Enterprise Self-Service Analytics with Tableau

Tableau enables business users to perform extensive analysis independently of IT without requiring in-depth technical knowledge. The user-friendly interface and easy-to-use features empower users to intuitively derive insights from data and support data-driven decision-making at all levels of the organization. Tableau's various components cover everything from data cleansing to browser-based and mobile analysis. Thanks to numerous native connectors, Tableau allows users to connect to a large amount of different data sources.


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The main advantages and disadvantages at a glance

✔  The intuitive user interface of Tableau enables users to create sophisticated dashboards via simple drag and drop
✔  Easy-to-use data cleansing functionalities
✔ Tableau can be seamlessly integrated into the existing enterprise architecture due to its wide range of possible deployment options
✔  Tableau is easily scalable in order to keep pace with your business growth
✔  No restrictions on the size of the data sets to be analyzed
🞬  Relatively expensive solution compared to other tools like Power BI
🞬  No import of custom charts possible
🞬  In order to use all the features of Tableau several products are needed 
Tableau Dashboard Landing Page
Dashboard Seite 2

A Tableau solution basically consists of two components: Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server or Tableau Online

Tableau Desktop

Tableau Desktop is the actual dashboarding tool of the Tableau suite. In Tableau Desktop, you can easily create dashboards and prepare data for analysis. The user-friendly interface and wide selection of charts allow users of all technical skill levels to create dashboards on their own using a simple drag and drop functionality. Users can choose from a variety of features to make the visualizations interactive and to implement their own logic.

User Interface to create a Tableau Dashboard

Tableau Server und Tableau Online 

Finally, using the Tableau Server or Tableau Online platform, you can share your dashboards across entire organization and give designated employees flexible access to key information. Then, users can explore the data independently within their permissions. This can involve both simple and complex authorization models. In addition to exploratory analyses with numerous collaboration functions, the two analytical platforms enable dashboarding and data preparation to be carried out directly in the browser. At the current time, there are still some limitations compared to the desktop applications, but Tableau is permanently working on making all features available in the browser.

Products used to create and share Tableau Dashboards

Tableau Prep Builder

In addition to its versatile features for data analysis and visualization, Tableau Desktop has its own functionalities for data preparation. If more complex operations are required, Tableau Prep Builder is a complementary application that offers more extensive options for preparing data for further analysis. In Tableau Prep Builder, all changes to the data are summarized in a workflow and can be tracked using a flowchart. When the workflow is executed, all steps are applied to the entire data set and the result can be saved as an extract or written back to a database.

Preparing Data before creating a Tableau Dashboard

Self-service analytics for line-of-business professionals

Creating a Tableau Dashboard using drag and drop

Easy dashboarding via drag and drop

To visualize your data, simply drag the desired fields into the view or place them in one of the dedicated containers. Tableau then automatically selects an appropriate chart type based on known best practices and creates a visualization. 

The resulting chart can then be customized as desired using the marks card. Similarly, filters can be applied by placing the respective fields in the filter container.  The “Show me”-feature can support the user in the creation of charts

In contrast to other front-end tools such as Power BI and SAP Analytics Cloud, users do not work directly on the actual dashboard, but create different visualizations in dedicated worksheets, which are later combined to a dashboard.

Tableau Dashboard

Create interactive dashboards and enable your users to perform exploratory analyses

By interacting with data in a dynamic dashboard users can develop a better understanding of the data and are able to get quicker insights. Using Tableau, you can add interactive elements to your dashboards in order to encourage users to explore the data in detail and ask questions. For example, you can use actions to filter or highlight data by simply selecting data points. You can also change parameter values via interaction to use them in dynamic calculations. Actions can be triggered either by selecting data points within a chart or table, via their context menu, or by simply hovering over a selection with the mouse.

Take your dashboards to the next level

Advanced Analytics for everyone!

In Tableau Desktop, extensive time series analysis and forecasting can be performed with just a few clicks. Data scientists are given the opportunity to precisely configure their models in order to gain deeper insights. Thanks to the integration of Python, R and MATLAB, you are able to  clearly visualize the results of extensive statistical analyses. Using the script function, you can write the code of the respective application directly in Tableau's calculation editor. Tableau forwards the code along with the data to the external service. After the external service has performed the calculations and sent the results back to Tableau, you can visualize them as desired.

Run R or Python Scripts directly in your Tableau Dashboard

Extend your dashboard functionality using web-applications

Tableau has a sophisticated extension framework that supports numerous embedded analytics scenarios as well as the automation of administrative tasks. Using the JavaScript API, Tableau Dashboards can be directly integrated into applications outside of Tableau. In addition to integrating Tableau into applications such as Salesforce, you can, for example, embed your Dashboards into your own company portal to create a consistent user interface. The Extension API, on the other hand, allows you to extend dashboard functionality using web applications and interact with data from other applications directly in Tableau. This way, you can add functionality to your dashboards that is not available out-of-the-box in Tableau. Read more about how to include NextTables in dashboards to adjust missing or incorrect planning data directly in the final dashboard here.

Tableau Dashboard Extensions

Prepare your data with just a few clicks

Tableau Dashboards can be based on various data sources

Flexible connectivity to numerous data sources

Tableau has more than 40 different connectors that have been optimized to meet the specific needs of different data sources. In addition to relational and multidimensional data sources such as SAP BW, users can also get their data from cloud-based business applications such as Salesforce and Google Analytics, as well as cloud warehouses such as Snowflake and Amazon Redshift. Data can be accessed either directly by sending the query to the database in real time, or via a data extract that can be scheduled flexibly.

Preparing Data before creating a Tableau Dashboard

Self-service data preparation

Besides its versatile data analysis and visualization tools, Tableau Desktop has several features for cleansing and combining data. Data can be intuitively prepared for further analysis using drag and drop without requiring any special technical knowledge. The resulting data source can be published to Tableau Server or Tableau Online to make the prepared data available to other users for their own analyses.

Data cleansing functions

  • Joins and Unions
  • changing the data type of fields
  • pivot columns to rows and vice versa
  • splitting/ merging fields
  • various filtering options to limit the total amount of data in the extract or to restrict the data that a specific user can see
  • when linking to Excel spreadsheets and CSV files, the Data Interpreter recognizes the tables contained and determines the actual fields and their values

In some cases, Tableau Desktop's functions are not enough to get the data into the desired form. When more extensive cleanup steps are needed to begin analysis, Tableau Prep Builder offers additional features to help you prepare your data. However, the workflow created in Tableau Prep Builder cannot be applied to a live connection and only outputs extracts. To keep the extract up-to-date after publishing via Tableau Server or Tableau Online, the workflow can be run on a schedule if you have licensed the optional Data Management add-on.

Working together in a data-driven environment

Share your insights using Tableau Server and Tableau Online

Dashboards only realize their full potential when they are made accessible to a wide range of users. With Tableau Server and Tableau Online, you can give everyone in the organization controlled access to your analytics and data. Users can explore the data independently within their permissions using published workbooks, share their insights with each other using snapshots, and discuss the insights gained.

Share your Tableau Dashboards with your colleagues

As a viewer of a dashboard, you have the following options

  • view the underlying data of a selected data point in a table
  • make use of the comment function in order to share snapshots and discuss insights or anomalies
  • export the view as an image or PDF 
  • download the workbook or the underlying data source
  • make changes to  existing workbooks in the web environment
  • subscribe to workbooks to receive e-mail notifications including an actual snapshot of the data and information about changes made to the workbook
  • set up alerts to be informed immediately if certain measures exceed the defined threshold
  • add the current view to your favourites list for easy access

Prepare data and create dashboards directly in the browser

In addition to making simple adjustments to published dashboards, users with the proper permissions can also create entirely new reports in the browser. This can be done by accessing published data sources or by setting up a new connection to data in Tableau Server or Tableau Online. Both platforms support most of the functionality available in Tableau Prep Builder or Desktop for preparing data. However, at this time, not all connectors provided in the desktop applications are available. If the required connector is not available, the data source must be published beforehand via Tableau Desktop/ Prep Builder.

Author Tableau Dashboards on the Web

Smart Analytics - Ask Data and Explain Data

With Ask Data and Explain Data, Tableau Server and Tableau Online provide two AI-powered features to help users find relevant information and to explain possible causes for individual data points or trends. Ask Data allows you to query the desired information directly from the data source using natural language. When doing so, Ask Data recognizes the context and creates a proper visualization based on known best practices. Visualizations created using Ask Data can then be adjusted as desired and published as a workbook. Explain Data, on the other hand, examines potential causes based on statistical models and presents the most likely ones to the user in the form of visualizations and explanations.

NLP-Feature to support users in building Tableau Dashboards

Centralized data management ensures a single point of truth

Publishing data sources provides a common data foundation and ensures higher reliability and data consistency by avoiding the proliferation of data sources. Whether reporting is ultimately done in the browser or using the desktop application, Tableau Server and Tableau Online enable collaboration through a centralized repository providing greater consistency across Tableau reports.

Guide your staff in finding proper data sources

The amount of  data is growing rapidly and is constantly subject to change. Tableau provides many tools to help users find the right data at the right time in this complex environment. You can facilitate data analyses for your staff by providing them with template workbooks with existing data connections and formatting. Administrators and project managers can also mark trusted data as such and certify published data sources. Certified data sources are more likely to show up in search results and increase trust in the data. We therefore recommend that you make use of this feature and set specific guidelines for certifying data sources.

See the big picture

Licensed separately, the Data Management Add-on provides additional functionality for managing content and data assets in the Tableau Server and Tableau Online environment. The Add-on includes two components, Tableau Catalog and Tableau Prep Conductor. Tableau Catalog indexes all content such as workbooks, data sources and workflows in Tableau Online or Tableau Server and provides greater transparency for the entire data stream. With Tableau Prep Conductor, workflows created in Prep Builder and within the web environment can be executed automatically, allowing you to keep your data up to date without having to run the workflows manually.

Examine the Impact of changes on your Tableau Dashboard

Easy content management

In Tableau Server and Tableau Online, all content such as workbooks and data sources are grouped into sites. Each site has its own set of users and is completely isolated from the content of other sites. The content of each site is in turn organized into projects, which serve as containers and simplify the management of subordinate content. Unlike Tableau Server, a Tableau Online environment consists of a single site with a single user set. To use Tableau Online with multiple sites, multiple accounts are required.

Projects serve as containers for Tableau Dashboards, Data Sources and Users

On-Premise or Cloud, IaaS or Saas?

Tableau can be seamlessly integrated into the existing enterprise architecture

With a few exceptions, Tableau Server and Tableau Online do not differ in their functionalities, but primarily in the way they are deployed. Depending on your existing data architecture, you can deploy Tableau Server either locally or on a public cloud as part of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service solution. Tableau Server can be scaled up to thousands of users by adding additional server capacity and increasing the respective Tableau Server processes. If you choose Tableau Server, the maintenance of the software and, depending on where it is installed, the hardware, is entirely up to you. 

If you don't want to worry about maintaining the server infrastructure or configuring and updating the software, Tableau also offers a Software-as-a-Service solution. Tableau Online is a Tableau-hosted version of Tableau Server.

Choose between two different license models

Tableau Server allows you to choose between a role-based and a core-based licensing model. In the role-based licensing model, each individual user must be licensed and assigned a role. The different licences are hierarchical, with  different price levels and levels of functionality. This ranges from users who only view pre-built dashboards to users who create and maintain their own dashboards and data sources or even take on an administrative role in managing Tableau Server or online deployment. Whether a user can use Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep Builder also depends on the licence.

The core-based licence is only available for Tableau Server and determines the number of  computer cores Tableau Server can be run on. As long as the licensed number of computer cores is not exceeded, an unlimited number of viewer and explorer roles can be issued to users while creator licences need to be purchased separately. However, for a given number of computer cores, increasing the number of users will eventually lead to performance issues. The core-based licence allows guest access so it’s not necessary for users to have an account in order to access shared dashboards.


Set up row level security to restrict the user’s access to data

By default, if the proper permissions are in place and a user can open a workbook, that user can see all the data in the various views. Row level security can be used to restrict the data that a particular user can see in the workbook. This allows different users to see different data in the same dashboard without having to create a separate dashboard for each group of users. In Tableau, you implement row-level security with user filters or a dynamic filter that matches mappings from users to field elements against a reference table and filters the data accordingly. With the new 2021.4 release, row-level security can be defined and managed centrally for individual tables. Any changes are applied to all data sources, workflows and workbooks that are based on this data.

We are happy to support you in planning your deployment!  When planning a  Tableau deployment, many aspects need to be considered and weighed against each  other to determine which server components are required and to what extent. How up-to-date does the data need to be? How many users will be performing analysis and how frequently will the  published content be accessed? How complex are the dashboards? Regardless of whether you are still in the evaluation phase or already have  Tableau in use throughout your company: As a Tableau partner, we are happy to  advise you on all aspects of deployment, administration and best practices for  effective Tableau Dashboards.   Get free consultation  

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