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Seattle, Washington data analytics company Tableau wants to make it easier to get straightforward answers to sales questions. Toward that end, it today announced the general availability of Ask Data, a natural language processing feature for Tableau Server and Tableau Online that enables users to pose queries and get a response. It also debuted Tableau Data Management — a new subscription add-on targeting data prep scenarios — and a pair of revamped smartphone clients.

Ask Data is available as a part of Tableau‘s latest release, Tableau 2019.1, and supports the platform’s full range of live and extract data sources.

Using Ask Data to get an answer is as simple as typing in a question like “What were my sales this month?”, after which Tableau will return an interactive visualization that can be explored with clarifying follow-ups, new questions, and drag-and-drop gestures.

There’s more to Ask Data than meets the eye, according to Francois Ajenstat, chief product officer at Tableau. He said that under-the-hood algorithms automatically profile and index data sources, and combine statistical knowledge about those sources with contextual knowledge about real-world concepts. The result: Ask Data both recognizes synonyms like “sales” and “booking,” and is able to infer filters such as “Product Category,” “Furniture,” “Country,” and “United States” from a string like “American furniture.”


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Moreover, Ask Data leverages a sophisticated parser that, when confronted with ambiguous language, uses knowledge about the data source and past user activity to generate relevant options.

“With Ask Data, we’re helping to make analytics ubiquitous by enabling anyone, regardless of expertise, to analyze data,” Ajenstat said. “Our unique, conversational approach to natural language allows people to ask questions how they naturally think. Ask Data provides a more intuitive and natural way to interact with data, lowering the barrier to entry for analytics and allowing people to ask questions in plain language and get … insights faster.

New apps, Data Prep Conductor, and more

Ask Data isn’t the only thing Tableau announced today. It took the wraps off of redesigned apps for iOS and Android with automatic layouts, which adapt Tableau dashboards to fit screens of any size and put graphs and data portraits front and center, even in the absence of connectivity. They’re due out later this month.

Also making its debut with Tableau 2019.1 is a Google Ads connector, which seeks to streamline the process of website data analysis, and a new Export to PowerPoint feature that resizes visualizations and dashboards to slides.

Data Prep Conductor, meanwhile — a new product that’s part of a $5-per-user-per-month subscription package called Tableau Data Management — aims to simplify the process of scheduling and managing data prep. Specifically, it automates flows created in Tableau Prep Builder (previously Tableau Prep Desktop, which Tableau says is used by more than 11,000 customers) by allowing users to build permissions, add or remove data sources, and implement policies that ensure corporate compliance and control needs are consistently met.

Existing Tableau customers can add Tableau Data Management to their respective environments by upgrading to Tableau Server 2019.1 and activating the relevant package. In late 2019, Tableau Data Management will get new cataloging capabilities that’ll enable searches for a range of data types from a single location and add enhanced metadata to that data.

Tableau Data Management is available as an add-on to Tableau Server, and available as a preview in Tableau Online.

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