Overview of the Tableau product roadmap based on TC22 and TC21

Tero Honko Senior Analytics Consultant, Solita

Published 23 May 2022

Reading time 8 min

Tableau Conference TC22 was held last week in person in Las Vegas (with a virtual participation possibility). The majority of the introduced new features and functionalities were related to data preparation & modelling, easy and automated data science (business science as Tableau calls it), and Tableau Cloud management & governance capabilities. Tableau is on its journey from a visual analytics platform to a full-scale end-to-end analytics platform.

In the keynote Tableau CEO Mark Nelson emphasised the role of both Tableau and Salesforce user communities to drive change with data: there are over 1M Tableau Datafam members and over 16M Salesforce Trailblazers. Once again, the importance of data for businesses and organisations was highlighted. But the viewpoint was data skills – or lack of them – and data cultures more than technologies. Mark Nelson underlined the meaning of cloud saying 70% of new customers start their analytical journey in the cloud. One of the big announcements was rebranding Tableau Online to Tableau Cloud and introducing plenty of new features to it.

Taking account the new features introduced at TC22 Tableau platform includes good data preparation and modelling capabilities with many connectors to a variety of data sources, services and APIs. Tableau’s visual analytics and dashboarding capabilities are already one of best in the market. In TC21 last year Tableau talked a lot about Slack integration and embedding to boost collaboration and sharing of insights. At the moment, effort is put especially to democratize data analytics for everyone despite gaps in the data skills. This is done using autoML type of functionalities to automatically describe and explain data, show outliers, create predictions and help to build and act on scenarios. Also the cloud offering with better governance, security and manageability was a high priority.

Next I’ll go through the key features introduced in TC22 and also list functionalities presented in TC21 to understand the big picture. More info about TC21 released features can be found in a previous blog post: A complete list of new features introduced at the Tableau Conference 2021. These feature lists don’t contain all the features included in previous releases but the ones mentioned in TC21.

You can watch the sessions at any time here.

Workbook authoring & data visualisation

In TC22 there weren’t too many features related to workbook authoring. The only bigger announcement was the new image role to enable dynamic images in visualisations. These could be for example product images or any other images that can be found via a url link in the source data. From TC21 there are still a couple of very interesting features waiting to be released, I’m especially waiting for dynamic dashboard layouts.

Introduced in TC22

  • Image role: Dynamically render images in the viz based on a link field in the data.

Introduced in TC21 (but not yet released)

  • Dynamic Dashboard Layouts (~2022 H1): Use parameters & field values to show/hide layout containers and visualisations.
  • Visualisation Extensions (~2022 H2): Custom mark types, mark designer to fine tune the visualisation details, share custom viz types.

Introduced in TC21 (and already released)

  • Multi Data Source Spatial Layers (2021.4): Use data from different data sources in different layers of a single map visualisation.
  • Redesigned View Data (2022.1): View/hide columns, reorder columns, sort data, etc.
  • Workbook Optimiser (2022.1): Suggest performance improvements when publishing a workbook.

Augmented analytics & understand data

For this area there were a couple of brand new announcements and more info about a few major functionalities already unveiled in TC21. Data stories is an automated feature to create descriptive stories about data insights in a single visualisation. Data stories explains what data and insights is presented in the visualisation, explanation changes dynamically when data is filtered or selected in the viz. With the data orientation pane the author can partly automate the documentation of dashboard and visualisations. It shows information about data fields, applied filters, data outliers and data summary, and possible links to external documentation.

Few originally in TC21 introduced features were also mentioned in TC22. Model Builder is a big step toward guided data science. It will help to build ML-model driven predictions fully integrated within Tableau. It’s based on the same technology as Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics. Scenario planner is a functionality to build what-if-analyses to understand different options and outcomes of different decisions.

Introduced in TC22

  • Data Stories (beta in Tableau Cloud): Dynamic and automated data story component in Tableau Dashboard. Automatically describes data contents.
  • Data orientation pane: Contain information about dashboard and fields, applied filters, data outliers and data summary, and links to external resources.
  • Model Builder: Use autoML to build and deploy predictive models within Tableau. Based on Salesforce’s Einstein platform.
  • Scenario Planner: Easy what-if-analysis. View how changes in certain variables affect target variables and how certain targets could be achieved.

Introduced in TC21 (but not yet released)

  • Data Change Radar (~2022 H1): Alert and show details about meaningful data changes, detect new outliers or anomalies, alert and explain these.
  • Multiple Smaller Improvements in Ask Data (~2022 H1): Contact Lens author, Personal pinning, Lens lineage in Catalog, Embed Ask Data.
  • Explain the Viz (~2022 H2): Show outliers and anomalies in the data, explain changes, explain mark etc.

Introduced in TC21 (and already released)

  • Ask Data improvements (2022.1): Phrase builder already available, phrase recommendations available later this year.

Collaborate, embed and act

In TC21 collaboration and Slack integration were one of the big development areas. In TC22 there wasn’t much new about this topic, but Tableau actions were again demonstrated as a way to build actionable dashboards. Also the possibility to share dashboards publicly for unauthenticated non-lisenced users was shown again in TC22. This functionality is coming to Tableau Cloud later this year.

Introduced in TC22

  • Tableau Actions: Trigger actions outside Tableau, for example Salesforce Flow actions. Support for other workflow engines will be added later.
  • Publicly share dashboards (~2022 H2): Share content via external public facing site to give access to unauthenticated non-lisenced users, only Tableau Cloud.

Introduced in TC21 (but not yet released)

  • 3rd party Identity & Access Providers: Better capabilities to manage users externally outside Tableau.
  • Embeddable Web Authoring: No need for desktop when creating & editing embedded contents, full embedded visual analytics.
  • Embeddable Ask Data

Introduced in TC21 (and already released)

  • Connected Apps (2021.4): More easily embed to external apps, create secure handshake between Tableau and other apps.
  • Tableau search, Explain Data and Ask Data in Slack (2021.4)
  • Tableau Prep notifications in Slack (2022.1)

Data preparation, modelling and management

My personal favourite of the new features can be found here. Shared dimensions enable more flexible multi-fact data models where multiple fact tables can relate to shared dimension tables. This feature makes the logical data model layer introduced a couple of years ago more comprehensive and very powerful. Tableau finally supports creation of enterprise level data models that can be leveraged in very flexible ways and managed in a centralised manner. Another data model related new feature was Table extensions that enable use of Python and R scripts directly in the data model layer.

There are also features to boost data source connectivity. Web Data Connector 3.0 makes it easier to connect different web data sources, services and API’s. One important new data source is AWS S3 that will enable connection directly to the data lake layer. Also Tableau Prep is getting few new functionalities. Row number column and null value cleaning are rather small features. Multi-row calculations instead are a bit bigger thing, although the examples Tableau mentioned (running totals and moving averages) might not very relevant in data prep cause these usually must take into account filters and row level security and therefore these calculations must often be done at runtime.

Introduced in TC22

  • Shared dimensions: Build multi-fact data models where facts relate to many shared dimensions,
  • Web data connector 3.0: Easily connect to web data and APIs, for example to AWS S3, Twitter etc.
  • Table extensions: Leverage python and R scripts in the data model layer.
  • Insert row number and clean null values in Prep: Easily insert row number column and clean & fill null values.
  • Multi-row calculations in Prep: Calculate for example running total or moving average in Tableau Prep.
  • New AWS data sources: Amazon S3, Amazon DocumentDB, Amazon OpenSearch, Amazon Neptune.

Introduced in TC21 (but not yet released)

  • Data Catalog Integration: Sync external metadata to Tableau (from Collibra, Alation, & Informatica).
  • Tableau Prep Extensions: Leverage and build extension for Tableau Prep (sentiment analysis, OCR, geocoding, feature engineering etc.).

Introduced in TC21 (and already released)

  • Virtual Connections (2021.4): Centrally managed and reusable access points to source data with single point to define security policy and data standards.
  • Centralised row level security (2021.4): Centralised RLS and data management for virtual connections.
  • Parameters in Tableau Prep (2021.4): Leverage parameters in Tableau Prep workflows.

Tableau Cloud management

Rebranding Tableau Online to Tableau Cloud and a bunch of new management and governance features in it was one important area of TC22. Tableau Cloud can now be managed as a whole with multi-site management. Security has already been a key area when moving to cloud and now Tableau finally supports customer managed encryption keys (BYOK). From a monitoring point of view both activity log and admin insights provide information how Tableau Cloud and contents in it are used.

Introduced in TC22

  • Multi-site management for Tableau Cloud: Manage centrally all Tableau Cloud sites.
  • Customer managed encryption keys (later 2022): BYOK (Bring Your Own Keys).
  • Activity Log: More insights on how people are using Tableau, permission auditing etc.
  • Admin Insights: Maximise performance, boost adoption, and manage contents.

Tableau Server management

There weren’t too many new features in Tableau Server management, I guess partly because of the effort put into Tableau Cloud Management instead. However, Tableau Server auto-scaling was mentioned again and it will be coming soon starting with backgrounder auto-scaling.

Introduced in TC22

  • Auto-scaling for Tableau Server (2022 H1): Starting with backgrounder auto-scaling for container deployments.

Introduced in TC21 (but not yet released)

  • Resource Monitoring Improvements (~2022 H1): Show view load requests, establish new baseline etc.
  • Backgrounder resource limits (~2022 H1): Set limits for backgrounder resource consumption.

Introduced in TC21 (and already released)

  • Time Stamped log Zips (2021.4)

Tableau ecosystem & Tableau Public

Last year in the TC21 Tableau ecosystem and upcoming Tableau Public features had a big role. This year there wasn’t much new in this area but still the Tableau exchange and accelerators were mentioned and shown in the demos a couple of times.

Introduced in TC21 (but not yet released)

  • Tableau Public Slack Integration (~2022 H1)
  • More connectors to Tableau Public (~2022 H1): Box, Dropbox, OneDrive.
  • Publish Prep flows to Tableau Public: Will there be a Public version for Tableau Prep?
  • Tableau Public custom Channels (~2022 H1): Custom channels around certain topics.

Introduced in TC21 (and already released)

  • Tableau exchange: Search and leverage shared extensions, connectors, more than 100 accelerators. Possibility to share dataset may be added later on.
  • Accelerators: Dashboard starters for certain use cases and source data (e.g. call center analysis, Marketo data, Salesforce data etc.). Can soon be used directly from Tableau.

Want to know more?

More info about the upcoming features on the Tableau coming soon page.

Check out also visual analytics & Tableau, and book a demo to find out more.

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