One of the challenges with business intelligence (BI) software, as many campus IT departments can attest, is the difficulty of implementing and using it. While powerful, BI tools can also be a challenge to master, especially for the non-technical business users who typically need the tools' analytical capabilities most. Cornell University learned that lesson the hard way when it installed an enterprise BI system from a large, top-shelf vendor that the university prefers not to name. What Cindy Sedlacek, director of data administration for the College of Arts and Sciences will say, however, is that the installation, attempted back in 2007, was less than successful. Implementation was difficult, and, after eight months, the university had little to show for its time and money.
As a business intelligence tool, Tableau presents data and analysis visually, which can make it easier for business users to understand and manipulate information because it appears in colorful maps, charts, and three-dimensional diagrams. The live content in Tableau can be shared with Web applications, including intranets, and embedded in documents. Cornell is using Tableau as part of a decades-old Key Performance Indicators (KPI) initiative, in which the various colleges within the university track and analyze key metrics to discern trends and set future direction. Sedlacek describes the initiative as the colleges' highest-priority IT project on an ongoing basis.