Any Tableau customer, regardless of analytics expertise, will be able to easily connect such a Dashboard Extension model to data in Tableau, via “point and click.” The extension then responds to the customer’s actions in Tableau and data refreshes by re-running the analytic model and displaying new prescriptive results – recommended actions or “decision data” – in visual form. This enables an organization’s people to go beyond analyzing “what happened”, and take action to “make it happen”.

The Tableau Extensions API, which Frontline has used on an early confidential disclosure basis, is broadly available now for software developers to try. The ability to convert Excel prescriptive analytics models into Dashboard Extensions will be included an early 2018 release of Frontline’s Analytic Solver desktop and cloud software.

“We’re empowering people to build prescriptive models in days, that once required management science experts and many months,” said Daniel Fylstra, president of Frontline Systems, “and deploy those models to consumers in ways that once required IT experts and many more months. It’s a key step to enable organizations to ‘operationalize’ analytics and realize business value.”

“These APIs give developers new ways to extend the functionality of Tableau to meet the needs of their organizations,” said Francois Ajenstat, Chief Product Officer at Tableau. “We’re excited to work with Frontline Systems to provide customers with easy-to-use prescriptive analytics.”

25 Years of Advanced Analytics

Although Tableau’s Extensions API and Frontline’s conversion of Excel models to Dashboard Extensions are both new, they fully leverage Frontline’s 25 years of developing, marketing and supporting software for prescriptive analytics, used in over 8,500 business organizations – mostly Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 companies – and by more than 500,000 business school students learning analytics methods over the last ten years.

For example, these Dashboard Extensions can use any of Frontline’s twelve Solver Engines for optimization, from linear programming and nonlinear optimization to genetic and evolutionary algorithms, simulation optimization, and stochastic programming. They can also use its high-performance Monte Carlo simulation engine with support for over 50 probability distributions, 50 statistics and risk measures, distribution and correlation fitting, and stratified sampling.

While not part of today’s demonstration, Frontline’s analytic software suite also includes powerful tools for data mining and machine learning, text mining, and prescriptive analytics. Examples include time series forecasting, linear and logistic regression, classification and regression trees, neural networks, ensembles and ‘random forests’, feature selection, principal components, and latent semantic analysis. Frontline intends to make these capabilities available in Tableau Dashboard Extensions as well.

RASON® Modeling and REST API Key to ‘Live’ Extension Models

The ability to convert an Excel analytic model, using Excel formulas and built-in functions, into a Dashboard Extension usable in Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud without requiring Excel, depends on RASON (RESTful Analytic Solver® Object Notation) – Frontline’s increasingly-popular modeling language that contains the entire Excel formula language, but is embedded in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) and supports a REST API (Application Programming Interface). When an extension model receives new data from the Tableau dashboard, it makes a REST API call to the RASON Server, either as hosted by Frontline on Microsoft Azure or on an organization’s in-house server, to run the optimization or simulation model, delivering results in JSON back to the extension model.

While Dashboard Extensions created by Frontline’s tool require no programming at all to be useful, they are ‘open’ for modification by an organization’s own developers, working in JavaScript. RASON then serves as a high-level modeling language in which the analytic model can be expressed much more easily – and by their nature (JSON), RASON models appear literally in JavaScript source code. Developers can try RASON free of charge at https://rason.com.

Frontline Systems Inc. (http://www.solver.com) is the leader in analytics for spreadsheets and the web, helping managers gain insights and make better decisions for an uncertain future. Its products integrate forecasting and data mining for “predictive analytics,” Monte Carlo simulation and risk analysis, and conventional and stochastic optimization for “prescriptive analytics.” Founded in 1987, Frontline is based in Incline Village, Nevada (775-831-0300).

Excel® is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation. Tableau® is a registered trademark of Tableau Software, Inc. Analytic Solver® and RASON® are registered trademarks of Frontline Systems, Inc.