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Data Prep Stays Independent

May 3, 2018

Tableau announced their integrated Data Prep solution last week, joining Microsoft in coupling lightweight data preparation into an end-user business intelligence solution. As Jeff Heer documented in his blog post, we’re old friends with both companies (I interned at Microsoft in the 1980s!), and happy business partners with Tableau and Microsoft as well. It’s great to see our partners emphasizing the importance of data prep for their customers.

Meanwhile, at Trifacta, our large customers often have dozens of BI solutions sanctioned by their IT department. I would hazard a guess that both Tableau and Microsoft’s solutions are typically on the list.

Which is to say that while data prep embedded in a BI tool might be convenient for the users of that particular tool,  it is not a sensible organizational solution. The hard work of data prep—the “80%-of-the-data-lifecycle-is-spent-in-data-wrangling” work—probably should not be locked up within specific siloed BI tools. Otherwise, if you like Tableau and your buddy likes PowerBI, you’ll just have to go your own separate ways on data prep. And if you’re a user of AI tools rather than BI tools, you’re not even in the conversation. The more business processes you put in your BI tools, the more your “BI tribes” become isolated from each other and the rest of your data culture.

Data prep is an organizational imperative, so it’s pretty clear that organizational solutions to data prep will remain focused on an independent data prep platform that can access data from multiple data producers, and generate data for multiple data consumers. Said differently, data prep is at the “narrow waist” of an organizational data architecture. I had a chance to sit down with Paige Bartley of Ovum and write this idea up (thanks, Paige!), drawing the connection between data architecture and the Internet architecture, which validated the narrow waist design as the key to fostering evolution and innovation. The report is now available here.

This reasoning is why all parties—including Tableau, Trifacta, and independent analysts—have pointed out that any data prep features in the BI products are unlikely to compete with comprehensive, independent data preparation solutions like Trifacta.

Meanwhile, we remain focused at Trifacta on bringing the best technology and user experience to an independent, interoperable, industry-leading end-user data preparation solution. We know (because our customers and industry analysts tell us!) that Trifacta is unmatched in its power and ease of use for data preparation. We also take independence seriously: Trifacta runs across all three major clouds as well as on-premises platforms, with broad integration support to consume data from a wide range of sources, and produce data to wide range of analytics solutions ranging from BI to AI tools. We love doing data wrangling right — that’s why we created this new category of data preparation with research at Berkeley and Stanford going back almost 20 years.

There is a lot of data to be wrangled. We look forward to continuing our journey, working with our partners to help folks get their work done.

When you’re taking a break from playing with your data, you can read the report Paige and I wrote here.