At last week’s Gartner BI Summit in Los Angeles, buzz words like “mobile BI,” “big data,” and “self-service BI” were prevalent. “Data discovery” was a very hot topic, too. Companies are increasingly looking for ways to equip their end users to do their own analytics.

Jeff Strauss, BI architect at Allstate, was featured on a panel to talk about how companies are investing in business intelligence. He explained that Allstate’s focus includes data discovery tools that allow users throughout an organization to do their own analysis – not rely on a centralized team of BI experts. It was great to have Jeff and his colleagues there to showcase how Tableau has helped them move towards this model. Thanks, Jeff!

As my colleagues and I talked with IT and BI leaders at the Tableau booth, it was clear they held a range of views on how “real” data discovery could be. Many had already downloaded Tableau’s free trial, saw its potential, and were eager to learn more. A few, to be sure, were skeptical and stopped by only to state the request of a business colleague back home. In each case, the conversation gravitated toward a key Tableau differentiator – making it fast and easy for anyone to analyze their data.

Shortly after I returned from the conference, I found an email titled, “Tableau Wiz Kid” in my inbox. It featured the son of a Tableau employee whose science project about Static Power had been analyzed in Tableau. Against the backdrop of our discussions at Gartner, this struck me as a poignant example of just how “real” Tableau is for individuals. Here was a 5th grader who had been able to analyze data and tell a story with it to his fellow students and teachers. On his own, using Tableau.

And what’s more is this wasn’t the first time I’d heard a story like this. Last summer I met Marta Magnuszewska, a Special Investigation Unit Analyst at Allstate. She described a similar scenario where her daughter had used Tableau for her science project. She won first place and told her mom, “I had the coolest graphs in school.”

So while some might argue that a fifth-grader’s technical sophistication is greater than many in the workforce, these examples speak volumes about the power of giving someone – anyone – the ability to investigate, visualize, and share the story of their data. These kids brought to life fifth-grade science projects. Just think about what folks in an organization could do if they could bring their data to life in the same way.

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