Tableau - Everything You Need To Know
Updated March 01, 2016

Tableau - Everything You Need To Know

Mel Stephenson | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version


Modules Used

  • Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server, Tableau Public

Overall Satisfaction with Tableau Server

  • Tableau's core strength is how easy it is to use. This was a key attraction to me in the early stage and remains a key consideration for many who want to visualise and understand the data in which they are subject matter experts without it requiring them to become experts in the software tool itself. As you use it more and more you also realise that while Tableau is deceptively simple to use it also has real depth and real power.
  • This ease of use addresses a key business problem for many organisations which is that other solutions will require people who know a lot about databases but little about the data to produce solutions for people who truly understand the data but aren't database administrators. Tableau places very little demand at all on IT departments, many of whom are overworked and have long request queues to satisfy. Tableau allows the IT departments to work on the provision of simplified data connections with helpful metadata, leaving end users able to access the data, design and share meaningful dashboards from that data with anyone they wish in their organisation. This approach is very powerful and very productive.
  • In browser animations
  • Speed of rendering dashboards - this is getting faster all the time but it is there and can be a consideration. When we're so used to web pages rendering almost instantly it can feel unusual to wait 2-3 seconds for something to render on screen.
  • auto update - Tableau does not automatically render new points if the underlying data changes. The browser page has to be manually or programatically refreshed to display new data.
This search turned up a number of candidates. I think the main alternative considered was SiSense. Tableau Server with Tableau Desktop was the most expensive solution but I was convinced it actually represented the best value.
It's a fundamental part of the operation of the business.
  • The year we implemented Tableau the cost of purchasing Server and Desktop represented just 5 weeks' worth of that year's increase in net profits that our 8 person team delivered over the previous year so we regarded the ROI on Tableau to be 5 weeks.
  • Nowadays, I think there are a few basics to any business: such as phones, email, website, CRM, accounts package etc and BI must be in that list.
  • Turning off Tableau in the company would be like turning off the lights - we could probably cope but it would be pretty miserable and we would be nowhere near as effective or efficient.

Using Tableau Server

25 - I now have two companies using Tableau software. The original company uses it as a customer. Its use has had a transformative effect on its fortunes and I can't imagine trying to run that company without Tableau.
I now have a second company which is a Tableau consultancy where, naturally, every one of the consultants is an expert in Tableau and uses it every day with clients - implementations, design work, training, that kind of thing.
1 - If I am speaking as a customer of the product then Tableau is such a low maintenance product that I would be surprised if there is even an hour a month spent maintaining the product.
  • Sales Order analysis - margin maintenance, sales per month per salesperson, sales by channel, bonus calculations for salespeople and how that relates to previous years
  • Stock control - we relate the stock holding to the moving average of sales to influence what should be ordered from suppliers so that stock holding is expressed in time not in units, we can see seasonality in products so that we can adjust what to order, we can ensure that the right amount of stock is held - too much and we're tying up capital that could be at bank, too little and we won't be able to fulfil orders to customers wasting profit opportunities.
  • Technical Support analysis - we can see immediately warranty returns that are spending longer than expected at a particular stage of the warranty process which we can rectify in a timely fashion, we can see whether it is more effective to spend more on a particular component or less in order to lower the overall cost of warranty support and see what will productively improve the mean time between failure of a machine
  • Financial analysis - we use Tableau to monitor the basic financials of sales/revenues, COGS, AR, AP, as well as running totals of sales and net profit during the FY compared to forecast which we find to be a really useful way of keeping us focused throughout the year on delivering against the target.
  • In essence, we use it pretty much everywhere. It takes so little effort to connect to relevant data and to start turning it into something that is easy to understand and represents the situation correctly that there's never a hesitation about whether it's worth that effort.

Evaluating Tableau Server and Competitors

Before using Tableau all the business intelligence in the company was performed using Excel spreadsheets that had ODBC links to our SQL server. In business terms, the Excel dashboards were effective, the problem was that they were becoming increasingly complex; their maintenance and development of new dashboards was becoming increasingly time-consuming.

Tableau Server Implementation

It was fine - I did it myself which was a bit nerve wracking at the time but nowadays I don't even think about it.

Tableau Server Training

  • Online training
  • Self-taught
The Tableau website is full of videos that you can follow at your own pace. As a very small company with a Tableau install, access to these free resources was incredibly useful to allowing me to implement Tableau to its potential in a reasonable and proportionate manner.
It is easy enough to use without training but I would say that we're not all James Bond and us mere mortals do benefit from some instruction. The on demand training on the Tableau website is very good and really helps you get going quickly. In my case I also took the Tableau training and certifications at the customer conferences. Now, as a Tableau Partner, we deliver training to lots of organisations and I've lost count of the number of times we've had people chime in throughout the day "Oh, I didn't know you could do that - that's so good!".

Tableau Server Support

In all the years of dealing with Tableau, the support has been exemplary.
No - Support is fully included with Tableau

Using Tableau Server

It's extremely easy to use. As the depth of its abilities have increased, I think Tableau has done a very good job of maintaining that usability - there are some aspects though that are not as intuitive as the rest of the product - table calculations for example.

Tableau Server Reliability

In 5 years of use as a customer and 3 years of use of a separate install of Tableau as a Tableau Partner there has been close to zero downtime of the product and it requires no maintenance whatsoever between upgrades.
Tableau Desktop is extremely impressive at rendering data on screen and performing demanding calculations. Users need always to bear in mind that their underlying database and the hardware that sits on are responsible for much of the speed (or not). Tableau extracts (high performance, pre-aggregated, columnar snapshots of the data) help deliver performance improvements that underlying databases may not give. Tableau Server can feel slow to render data in comparison to Desktop but this gap is shrinking all the time.

Integrating Tableau Server

  • Sage CRM
  • Sage 200 Accounts
  • Our timekeeping system (tracks attendance and punctuality
  • Google Analytics
The above are integrations that we have done as a customer all of which were straightforward.
Naturally, as a Tableau Partner, we have integrated Tableau with a huge variety of systems on behalf of our clients. If the client's systems run on an industry standard database then Tableau has a long list of native connection types to those databases and then the main challenge is only understanding the construction of the data.
The only time it is difficult to connect to client data is where it is a proprietary database and there is an ODBC connector but ODBC connectors can often be temperamental.

Relationship with Tableau

Tableau operate a very simple pricing model and maintain a consistent policy of not discounting. This was certainly my experience when I first purchased Tableau and it hasn't changed in the years since.
The upside of this is that if you're trying to evaluate the value offering of the product you don't have to consider some arbitrary point at which you would buy it and then see if you can get it for that. It either represents a meaningful ROI to you at its list price or it doesn't. The downside is you can't tell your boss "I spent this much but I got this much off".

Upgrading Tableau Server