A complete list of new features introduced at the Tableau Conference 2021

The Tableau Conference 2021 is over and yet again it was a lot of fun with all the not-so-serious music performances, great informative sessions, excellent Iron Viz competition, and of course demonstrations of many new features coming in the future releases. In general my first thoughts about the new capabilities revealed in TC21 are very positive. Obviously some of the details are still a bit blurry but the overall topics seem to be in a good balance: There are very interesting improvements coming for visual analytics, data management and content consumption in different channels, but in my opinion the most interesting area was augmented analytics and capabilities for citizen data scientists.

It’s been 2 years since Salesforce announced the acquisition of Tableau. After acquisitions and mergers it’s always interesting to see how it affects the product roadmap and development. Now I really feel the pace for Tableau is getting faster and also the scope is getting more extensive. Tableau is not only fine tuning the current offering, but creating a more comprehensive analytics platform with autoML, easier collaboration & embedding, and action triggers that extend beyond the Tableau.

Note: All the pictures are created using screenshots from the TC21 Devs on Stage and TC21 Opening Keynote sessions. You can watch the sessions at any time on Tableau site.

The Basics – Workbook Authoring

Let’s dive into workbook authoring first. It is still the core of Tableau and I’m very pleased to see there is still room for improvement. For the workbook authoring the biggest announcement was the visualization extensions. This means you can more easily develop and use new custom visualization types (for example sunburst and flower). The feature makes it possible to adjust visualization details with mark designer and to share these custom visualizations with others. Another very nice feature was dynamic dashboard layouts, you can use parameters and field values to dynamically toggle the visibility of dashboard components (visualizations and containers). This gives so much more power to flexibly show and hide visualizations on the dashboard.

There is also a redesigned UI to view underlying data with options to select the desired columns, reorder columns and sort data, export data etc. For map analysis the possibility to use data from multiple data sources in spatial layers is a very nice feature. Using workbook optimizer you can view tips to improve performance when publishing the workbook. In general it also seems the full web authoring for both data source and visualization authoring isn’t very far away anymore.

  • Visualization Extensions (2022 H2): Custom mark types, mark designer to fine tune the visualization details, share custom viz types.
  • Dynamic Dashboard Layouts (2022 H1): Use parameters & field values to show/hide layout containers and visualizations.
  • Multi Data Source Spatial Layers (2021.4): Use data from different data sources in different layers of a single map visualization.
  • Redesigned View Data (2022 H1): View/hide columns, reorder columns, sort data, etc.
  • Workbook Optimizer (2021.4): Suggest performance improvements when publishing a workbook.
Visualization Extensions. Create more complex visualizations (like sunburst) with ease.

Augmented Analytics & Citizen Data Science

This topic has been in the Gartner’s hype cycle for some time. In Tableau we have already seen the first capabilities related to augmented analytics and autoML, but this area is really getting a lot more power in the future. Data change radar will automatically detect new outliers or anomalies in the data, and alert and visualize those to the user. Then users can apply the explain data feature to automatically get insights and explanations about the data, what has happened and why. Explain the viz feature will not explain only one data point but the whole visualization or dashboard and show descriptive information about the data. All this happens automatically behind the scenes and it can really speed up the analysis to get these insights out-of-the-box. There were also a bunch of smaller improvements in the Ask Data feature for example to adjust the behavior and to embed the ask data functionality.

One of the biggest new upcoming features was the possibility to create and deploy predictive models within Tableau with Tableau Model Builder. This means citizen data scientists can create autoML type of predictive models and deploy those inside Tableau to get new insights about the data.  The user interface for this seemed to be a lot like Tableau Prep. Another very interesting feature was Scenario Planning, which is currently under development in Tableau Labs. This feature gives the possibility to view how changes in certain variables would affect defined target variables and compare different scenarios to each other. Another use case for scenarios would be finding different ways to achieve a certain target. For me the scenario planning seemed to be a bit disconnected from the core capabilities of Tableau, but it is under development and for sure there could be some very nice use cases for this type of functionality.

  • Data Change Radar (2022 H1): Alert and show details about meaningful data changes, detect new outliers or anomalies, alert and explain these.
  • Explain the Viz (2022 H2): Show outliers and anomalies in the data, explain changes, explain mark etc.
  • Multiple Smaller Improvements in Ask Data (2022 H1): Contact Lens author, Personal pinning, Phrase builder, Lens lineage in Catalog, Embed Ask Data.
  • Tableau Model Builder: Use autoML to build and deploy predictive models within Tableau.
  • Scenario Planning: View how changes in certain variables affect target variables and how certain targets could be achieved.
Explain Data side pane with data changes and explain change drill down path.

Collaborate, embed and act

The Tableau Slack integration is getting better and more versatile. With the 2021.4 version you can use Tableau search, Explain Data and Ask Data features directly in Slack. As it was said in the event: “it’s like having data as your Slack member“. In the future also Tableau Prep notifications can be viewed via Slack. It was also suggested that later on similar integration will be possible for example with MS Teams.

There were many new capabilities related to embedding contents to external services. With Connected Apps feature admins can define trusted applications (secure handshake) to make embedding more easy. Tableau Broadcast can be used in Tableau Online to share content via external public facing sites for everyone (for unauthenticated users). There was also a mention about 3rd party identity and access provider support which was not very precise but in my opinion it suggests the possibility to more easily leverage identities and access management from outside Tableau. Embeddable web authoring makes it possible to create and edit contents directly within the service where contents are embedded using the web edit, so no need to use Tableau Desktop.

One big announcement was the Tableau Actions. Tableau dashboards already have great actions to create interactions between the user and the data, but this is something more. With Tableau Actions you can trigger actions outside Tableau directly from a dashboard. You could for example trigger Salesforce Flow tasks by clicking a button in the dashboard. And in the future also other workflow engines will be supported. This will provide much more powerful interactivity options for the user.

  • Tableau search, Explain Data and Ask Data in Slack (2021.4)
  • Tableau Prep notifications in Slack (2022 H1)
  • Connected Apps (2021.4): More easily embed to external apps, create secure handshake between Tableau and other apps.
  • Tableau Broadcast (2022 H2): Share contest via external public facing site to give access to unauthenticated users, only Tableau Online.
  • 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 
  • Tableau Actions: Trigger actions outside Tableau, for example Salesforce Flow actions, later on support for other workflow engines.
Creating new Tableau Action to trigger Salesforce Flow to escalate case.

Data management & data preparation

Virtual Connections have already been introduced earlier and those seem to be very powerful functionality to centrally manage data connections and create centralized row level security rules. These functionalities and possible new future features build around them can really boost end-to-end self-service analytics in the future. The only downside is that this is part of the data management add-on. Data Catalog Integration will bring the possibility to sync metadata from external data catalog services, like Collibra and Alation.

Related to the data preparation there will be new Tableau Prep Extensions so you can get more power to the prep workflows as a custom step. These new steps can be for example sentiment analysis, geocoding, feature engineering etc. Other new functionality in Tableau Prep is the possibility to use parameters in the Prep workflows. It was also said that in the future you can use Tableau Public to publish and share Tableau Prep flows. This might mean there is also a Public version coming for Tableau Prep. It wasn’t mentioned in the event, but it would be great.

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

Server Management

Even though SaaS options like Tableau Online are getting more popular all the time there was still a bunch of new Tableau Server specific features. New improved resource monitoring capabilities as well as time stamped log file zip generation were mentioned. Backgrounder resource limits can limit the amount of resources consumed by backgrounder processes and auto-scaling for backgrounders for containerized deployments can help the environment to adjust for different workloads during different times of the day.

  • Resource Monitoring Improvements (2022 H1): Show view load requests, establish new baseline etc.
  • Time Stamped log Zips (2021.4)
  • Backgrounder resource limits (2022 H1): Set limits for backgrounder resource consumption.
  • Auto-scaling for backgrounder (2022 H1): Set backgrounder auto-scaling for container deployments.

Tableau Ecosystem & Tableau Public

Tableau is building Tableau Public to better serve the data family in different ways. There is already a possibility to create visualizations in Tableau Public using the web edit. There is also redesigned search and better general user interface to structure and view contents as channels. Tableau Public will also have Slack integration and more data connectors for example to Dropbox and OneDrive. As already mentioned, Tableau Prep flows can be published to Tableau Public in the future and that might also mean a release of Tableau Prep Public, who knows.

In the keynote there was also mention that Tableau exchange would contain all the different kinds of extensions, connectors, datasets and accelerators in the future. The other contents are already there but the datasets will be a very interesting addition. This would mean companies could publish, use and possibly sell and buy analysis ready data contents. The accelerators are dashboard starters for certain use cases or source data.

  • 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.
  • Tableau exchange: Search and leverage shared extensions, connectors, datasets and accelerators.
  • Accelerators: Dashboard starters for certain use cases and source data (e.g. call center analysis, Marketo data, Salesforce data etc.).

Want to read or hear more?

If you are looking for more info about Tableau read our blog post: Tableau – a pioneer of modern self-service business intelligence.

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

You can also read about our visual analytics services and contact to hear more or to see a comprehensive end-to-end Tableau Demo.

Thanks for reading!

Tero Honko, Senior Data Consultant
tero.honko@solita.fi
Phone +358 40 5878359