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Tableau Software eyes BI-minded SMBs with tablet app

Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are leery of jumping on the business intelligence bandwagon because of the costliness and complexity of large-scale BI deployments. These deployments have long been the domain of enterprises, not only because they have massive volumes of customer and business data to analyze, but also because they have the funds and internal resources to support massive BI systems.

But some SMBs are finding that in order to keep up with competitors, they can’t afford to hold back any longer. And as such, vendors eying the SMB market are looking to roll out less costly, more user-friendly BI tools. SMBs, they claim, can now choose among BI products that have easier-to-use user interfaces, self-service BI support and embedded analytics capabilities — scaled to even the smallest company.

One such BI product introduced last week: Tableau Software’s forthcoming tablet app, dubbed Project Elastic, the headliner at the company’s annual Tableau Big Data Conference. Tableau is an established data analytics company with a customer base of 19,000 and counting, yet it’s still looking to expand: with Elastic, Tableau is setting its sights squarely on mobile users.

One of the main SMB draws of Tableau Software is its approach to data visualization, which “isn’t about automating your routine path, it’s about allowing users to be artists,” according to theCUBE’s Jeff Kelly. Tableau plans to push this data creativity further into the hands of consumers and small businesses with Elastic, which Dave Story, Tableau’s vice president of mobile and strategic growth, hopes will provide users with a “lean-back experience,” as opposed to being tethered to a desktop. The benefit for SMB owners, he says, is that they can use analyze payment card data without having to organize it with one hand and figure out how to work complicated desktop BI software with the other.

For SMB owners unable to hire full-time IT staff for data analysis or who need to make on-the-move decisions, that’s a plus. So is the easy-to-use interface, according to a demo viewed by Gigaom’s Derrick Harris, including the ability to tap on specific data points to focus them, and the automation of many data-cleansing tasks.

Those are promising developments, but Harris points out that the Elastic product is still missing some features, such as built-in connectors to third-party data providers and a wide range of data visualization options. Connectors with third-party sources are coming, Story told Gigaom, but will require Tableau working with those providers so that Elastic receives data in a compatible format.

Tableau is readying Elastic for release sometime next year. When it comes out, we’ll see if efforts by Tableau, and companies like it, to format offerings that are easy to consume will suit SMBs’ needs, giving them the boost they need to make headway in the BI game.

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