Christian Chabot's Keynote Address: Leather Belts and Line Shafts

Did you know the 2009 Tableau Customer Conference has more attendees than a recent national BI conference? According to Elissa Fink, VP of Marketing for Tableau, there are over 300 registered attendees up from about 180 just a year ago. As the 2009 opening keynote kicked off, there was standing room only in large ballroom.

Tableau’s CEO, Christian Chabot, captured the audience with his story on leather belts and line shafts. He made the analogy that where electricity was initially distributed through leather belts and line shafts, business intelligence software got its start as a developer driven software using primitive visualization that constrained user experience.

Chabot’s goal is to change all that and rock the business intelligence world. Extending that, he says Tableau’s dream is to provide users the freedom to answer any questions and follow any thoughts. And he means ANY. After describing the typical user experience of wizards and formulas, he pulled up the Tableau interface and double-clicked his way to a 4-page interactive, multi-dimensional, multi-perspective, visually intelligent report. He then took that a huge step forward by posting it to a public server and embedding a link back in a blog post. It was as easy as posting a YouTube video.

After Tableau’s VP of Marketing, Elissa Fink had shared the story of how she first heard the company’s mission statement of helping people use their data, Chabot elaborated on the company’s goals for their next release, Tableau 6.0. He still believes Tableau should fundamentally be able to answer all questions with data and that those answers should come fast. But it was his mention of the goal to provide public information and bring data visualization to the public web that was most intriguing. He envisions accessing consumer-owned sites like fantasy sports and being able to interact dynamically with statistical data creating views specific to the needs of the reader, who could then save and share them with other web visitors.

Chabot sees Tableau Public as a revolution in online data and hopes that in five years you can’t go anywhere on the web without running into Tableau data and visualizations.

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