Is Tableau really working for you?

Is Tableau really working for you?

They say Tableau is easy to use and you can create effective, powerful dashboards in a few hours but is Tableau really working for you?

If they only truly take a few hours to build, why do so many companies give up on their Business Dashboard strategies?

The answer is simple.  They either hit a technical hurdle they can’t solve or they have built dashboards that just don’t add any value.  The first problem is easy to fix.  The second takes a little more time.

So ask the question, is Tableau really working for you?

Let’s look at some of the main complaints we hear and what you can do to solve them:

  • My dashboards take way too long to load
  • I can’t create the graph I need
  • My data is not in the right structure
  • My dashboards are always out of date
  • No one looks at them

My dashboards take way too long to load

This has to be the most common complaint about Tableau.  The thing is, it’s not Tableau, it’s you.  Tableau can be lightning fast.  I mean super fast.  We’ve built several dashboards that connect to over 5 billion rows of data and can load in six seconds.

The problem isn’t Tableau, it’s the way you’ve asked Tableau to ingest the data.

  • Slow loading dashboards are a symptom of one of these main issues:
  • Too many joins and data blends
  • Badly constructed SQL script (if you are using custom SQL)
  • Using the wrong data connector

You can connect Tableau to hundreds of different data sources and you can get data into Tableau in a multitude of ways so we won’t explore each individually.  What you need to do is experiment with the options Tableau has so that you find the most efficient way to load data.

I can’t create the graph I need

Tableau comes with a whole bunch of graphs ready for you to drag and drop your data onto.  There may be a rare occasion when you need to use a chart that they don’t have and that’s when you’ll get stuck.  Trust me when I tell you that you are not the first person to have this challenge and you won’t be the last.  Tableau is incredibly flexible and it is very likely that you can create the graph you need with the tools at hand.

While you may not see the chart you need on the “Show me” panel, don’t give up just yet!

Check out some of our resources on how to create certain graphs.

My data is not in the right structure

Very true, very true.  Data engineering has to be one of the more difficult parts of creating a dashboard in Tableau.  It really does pay off when you invest the time in getting your data in the right shape.  If you don’t then you’re probably reading this and nodding your head.

Tableau Prep is the ETL tool that Tableau sell alongside Tableau Desktop.  This piece of software has all you need to twist, splice and mould your data into the perfect shape.

HOWEVER, Tableau Prep is so temperamental that it’s simply not worth investing the time in using it.  I would strongly recommend that you jump to the other side for your ETL and download Power BI and use that to shape your data.  It’s free, it’s powerful and I promise I won’t tell anyone.

My dashboards are always out of date

“I want real-time dashboards,” they said.

But seriously, what is real-time?  To me, real-time is relative to the data source.

If you are presenting traffic data or people movement in a building then real-time would mean the data was updated by the second.  If you are presenting financial data alongside timesheet data then the most real-time you could get would be weekly at best.

You see, real-time is only as good as the reliability of the data behind it.  If your accounts are not signed off until the end of the month then you can only present reliable data once every month.

If a dashboard is considered out of date then consider the cadence of the underlying data and how frequently you can take a reliable snapshot or data feed from it.

No one looks at them

There is nothing more depressing than checking out the stats of a dashboard you spent hours creating to find that no one has looked at it for over a month.

This is an easy problem to solve and you don’t even need Tableau.  Hunt down each and every one of the people you built this for and ask them why they don’t look at it.  Be prepared for the worst and take every bit of feedback on board.  Whatever reasons you are thrown, incorporate them into version 2.0.

When you’ve nearly completed version 2.0, go back to these guys again and give them a sneak peek preview of what’s to come.  Ask them if they’d use this one and try and get them to have a play.  The aim is to engage your stakeholders before you publish and take them on the ride with you.

If they don’t look at version 2.0 then dig deeper as to the reasons why.  If you discover they really don’t need it then at least you know it was them and not you.

If any of these sound familiar and you’ve also been wondering if Tableau is working for you, then hopefully we’ve given you some food for thought