Last month I reported from the Tableau Customer Conference in San Diego on the romance between Tableau and its customers. Tableau's strongest feature, arguably, is the enthusiasm of its users, and the added effectiveness that provides as they use the product to perform analytics on their data. There’s a virtuous cycle that forms between enjoyment and capability, and Tableau seems to have tapped into that better than perhaps any other BI company.
Deloitte selects Tableau
Maybe that’s why today, Tableau is announcing a new strategic relationship with Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy and Operations practice. Specifically, Tableau Desktop is now the standard issue analytics tool for every business analyst, consultant and senior consultant in the practice's US group. That’s over 3000 people using the tool right now, and the company is getting ready for a global deployment of the program, including at its affiliated firms. Tableau expects the project to involve more than 10,000 licenses overall.
I spoke with Jerry O'Dwyer, who has responsibility for analytics activities in Deloitte Consulting’s Strategy and Operations practice. He told me that Deloitte isn’t just pushing Tableau out to its people and hoping for spontaneous adoption. It’s providing mandatory training and even conducting Tableau competitions amongst its analysts and consultants. And while the practice is not a reseller, in some cases it’s even helping its customers adopt the product.
The cobbler's wife has nice shoes
Remember, this is not Deloitte Consulting’s Technology group; it’s the Strategy and Operations practice. The group's consultants work with customers to help them optimize mergers and acquisitions; divestiture and restructuring; and supply chain operations, among others. So this program around Tableau is not concerned with pitching it to customers as a tool; rather, it’s about real-life use of Tableau by a leading Big Four consulting organization to deliver its own services more effectively and profitably. That’s quite an endorsement.
O'Dwyer explained that Deloitte considered an array of analytics tools before selecting Tableau. His goal was to raise the "Analytics IQ" for the employees of his practice. He wanted a tool that made people more inclined to do more rigorous analytics, data interrogation and to work through "what if" scenarios more tenaciously. In the end, the deciding criterion was to have rigorous analytics + data visualization in one tool, that business users felt comfortable and excited to work with, and Tableau won out.
One of a kind?
Is Tableau the only tool that can meet criteria such as Deloitte's and, if so, why? A big part of Tableau's success is that it has connectors for a dizzying array of data sources. In fact its data source menu looks like a directory of the database, BI and Big Data worlds. Furthermore, by concentrating on data visualization, Tableau ends up being a non-threatening ally to so many of companies, whose own data visualization products are typically harder to use. The result is that companies like SAP and Cloudera show off their tie-ins with Tableau like trophies.
Other tools are out there though. For example, QlikView is a big rival and Microsoft's Power View, which is now embedded inside Excel 2013, also targets the self-service, fun-with-data approach. Power View only connects with Microsoft's SQL Server Analysis Services product, though, and QlikView uses its own database engine which has a reputation for being ineffective with anything approach Big Data.
For now, Tableau is in the catbird seat.