Preparing data before it can be analysed is a time-consuming task, Tableau chief product officer Francois Ajenstat said during an exclusive interview with iTWire.
Cleaning and reshaping data can take as much as 80% of the time consumed by a project, with just 20% being spent on actual analysis.
So Tableau has come up with a new approach to data preparation that is easy to use, visual, and suitable for self-service use.
A number of data cleaning options can be applied with a click, for example by grouping elements by pronunciation (which takes care of many spelling errors). Removing unwanted characters such as leading spaces, punctuation or unnecessary digits (eg, accounting code numbers) is also easily performed. Where necessary, fields can be individually edited. A history of all these changes is maintained, and if appropriate they can be reapplied in a different order by dragging items around in the change list.
Reshaping is another common task that can be quickly performed in Tableau Prep. Ajenstat showed how a table of data with a column for each year could be pivoted into a single column by dragging and dropping.
And once multiple data sources have been cleaned and reshaped, combining them is a simple drag-and-drop operation.
Once the data has been prepared, it can be fed into Tableau, exported as a CSV file, or sent to Tableau Server as a governed data source.
Tableau Prep has been tested by thousands of beta users, he said, and is now available as part of the Tableau 2018.1 release.
Tableau has also changed its subscription plans with this release, making its software accessible to more people across an organisation.
For US$70 per user per month — the same as the previous Tableau Desktop subscription — the new Tableau Creator subscription provides the full capabilities, including the new Tableau Prep capability. This price applies whether the software (including Tableau Server) is being used on premises, in a public cloud, or via Tableau Online.
Tableau Explorer is aimed at users that need to create new content, but only from governed data sources (ie, those managed by Tableau Creator users). Explorer can be accessed via a browser or the Tableau Mobile app, and costs US$35 per user per month if self-hosted, or US$42 on Tableau Online.
Finally, Tableau Viewer is for casual users who only need to view prebuilt dashboards and reports. They can filter and explore the data presented to them, but they cannot create new analyses.
To allow broad consumption, Viewer comes at the "dramatically cheaper" price of US$12 per user per month (US$15 on Tableau Online), said Ajenstat.
Creator and Explorer users can set up alerts for that go to users regardless of their subscription type, and any user can take advantage of Tableau's collaboration features.
Customers with existing Tableau Server or Tableau Desktop installations can choose to migrate them to the new Tableau 2018.1 release, and then choose which of the three subscription plans are most appropriate for each user.
Tableau switched from perpetual licensing to subscriptions about a year ago, he said. More than 50% of its business is already subscription based, because that lowers the cost of entry and consequently reduces the risk, and also makes it easy to scale usage up and down as required.
"Every company wants to be a data-driven company," Ajenstat told iTWire, but the two main challenges are dealing with the growing amount of data stored in an increasing number of formats, and providing staff with the facilities they need at the right price.
Between them, Tableau Prep and the new tiered subscriptions address those issues.