Tableau 8 Review
Updated April 17, 2015
Tableau 8 Review
Score 10 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with Tableau Server
Tableau server provides central access to interactive business intelligence. Specifically, Tableau server delivers interactive insight into company performance using web browsers, tablets and mobile devices. Tableau server is the preferred Data Visualization engine.
- The advances in computer CPU and Memory have left most software titles behind. Tableau Server 9 took the first step toward leveraging the advances in computer hardware. From leveraging multi-core CPUs to parallel request processing, the performance improvement will be noticeable to all Tableau Server 8 users.
- Previous Tableau Server versions have suffered from an ability to be categorized as Enterprise Ready. Tableau Server 9 improves on this gap in the following areas. Improved cluster configuration, a new Cluster Controller, standby Repository capabilities and a new File Store process which resolves the previous restrictions on the number of Data Engine Nodes allowed in a cluster.
- The web interface of Tableau Server 9 has been totally overhauled in an effort to boost access to dashboards. The new interface accomplishes this through an improved workflow, easier access to resources and an improved management interface. Tableau Server 9 presents the user with entry points to the main features of Tableau server in one screen, not a trivial accomplishment. In my opinion, well designed user interfaces invite users to explore. Tableau server 9 excels at this.
- Tableau Server 9 has a lot of room to improve it's Administrative Views. For Tableau to be such a powerful Data Visualization engine, the Administrative Views out of the box have much to be desired.
- Tableau Server 9 would also benefit greatly from an enhancement to it's dashboard scheduling and distribution capabilities.
- Tableau Server 9 would also benefit greatly from threshold alerting. This would deliver actionable insight as opposed to just insight.
With two decades of experience using and training users on software titles, it's rare that you come across a software title that can be used by the most non-technical business resources without extensive training. The ease-of-use factor with Tableau is the #1 reason for renewal.
- This is quite simple. From my perspective, time to insight is measured in the man hours it takes to connect to data, begin exploring the data and finally sharing insights with peers and decision makers. The rate of return is immediately quantifiable and undeniable unlike any other Data Visualization offering I've tested.
- Hierarchies in data are another immediate exercise that has consumed major resources, from a Data Warehouse perspective, that can easily be implemented by non-technical analysts on the fly.
- Blazingly fast proto-typing. For customers who really don't know what they don't know, my experience has proven that the sooner you put visual results using real data in front of the customer, the more likely you are to avoid low production adoption.
I would highly recommend a Tableau solution for any colleague in the market for a Data Discovery & Visualization solution. Here are the questions I would ask in selecting the appropriate Data Discovery & Visualization vendor.
- What is the Total Cost of Ownership for On-Prem versus Cloud (is available)?
- What is the average time to market for an organization of relative size?
- What is the learning curve for Excel users?
- Is the solution ideal for the technical elite or can it be used by non-technical business analysts?
- How does a Self-Service implementation model look?
Using Tableau Server
1 - BI developer with experience troubleshooting software and operating systems issues.
- Optimize the consumption of enterprise data warehouses. In most large organizations, the enterprise data warehouse is where most of the companies information assets can be accessed for consumption. However, one of the common stumbling blocks is the overwhelming volume of data. Tableau Server can prospectively be a solution to assist in this area. With regularly scheduled data extracts, Tableau server delivers optimized timely data important to the user.
- Data Discovery - I'm almost embarrassed to acknowledge the number of reporting or BI projects I've participated in where neither he customer nor IT really had a handle on the data sources required to be successful. Tableau is an excellent tool to use to understand and discover insights about UNKNOWN data in advance of establishing requirements for reporting or BI projects. Being able to easily perform data discovery exercises on UNKNOWN data sources really empowers analysts to proactively contribute to requirement gathering and agreement on BI project deliverables. In addition, with Tableau data discovery is almost effortless and doesn't require building new data structures to discover the ins and outs of new data sources.
- Proto-typing - If I had a buck for every customer that agreed to a report mock-up only to change their mind once the mock-up contained LIVE data. After a few trips around this bush it became clear that proto-types are really only as good as they are close to the finished deliverable. Tableau helps users quickly deliver near-to-prod proto-types using real data without having to build new data architectures for BI projects.
- Rapid Insight - Speed to Insight is the differentiator of the next 50 years. Tableau empowers users to easily and quickly connect to the data important to them in order to discover insights not seen in Excel like or static historical reporting.
- Optimizing Tableau Workbooks - It seems rather circular, but it's true. Tableau Server inherently empowers users with the tools to test, validate and tune the performance of their dashboards. This is yet another unsung feature of Tableau. Many BI suites require engaging DBA, server hardware, network and architecture professionals to performance tune BI solutions. Tableau empowers the user with this ability right on their desktop and on Tableau Server.
- Parameters - Using parameters on Tableau Dashboards we were able to deliver Dashboards that were configurable at run-time by those accessing Dashboards via Tableau Server. Bi solutions have possessed the ability to filter Dashboard content for many years now, however, presenting a totally different visualization on the same Dashboard using parameters, this is a first to my knowledge.
Evaluating Tableau Server and Competitors
- Product Usability
Usability was the number one factor and price a close second. Usability was primary due to the technical skill levels of the intended audience, which were business and data analysts. Many times with new software the learning curve becomes the mass adoption inhibitor. Price was secondary due to the broad set of existing BI tools already in the enterprise. When a company faces BI self-service challenges, it can be difficult to justify new BI acquisitions unless the benefits outweigh the total cost of ownership. With Tableau's quick ROI story, IT procurement conversations are much less painful.
Evaluation of BI tools is an exercise that demands circumspect analysis. With more than 10 years of BI experience in the enterprise environment, there's nothing I would change. However, I would offer a word of wisdom to those embarking on the journey. Involve your business customers early and often in the evaluation process. Doing this will avoid costly adoption abandonment issues as the result of BI tools not meeting customer needs.
Tableau Server Implementation
Tableau Server Training
Tableau Server Support
We've only reached out to Tableau once for support. It wasn't related to the operation of the software but some complex Data Visualization we wanted to develop. The same day Tableau engaged us and provided outstanding support and follow-up resources.
Using Tableau Server
User experience is the most important factor to consider whenever considering capabilities for non-technical business users. If the learning curve is so steep business users must be advanced users to be productive, you hit the wall of diminishing returns, this is exceptionally true when it comes to analyzing data. Transforming data analysts into BI development experts shifts the focus of the analyst from analyzing data to mastering software. Tableau does a masterful job at minimizing the technology and maximizing the users understanding of their data.
Like to use
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
- Deploying Dashboards to Tableau Server - Once a Tableau Author produces the final version of a Dashboard, publishing the Dashboard to the server for mass consumption happens in a few clicks. Intuitive and not overly complicated. The advanced publishing features (refreshing extracts and security) require training, but even these features are easily understood.
- Dashboard Search - Tableau Server 8 includes empowers with a search feature that makes it easy to locate Dashboards important to the user.
- Online Dashboards Analysis - The new Dashboard Edit feature available with Tableau Server 8 is unprecedented and unique among BI suites. The ability for a user to create custom views of a published Dashboard is phenomenal. How many analysts have seen a report and wanted to ask additional questions based on the results on a Dashboard? This feature empowers the user to ask deeper questions of any Dashboard right in the web browser without having Tableau Desktop installed on their computers.
- Shared Data Sources - Tableau Server offers a capability known as Shared Data Sources. These are commonly referred to as Symantec Layers in traditional BI circles. However, in Tableau Server, these can be pure symantec layers or actual Tableau Data Extracts optimized for data analysis. This prevents IT from repeatedly having to make data extracts available to business users. In addition, this feature also is an added bonus when used with existing information systems. Instead of creating yet another data mart, Tableau Server administrators can deploy shared data sources that maximize the investment in existing information systems as opposed to moving and duplicating data.
Yes - The mobile interface for Tableau works very well whether accessed via mobile device or tablet. Usually mobile interfaces suffer from capability scale backs that don't make them very helpful. However, Tableau Servers mobile interface doesn't suffer from this. The mobile and touch interface is just as engaging as the desktop web browser interface.
Tableau Server Reliability
Unlike the BIG BI vendor solutions, Tableau server specializes in delivering Dashboards to desktops, tablets and mobile devices via http. This masterful decision to specialize in a few things as opposed to being marginally viable at many things is a winning approach in my opinion. This approach has allowed Tableau to deliver it's server product in a shrink wrapped package that's a pleasure to manage.
Due to it's skillful use of in-memory processing and columnar data structures ensures optimal performance. However, with larger data sets, especially with LIVE connections to back-end DBMS platforms, performance degrades quickly. However, with minimal planning and Tableau data extracts, exceptional performance is achievable.