Analytics Tools Should be like Bicycles for the Brain | #tcc13


Christian Chabot, CEO, Co-founder and Chairman of Tableau Software, discussed the company’s take on data analytics and visualization with theCUBE co-hosts Jeff Kelly and Dave Vellante, live at the 2013 Tableau Customer Conference.

‘Tableau really started with a series with breakthrough research innovations,’ Chabot stated, mentioning his position within the company was powered by his understanding of the obstacles in making sense of data, and seeing the potential of those innovations.

Tableau’s mission is “making databases and spreadsheets easy for people to use.” Chabot explained he could talk about Tableau with someone who knows nothing about data science, “but if you help them make sense of them and answer questions, people relate to it.”

“The most important thing we’re doing is we’re bringing the power of data and analytics to a broader population of people,” Chabot said. Big, heavy, complicated platforms in traditional BI solutions are not in the hands of very many people. Even if the case of the most sophisticated companies, most of the people in the organization are not using their platforms. “We end up giving the power of analytics, visualization, and dashboarding to people who usually only had a spreadsheet on their desktop.”

Commenting on the real spirit of the new age of BI, Chabot said “the revolution is here, people are taking power in their hands and driving their organizations forward through the power of data.”

The human side to Big Data


Asked about the importance of the human element in data-driven decisions, Chabot explained that “the data driven moniker is very much used today. But no one really wants to be data-driven. You want people using a combination of facts and intuition and instinct to make data-informed decisions.” He added that analytics software should be like bicycles for our minds. “BI software, there is so much development weight, complexity, that we can never get that augmentation of the brain.” Thus, intuition, feel, design, instinct, user experienced are all key focus points on the journey with working with data for Tableau.

“We support what people natively want to do,” Chabot said, commenting on future developments at Tableau. “There are some challenges, but I see great opportunity here. We see people going from consumers to makers, look at publishing. Everyone is a maker and we have an ecosystem of ideas.” He added that for most employees, their “best day on the job is when they feel they are creating something.”

Asked what uncertainties he was facing, what potential blind spots, Chabot said, “we’re growing a disruptive technology company and we want to embrace all the technologies around us. It seems to me that every breakthrough tech company has gone through a major external technology transformation that they have never thought about when starting.” The best example was Facebook and mobile. “In Tableau’s journey, we will have our own shocks.” The first such shock was the tablet which he deemed to be “probably the most innovative mobile analytics module in the market.”

Commenting on how they would respond to such future challenges, Chabot explained that Tableau was doing two things. The first was having a great R&D department. Their success recipe was to not hire from BI technology companies, but rather finding staff at MIT, Stanford, computer gaming companies, Facebook, Google etc. The second was to stay connected to customers.

“We really try to focus the company and make impact a positive aspect of the culture,” Chabot said. “We are big followers of what’s called the dog food philosophy – eat your own dog food. We use our products.”