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Salesforce Tableau puts AI in driver’s seat for big data

Enhancements to Tableau for Slack focuses on sharing, search and insights with automated workflows for tools like Accelerator. The goal: empower decision makers and CRM teams to put big data to work.

The Salesforce logo on an office building.
Image: Sundry Photography/Adobe Stock

“Data-driven” is a mantra for countless organizations, but it’s a back-seat driver, useful only to the extent that decision-makers can parse and interpret it and comprehend its implications.

Indeed, a 2022 survey-based study from strategy firm NewVantage found organizations continue to struggle to become data-driven, with only 26.5% reporting having achieved this goal, and only 19.3% reporting having established a data culture.

Business software titan Salesforce said a raft of enhancements to its Tableau project management platform will help decision makers live up to the phrase “data driven” by making big data more user-friendly. The company said the changes feature automation to processes and new integration features meant to make data easy to visualize, manipulate and share on Slack, its hub for communications, collaboration and customer engagement.

The changes also presage what’s coming next: integration of recently announced generative AI model Einstein GPT, the fruit of Salesforce’s collaboration with ChatGPT maker OpenAI, with natural language-enabled interfaces to make wrangling big data a low-code/no-code operation.

SEE: In lead-up to Einstein GPT intro, Salesforce offered guidelines to reduce AI bias

Francois Ajenstat, chief product officer at Tableau, said the guiding principle for go-to-market is  helping people see and understand data.

“I say that because in every release, we are always trying to find new ways to help analysts answer questions, help reach people, and make data easier to understand and use,” Ajenstat told TechRepublic.

Salesforce has a packed product enhancement rollout schedule on a quarterly cycle. “Last year we added over 120 to 130 capabilities, and this, for Q1, is the first big release of the year,” he said.

Integrating data hunting, visualization into collaboration

Visualizing Tableau in Slack

Salesforce, which integrated Tableau into Slack in December 2022, is enhancing the integration by letting users visualize Tableau content in Slack and creating portals within the communications platform that let users search databases through Tableau in a collaborative UX. A sales team can, for example, view their Q4 sales numbers in Tableau and, using a link, share data visualizations directly within their Slack channels so they can see and discuss within the app (Figure A).

Figure A

Tableau integration with Slack lets users create shareable data visualizations for collaboration.
Image: Salesforce. Tableau integration with Slack lets users create shareable data visualizations for collaboration.

“What we have come to understand from customers is that people don’t want to leave where they are to do analytics; they want analytics to come to them, to answer questions right where they work. That’s why we are bringing Tableau inside of Slack,” said Ajenstat.

He explained that in the past, Tableau appeared in Slack only through the agency of alerts and notifications. “Now you can query Tableau inventory right from Slack,” said Ajenstat. Salesforce teased what’s next at its TrailblazerDX developers’ conference last week, where it showed a version of Tableau powered by Einstein GTP,  which lets users query Tableau directly from Slack using a natural language interface.

Data stories for Tableau

Can data tell a story? With this product enhancement, AI-driven, no-code tools translate graphs, charts and spreadsheets into natural language insights that even data analytics novices can understand and easily share, according to Salesforce. It’s AI-based but does not yet use the Einstein GPT.

User attribute functions

Salesforce said the new Tableau functions let users personalize analytics visualization to do tasks like display only the most relevant insights. It also lets users manage data access and enforce security policies based on attributes like role, department and location, according to the company.

Data mapping for accelerators

Salesforce Accelerators are ready-to-use, customizable dashboards for deriving data insights available in Tableau Exchange, a kind of app store for analytics tools that the company launched last year (Figure B).

Figure B

New data mapping automation simplifies customizing data for Salesforce Accelerators.
Image: Salesforce. New data mapping automation simplifies customizing data for Salesforce Accelerators.

Salesforce said it is incorporating automation so that configuring Accelerators to match any data source is easier and doesn’t require third-party applications. For example, a user could grab insights from external applications and put them into Tableau’s “Sales & Margin” Accelerator to monitor and improve KPIs like financial results, lifetime value, and churn rates — without having to leave Tableau Desktop.

“So, instead of a blank canvas, you start with a predefined solution,” said Ajenstat. “Accelerators, of which there are now hundreds in Exchange, are built off of sample data. In the previous version, you would use a static version of an Accelerator template and then manually connect it to a data source; then, work out mapping and replacing fields. With this enhancement, we are removing the manual steps. The whole point is time to value – helping people get data into templates saves tremendous amounts of time.”

Long view: Automation and AI make data meaningful for deciders

Salesforce said its Einstein GPT large language model is currently delivering more than 200 billion AI-powered predictions per day across its Customer 360 CRM framework, integrating its cloud-based products and services.

Ajenstat said for products like Tableau the big picture is data accessibility through automation.

“As we move forward, this is where Einstein GPT capabilities will come to bear fruit. We are taking fundamental innovations and using GPT to wrap it into larger, more powerful products,” he said.

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