Client Tools


I have to admit that as far as the market for client tools for Analysis Services went, I thought I’d seen it all. Now that Proclarity et al are relatively mature, who would want to challenge them? And if someone was going to launch a new tool, they’d need a new usp – and after the glut of tools that did cell-by-cell analysis in Excel (eg Intelligentapps, MIS Plain) that came along a few years ago I didn’t think there were any new usps left. Well, a new client called Tableau has come along to change my mind…

My interest was aroused by this article by Stephen Few, a visualisation guru whose other articles on data presentation in BI I’ve always enjoyed. His main theme is that data must be properly presented if it’s going to be understood by the people its intended for, and I have to admit that I (along with the rest of the BI industry) haven’t always taken this as seriously as we should have done. In fact, as techies, we tend to be disparaging of solutions that merely look nice especially if the technology behind is less than impressive. But at the end of the day it’s the data that’s important to our end users, and anyone who has spent any time with users knows that they just love a pretty, easy-to-understand output. Tableau’s usp is that it is very, very good at data visualisation.

Take a look for yourself here, or even better take a look at the gallery of screenshots here for an idea of what you can produce. Nice, eh? And the thing it, it’s not difficult to produce this kind of output. The UI and workflow are smooth and fast, and while it took me a few minutes to ‘get’ some of the concepts, once I knew what I was doing I found it was very easy to produce some quite impressive-looking reports. Some of the more mature clients for Analysis Services out there look decidedly dated and clunky in comparison…

The only downside I can see is the price: at $999 for Standard Edition and $1799 for Professional Edition (and it seems like you need the latter to be able to connect to Analysis Services), it is VERY expensive. They are going to have to be able to market themselves very well to compete, but I think the gap is there for this kind of niche product. I hope they do well.

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