks at its product rather than the way people use the product. You see when you approach the product in this manner, what ends up happening is you create arbitrary boundaries that essentially decide what you have access to on the platform and how you basically access them, how you use them, how they work. And so what that ends up meaning is you need a matrix like Tableau have on their website here that sort of explains for each license the activities you can do. So govern, interact, collaborate and author and also prepare.
Now it's interesting because to me, these sort of five items on the left-hand side, govern, interact, collaborate and author, prepare as well are actually the core tenants of what makes the product really, really good. And what ends up happening is when features come about, when new features are sort of drawn up, they get put into sort of different elements of this quadrant. I can almost envision the meeting inside of Salesforce now where they're going, right, we have this amazing feature. Okay, great. What is the feature? It's a zone visibility. Great. Who's it going to empower? It's going to empower the creator. What is it going to empower them to do? It's going to allow them to build more interactive visualizations that allow them to do more dynamic sort of capabilities that means they can meet the needs of a whole range of people. Great. So every single feature has to sit in the matrix. And then at the end of that process, once you've gone through this matrix, they then decide which part of the platform it sits in and therefore then which price then gets allotted to that feature. And so as the platform gets bigger and bigger, what you end up with is this sort of massive matrix of not just licenses across the top, but now add ons as well that have little capabilities built into them. Okay. And this is where this detachment from the way the product works starts to really show. Because as a creator, I'm just going to take a creator because I've been using tablet for eight years. And I think this is the one that I can speak to the most. But maybe as a viewer and explorer, you can put something in the comments that sort of really highlights this. As a creator, what this means is that although there's one license, there's one product for me to go off and buy on the shelf, it means that there are four products that I really have to sort of battle with. Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep Builder, Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud. And the fourth product in my head is basically these other management add-ons, these other capabilities. Because as a creator, you're going to be expected to have to manage one of these three things when the organization gets larger. So in your head, you kind of have to hop around the experience. Note that I didn't say the features. I said experience. And experience is a very different thing because experience is not about, for example, I bought this notebook. Okay. So there's so many notebooks in the world. I bought this notebook. It's called the Sidekick. It's from a podcast that I follow called Cortex. And they have a notebook called this Sidekick. It's really, really nice. What makes this nice isn't the fact that it's a notebook. What makes this nice is the experience of using it. If I just show you one of the pages, it's got a really well thought out layout. You probably can't see it so well. It's got a really well thought out layout. The cover folds over and it has a really nice sort of shiny emboss. This is some notes I'm making for the 23.1 release. The experience is what makes this product. And so that's what I'm really sort of trying to narrow in on. And what that really means is if you just sort of close your eyes as I say this and you just imagine this journey. Let's say I'm an analyst and I'm empowered with a Tableau Creator license. And I've been asked to go and solve a data problem in an organization. The experience today looks something like this. First of all, I'll connect to my data in whatever data source. Let's say we're connecting to Snowflake. The second thing I'll do is I'll then put it into Tableau Desktop most likely just to get a look at the data and see how it works. I'll then realize that I need to do some data prep. So what I'll do is I'll then go back into Tableau Prep, open another product, open Tableau Prep, start cleaning my data and making it work great. Except for the end of the Tableau Prep experience , I can't create a data model. So now I have to publish that data source somewhere. In some instances, I can't use a published data source to build a data model. So what I'll then have to do is publish that output back out to a database so that I can then use it in Tableau Desktop again. So now we're back in Tableau Desktop to build a data model that is going to help answer the analytical questions that I need. And at this point, I'm still working with the connection of the data and the data prep, the very beginning of the journey. And then once that's done, I can actually start building visualizations, making them look great and publish them up to Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud where I'm essentially sharing those things. People will then look at them, give me feedback, and they'll make subtle suggestions. And I'll need to sort of traverse my way back through each and every one of those products. Meanwhile, if this is my actual laptop, I have Tableau Prep, I have Tableau Desktop, I have Tableau Server open as many times as I've published the particular tool. And I also have probably my database open because I need to have all these things going. And in essence, what I'm actually doing is managing Windows and managing an experience across multiple products. It's not really cohesive, yet I am a Tableau creator. I'm empowered with all these amazing capabilities , but they're scattered across so many different interfaces for doing different things. And they don't sort of come together cohesively, if that makes sense. Yes, they all connect to Tableau Server and Table au Cloud. But in terms of my workflow, the thing that actually makes me work better and faster, I have to traverse all of these different interfaces. And so that to me is the fundamental problem. And I know this exists in the viewer license and it exists in the explorer license as well. I'm purely talking from a creator license. So, what is the solution? Well, for this, I take inspiration from something I do to make you guys videos. One of the things I really appreciate about the software I use is that pretty much all of them have had the benefit of years to understand the specific needs of their users. And so one tool I use to edit videos for this channel is called DaVinci Resolve. Now some of you might have heard of other tools such as Camtasia, which essentially does the same thing. You might have heard of Adobe Premiere Pro. They're all the same. The fundamental thing all these tools understand is that when it comes to making a video, there are different steps in the process. And so if I take DaVinci Resolve, which is what I use for editing videos, I haven't got an actual project here. I've just loaded it empty so you can see the point I'm making. The first step and what I really want to sort of call out is what's happening here at the bottom of the window. I'll sort of make sure I highlight it on screen. At the bottom of the window, the process that I go through is broken down into different steps. Each icon represents a different step in the process. So the first step is called media because that's where I bring in all my recordings. As soon as I finish recording this video, I will get the files on my computer and I'll drag them into this interface. Once I've dragged them here, I can see them, I can mark them, I can label them, I can tag them. The next part of the interface is cutting them. So once I have all my clips in a folder, I can essentially cut them up into sort of short video segments that I'm going to use and I can bring them around, put them together, kind of get an arrangement and an order that works until I'm happy. That's sort of called the first cut in video editing. The second thing is now the actual edit. The edit is where you add the finesse, the titles , the labels, the things that sort of make the video a little bit more interesting. And you also add transitions. You cut out certain things that might be distracting. You might add zooms and pops. All of this stuff gets done here in the edit. That's where you're adding to the creation. And then after that, you might want to do some special effects. And you can see here as I go through each of these steps, the interface is fundamentally changing to enable that one activity because it understands that it's guiding me through a specific flow. And so if I sort of close this and we just go back to talking about Tableau as a creator, it seems that the version of Tableau, the perfect version of Tableau for a creator is the version where you don't have to have five things open to get your work done. I was about to say job to get your work done. And so what does that look like? Well, just bear with me here because what I'm going to do is I'm probably going to put like a graphic up on screen as I talk to just sort of narrate this. In my head, the first thing any analyst will do is connect to their data source. That's just the number one thing. Go find your data, bring it in, connect to it, make it work. The second thing you'll do is you'll want to start to do data visualization. And so in that sort of visual step, you're probably going to miss the really crucial step of data preparation and data modeling because you'll go straight to the visualization step. And when you get to the visualization step, you might then at that point realize you need to go back to do some data prep or you need to go back to do some data modeling. And that prep and modeling, I separate them as distinct steps because in my mind, they can kind of happen in a different order and in a different way. When I talk about data modeling, I talk about the relationships between the different tables, the way that Tableau allows you to do that. I think Power BI also lets you do the same thing. When I talk about data prep, I talk about explicitly shaping the data. So making sure the data is in the right shape orientation for you to do what you need to do. So prep is about row level sort of adjustments and calculations and finesse. Data modeling is about sort of slightly higher level thinking about how the different data sets come together to enable analytical answers to be done. And so if I draw this line out for Tableau, what it actually looks like is you have your connection to data, you have your data prep, you have your data modeling, you have your visualization as the next step. And the visualization is different from what I would then call layout because dashboarding is actually a layout exercise, it's actually a design exercise. And so when you're working in a sheet, building a chart, you need very different tools to when you're building a visualization. Actually you get a little bit of that in Tableau. If you want to create a dashboard, you have to go into a different interface to do that. So that is already an understood concept inside of Tableau. And then once you've done your dashboard, you want to then be able to publish it up, share it with people. Okay, so these are I think six steps. And the ideal version of Tableau, if they were really building the product to match the way they sell the product, is that they would offer the Tableau creator experience in one application. One application that lets you do all six things in one place. So you don't have to switch tabs, you don't have to switch applications. And more importantly, when you save your work, what you're actually saving is the entire workflow as one piece of work. And the benefit of that is all the metadata of how that analytical question gets answered goes up in one file. And it enables other people to come in, look at different parts of that flow, and create tangents in development. They call these forking projects in GitHub. I've not sworn, my intonation is maybe not good enough. But when you're developing as a developer, it's called forking because what you're essentially saying is that I'd love to take this project and create a tangent that goes off in a slightly different direction that suits my needs. And it would really also start to open up amazing capabilities for collaboration. Because what you can say is that, hey, I don't want the visualization, I don't want what the person has shared up to the server. But I love all the modeling they've done, I love all the data prep they've done, and I'd love to use that for my own creation. And because everything is one file, it's just much, much easier to share. And the other sort of really important thing is it actually just leads to much, much more enjoyable experience. And I think it maybe frees up each of these steps to be more of what they need to be, if that makes sense. So if you look at Tableau Prep, as a creator, it 's really hard to understand why that's a separate product. Why is that a separate piece of software if as a creator have access to both of them? And Explorer doesn't have access to a Tableau Prep, they can't build with Tableau Prep. The only thing they can do is start visual izations with existing data sources. So why on earth is that a separate product? It makes absolutely no sense. It should just sit inside of Tableau Desktop. And it might be because you don't want to sort of encumber the whole product. And there's probably really good technical reasons why. But if you are just sort of, you know, really meeting the promise of picking the product off the shelf, and understanding what the product is, the one product will be called Tableau Creator. And the Tableau Creator allows analysts to build analytical workflows from start to finish. That's data prep, connecting to data, modeling the data, visualizing it, laying it out, and then sharing it with people in the organization. That is the creator promise. The Explorer promise starts after the data modeling step. So because Explorers can't create their own data sources, they can only use certain parts of data sources that already exist, they would essentially be coming in halfway through this sort of flow. So they would only be really getting access to the latter half of that. So the visualization, the sharing, strictly speaking, the visualization, the layout, and the sharing, they wouldn't be able to connect and prep, essentially. And then the viewer would just get access to the very end part, just be the ability to look at things, and then ask data. And then everything else can kind of slot around it. But to me, that would mean that only really be three products, the creator product, the Explorer product, and the viewer product. And that would be one cohesive experience across the entire platform. I'm editing this video, and I realize I made a slight mistake here. What I meant was there'd only be one product, three experiences. It's just got those completely switched around. So there'd be one product, it would be called Tableau, one application, you download it, and whatever license you have opens up different parts of this experience. As I've just laid out the timeline, different licenses open up different parts of that timeline . And all the other features around add-ons and so on and so forth just slot into those particular pillars and open up different capabilities. But the product vision is super clear, what the product does is super clear, and also it communicates very easily how you get access to do more, depending on the license you have. It's just all in one place, so it's just much, much easier to understand. And so that's my take. That's my view on this particular topic. Now, there are massive flaws with this idea, and it's something that I've sort of been mulling around in my head. And I have talked to a few people in the community about it, sometimes sort of off-book, sometimes off the record as well. And it's super interesting to see sort of some of the thoughts that come out of it. But this is an idea. This is not, I'm not pitching this as the end all and be all. There's tons of issues with this idea. I've thought of many. I'd love you to sort of highlight what you think they are. Maybe that's a separate video. But to me, that vision of how the product is sold and how the product is built is starting to get so fragmented that I think it's getting in the way of really delivering the experience that users deserve. Not necessarily the features. Anyway, I've waffled for way too long. I'll stop the video here and I'll catch you in the next video. I think 23.1 is about to drop, probably the day after I'm recording this, 23.1 will drop and I'll get punished for not having done any prep for 23.1. But as ever, I'll catch you in the next one.
New site and 3 great Tableau Youtube channels to follow