What is Tableau used for?

What is Tableau used for?

Tableau is …

… a Visual Analytics Platform

If that’s all gobbledegook to you then you’re not alone.

In more normal speak, Tableau is a piece of software from Salesforce that lets you create graphs and interactive dashboards with your data.

But what is Tableau used for?

It’s a bit like Excel but only 20 times better at doing bar charts and scatter plots.

Tableau explains it this way:

“Find easy answers to hard questions. Whatever your needs, we’ve got you covered. Easily bring all your data together with Tableau.”

Uninspiringly vague as that may be for you, we’ve unpacked what it all means.

Create an amazing data visualisation experience

Tableau has been designed with the end user in mind.  The most impressive feature is that every graph and dashboard automatically allows the user to interact with it and slice and dice the underlying data with a few mouse clicks.

It’s real pretty too.

You will find a whole range of colour palettes included in the box.  Ok, not all the colours are eye wateringly beautiful, but they are quite nice and easy on the eye.  With a bit of extra work, you can even create your own colour palettes and dashboard themes.

Most importantly, every Tableau dashboard can be designed to work on different screen sizes. You can build a dashboard that works perfectly on a massive monitor and it will look just fine on your mobile and also your big screen TV.

Build cutting edge business dashboards

What’s a business dashboard?

Glad you asked.

A business dashboard is a collection of graphs and/or tables that all have a similar context.  For example, you may have a graph plotting your company expenditure over a few years as a line chart and another graph showing the split of company expenditure across different expenditure categories.

By dragging these two graphs onto one dashboard in Tableau, you can connect them together to show a more comprehensive picture of your companies expenditure.

The result is a more complete picture of your data that gives the audience much more than just a single graph.    Couple that with the built in interactivity and you have a truly interactive business dashboard that’s destined for fame and fortune.

Automate all of your data consolidation and data cleansing

Every dashboard needs data.

Getting data into the dashboard is possibly the hardest part of building any business dashboard.  It’s possible that you have data in all sorts of places ranging from Excel files, corporate databases, folders and so on.  So how do you get all your data into one place so you can build a dashboard on top of it?

Fortunately, Tableau can connect to almost any type of data.   There is virtually no limit to the types of data you can connect to:

  • CSV and text files
  • Excel workbooks
  • SQL databases
  • no-SQL databases
  • Blob storage
  • PDFs (Yes, you heard me!)

Unfortunately, Tableau doesn’t come with very many tools that help you gather all of your data and organise it to suit what you need.  Ok, OK, for the hardened Tableau aficionado, there is Tableau prep.  But c’mon, it’s about as reliable as my 1986 Ford Fiesta in the depths of Winter.  Certainly not suitable for production ready ETL.

Fortunately, you can use Power BI or something similar to do all your complex ETL.

Share your data analytics with those who need it

There’s no point creating a visualisation masterpiece if you can’t show it off.

Tableau gives you a few different ways to share your dashboards with other people.  The easiest but least compelling is to send them a Tableau file or Tableau Packaged Workbook.  But sending them the file means you lose so many benefits of true data analytics.

Best of all you can publish online.  There are two options here.  Firstly you can publish all of your non-sensitive work to Tableau Public (Check out the Syntagium gallery).  Secondly, you can securely publish to the cloud and give your trusted advisors and other key stakeholders access to whichever dashboards you feel they need to see.

Are you ready to get started?

Tableau is free to download and use for two weeks.  After that, you’ll need to pay for a yearly license which is about AUD$1k at the time of writing.

Tableau has a whole range of resources to help you get started and there are a few sample projects that you can use from day one.

We even have a bunch of free resources to help too.

Happy dashboarding