What value does your brand stand for above all others? Since you’re probably here to understand Tableau Software, I’ll go first. This is our first blog entry, so some thoughts on our values seem like a good start.

Tableau’s core brand values include simplicity, beauty, respect, authenticity and discovery. But if we had to pick just one, we’d pick freedom. Why?

Most business software products have cumbersome user interfaces. Especially analytics products. When you hear the words “Pivot Table” or “Business Objects” or “SAS” do you think easy to use? Most people don’t. The reason is that the user experience isn’t valued by most enterprise software companies. It’s not a major part of their R&D culture. Nor is it important to their sales process (this is often because the buyers are not the users). As a result most business software products for doing data analysis are constraining. “You can’t use that button if you are in this mode.” “You can’t undo a calculation.” “You can’t change to monthly once you have specified year as your level of detail.” “You can’t have more than 4000 rows in a scatter plot.” “You can’t change your query once you have selected a charting template.” Today’s products consistently inhibit free-form experimentation and thus inhibit the freedom to ask any question and get an answer.

Consider a more inspiring business software example: the spreadsheet. The magic of a spreadsheet is that is gives you an infinite canvas limited only by your imagination. There’s no ‘model wizard’ or ‘model design studio’ to get started. You’re free to just start entering data and change relationships on a whim: Data becomes putty in your hands. Your brain incrementally constructs a beautiful and useful result. That’s one reason people love spreadsheets.

Unfortunately there’s no standard like the spreadsheet for providing a limited-by-your-imagination canvas for understanding tables of data. My colleagues and co-founders Dr. Chris Stolte and Professor Pat Hanrahan have made the best progress toward inventing one – and I of course think they’ve succeeded. Tableau’s technology gives you the flexibility and power to go in any direction with your thoughts: To wonder and explore and incrementally learn.

How does it do this? Many ways, but I’ll start with two:

User Interface Design

We are lucky to have a really talented UI team. Notice how the person in the product tour grabs whatever data she wants and throws it onto the canvas. Notice how she bounces from one visualization to the next. See how she asks a follow up question without having to launch a template or wizard to reconfigure her data request. She gets an incremental result every time she makes a move. She uses the unlimited back and forward buttons to browse results, change her mind, and take a new direction on a whim. All of this unites to create a feeling of freedom. Freedom to ask any question. Freedom to work without relying on others. Freedom to get answers immediately.

Data Access Design

We have a really talented database team. Tableau accesses data of any format, size or language. Not just big databases. But everyday data too. Not just files, but relational databases and OLAP warehouses on-the-fly. You can certainly connect to that huge data warehouse in Oracle. But you can also instantly understand random data found on the Web. You have the freedom to ask questions because there’s no data preparation required to start exploring: no configuration scripts, cube building, universe construction or query wizards to bog you down. You are free to access, search and discover.

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