A link to my latest article.
A link to my latest article.
Yesterday, Tableau Software held an analyst briefing. It wasn’t a high level one, it was really just a webinar where they covered some product futures under NDA. However, it was very unclear what was NDA and what wasn’t. When they discussed things announced at the most recent Tableau Conference in Seattle, that’s not NDA, but there was plenty of future discussed, so I’ll walk a fine line.
The first news is to cover their Third Quarter announcement from the beginning of the month. This was Tableau’s first quarter of over $100 million in recognized revenue. It’s a strong showing and they’re justifiable proud of their consistent growth.
Ajay Chandrdamouly, Analyst Relations, also said that the growth primarily results from a Land and Expand strategy, beginning with small jobs in departments or divisions, driven by business needs, then expanding into other organizations and eventually into a corporate IT account position. However, one interesting point is an expansion mentioned later in the presentation by Francois Ajenstat, Product Management, while giving the usual case studies seen in such presentations. He did a good job of showing one case study that was Land and Expand, but another began as a corporate IT account and usage was driven outward by that. It’s an indication of the maturity of both Tableau and the business intelligence (BI) market that more and more BI initiatives are being driven by IT at the start.
Francois’ main presentation was about releases, past and future. While I can’t write about the later, I’ll mention one concern based on the former. He was very proud about the large number of frequent updates Tableau has released. That’s ok in the Cloud, where releases are quickly rolled into the product that everyone uses. However, that’s a risk in on-premises (yes, Francois, the final S is needed) installations in the area of support. How long do you support products and how do you support them is an issue. Your support team has to know a large number of variations to provide quick results or must investigate and study each time, slowing responses and possibly angering customers. I asked about the product lifecycle and how they managed to support and to decide sunsetting issues, but I did not get a clear and useful answer.
The presentation Mr. Ajenstat gave listed six major focus themes for Tableau, and that’s worth mentioning here:
None of those is a surprise, nor is the fact that they’re trying to build a consistent whole from the combination of foci. The fun was the NDA preview of how they’re working on all of those in the next release. One bit of foreshadowing, they are looking at some issues that won’t minimize enterprise products but will be aimed at a non-enterprise audience. They’ll have to be careful how they balance the two but expansion done right brings a wider audience so can be a good thing.
The final presenter was Ellie Fields, Product Marketing, who talked more about solution than product. Tableau Drive is not something to do with storage or big data, it’s a poorly named but well thought out methodology for BI projects. Industry firms are finally admitting they need some consistency in implementation and so are providing best practices to their implementation partners and customers to improve success rates, speed implementation and save costs. Modern software is complex, as are business issues, so BI firms have to provide a combination of products and services that help in the real world. Tableau Drive is a new attempt by the company to do just that. There’s also no surprise that it uses the word agile, since that’s the current buzzword for iterative development that’s been going on long before the word was applied. As I’m not one who’s implemented BI product, I won’t speak to its effectiveness, but Drive is a necessity in the marketplace and Tableau Drive helps provide a complete solution.
The briefing was a technical analyst presentation by Tableau about the current state of the company and some of its futures. There was nothing special, no stunning revelations, but that’s not a problem. The team’s message is that the company has been growing steadily and well and that their plans for the future are set forward to continue that growth. They are now a mid-size company, no longer as nimble as startups yet don’t have the weight of the really large firms, they have to chart a careful path to continue their success. So far it seems they are doing so.
That’s because the Teradata Aster folks reminded me strongly of my old days before I moved to the dark side: They were very technical. The presenters were Chris Twogood, VP, Product and Services Marketing, and Dan Graham, Technical Marketing.
Chris began with a short presentation about Aster. As far as it got into marketing was pointing to the real problem concerning the proliferation of analytic tools and that, as with all platform products, Aster is an attempt to find a way to address a way to better integrate a heterogeneous marketplace.
As with others who have presented to the BBBT, Chris Twogood also pointed out the R and other open source solutions aren’t any more sufficient for a full BI solution managing big data and analytics that are pure RDBMS solutions, so that a platform has to work with the old and the new.
The presentation was then handed over to Dan Graham, that rare combination of a very technical person who can speak clearly to a mixed level audience. His first point was a continuation of Chris’, speaking to the need integrate SQL and Map Reduce technologies. In support of that, he showed a SQL statement he said could be managed by business analysts, not the magical data scientist. There will have to be some training for business analysts, but that’s always the case in a fast moving industry such as ours.
Most of the rest of the presentation was about his love of graphing. BI is focused on providing more visual reporting of highly complex information, so it wasn’t anything new. Still, what he showed Teradata focusing upon is good and his enthusiasm made it an enjoyable presentation even if it was more technical than I prefer. It also didn’t hurt that the examples were primarily focused on marketing issues.
The one about which I will take issue is the wall he tried to set between graph databases and the graph routines Aster is leveraging. He claimed they’re not really competing with graph databases which was, Dan posited, because they are somehow different.
I pointed out that whether graphs are created in a database, in routines layered on top of SQL or in Java, or were part of a BI vendor’s client tools only mattered in a performance standpoint, that they were all providing graphical representations to the business customer. That means they all compete in the same market. Technical distinctions do not make for business market distinction other than as technical components of cost and performance that impact the organization. There wasn’t a clear response that showed they were thinking at a higher level than technological differences.
Teradata has a long and storied history with large data. They are a respected company. The question is whether or not they’re going to adapt to the new environments facing companies with the explosion of data that’s primarily non-structured and having a marketing focus. Will they be able to either compete or partner with newer companies in the space.
Teradata is a company who has long focused on large data, high performance database solutions. They seem to clearly be on the right path with their technology and the implications are that they are in their strategic and marketing focus. They built their name focused on large databases for the few companies that really needed their solutions. Technology came first and marketing was almost totally technically focused on the people who understood the issue.
The proliferation of customer service and Web data mean that the BI market is addressing a much wider audience for solutions managing large amounts of data. I trust that Teradata will build good technology, but will they realize that marketing has to become more prominent to address a much larger and less technical audience? Only time will tell.