What Is Tableau? An Introduction

In the increasingly data-driven world, Tableau provides management and leadership business insights into classical data warehouses. This powerful visualization tool aims to ease complexities of data analytics for smooth data exploration and management.

In this article, I will explain the basics of Tableau and its main uses from the perspective of both creators and users, as well as how this software could help you in your analytics journey.

What Is Tableau?

It is said that business intelligence is where “science meets art” – two notions that Tableau aims to consolidate. This is the world of mining, calculating, and aggregating data (that’s the science), before visualizing and presenting it in eye-catching and insightful ways (that’s the art). 

Tableau software is user-friendly for both content creators and users. It revolutionizes and simplifies the complexities that data sources inevitably bring – especially when trying to reduce the time from business problem to solution. Tableau’s features make the user experience both intuitive and interactive. 

Tableau is known mainly for its dashboarding capabilities. In its simplest form, a dashboard is a collection of sheets, with each sheet representing a visual for specific information. A dashboard tends to focus on a specific topic. If there are additional topics or if a topic requires more analysis, a workbook is created. The key aspect of dashboarding is that it’s interactive, with users able to filter data against a variety of dimensions. 

Of course, Tableau’s abilities do not stop at dashboarding; there is so much more analysis you can perform with it, from using built-in tools to prepare data, to creating stories for more formal presentations. If you focus on developing the former, the rest will come with time and experience. 

It’s important to note that Tableau is not the same as CRM Analytics (formerly Tableau CRM), which will be explained in more detail later.  




READ MORE:
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What Is Tableau Used For?

So, what is Tableau really used for? As there are a range of different users, there is also a range of different things you can do with it. Here are a few common themes:

  1. Reporting
  2. Tooling and alerting
  3. Predictive analytics

Reporting is the most common use. This is where the creator develops dashboards to report on data, easing interpretation of information via visual aids. Reporting usually happens at current snapshots – what the information looks like currently (e.g. total turnover, number of recurring customers, most popular products), or it is shown over specified periods of time (where timestamp is available). 

Tooling is somewhat similar to reporting but its main aim is to provide a process (or a tool) to alert users to potentially take action For example, a product producing company can track quantities of stock they have with dashboard alerts when stocks’ quantities drop below certain measures. This tracking will allow the business to order new stock ahead of products running out. 

Current developments in AI are making us more and more interested in learning the future through predictive analytics. Tableau is widely used as a forecast tool to present possible outcomes in the future from past and current business activities. 

Again, this is not to say that Tableau is limited to the above, just that the key themes that are important to mention. In fact, when certain analytics get difficult I always tell myself “there is always a solution to data problems when using Tableau”. 

Who Uses Tableau? 

Tableau is used by businesses of all sizes across a range of industries. It’s accessible for people with knowledge of analytics, business leaders, and those who simply want to explore. So pretty much anyone! 

Here’s a typical process: 

  1. Data analysts use complex data sets to visualize data in a more structured and meaningful way.
  2. Business leaders and management teams use insights to draw out key information to help make informed decisions. 

Individuals are also keen on using Tableau Public (explained in the next section) to create interesting visuals, which can be shared on the Tableau Public Gallery – this is definitely the place to get inspiration for interesting designs. It’s also a place to create your online analyst profile and share knowledge of interesting visualizations.




READ MORE:
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What Are Tableau’s Key Products? 

Desktop

Tableau Desktop is the licensed, paid version of the software. It’s the physical, complete desktop version for creating dashboards and publishing them to a private server. As this product bears cost implications, businesses are the main stakeholders.

With this product, you can connect to numerous datasource types like Salesforce, Microsoft SQL, AWS, etc. and share analyses with teams across the business. The Tableau server makes sharing information much faster and more convenient, with all of your analytics in one company space. Tableau now comes with Slack integration too, making alerts much faster and smoother. 

Cloud

Tableau has also introduced the Tableau Cloud. The cloud platform means your analytics can be accessed from anywhere in the world via phone, tablet, or computer. You can purchase Tableau Cloud as part of your package with the desktop licenses. 




READ MORE:
Introducing Tableau Cloud: Data Stories, Predictive Modelling, and Advanced Admin Insight

Prep Builder

This is another add-on product Tableau can provide, and it’s compatible with Tableau Desktop, Tableau Cloud, and Tableau Server. The Prep Builder allows creators to sort, prepare, and aggregate data using built-in data cleaning tools. 

The visual flow aids make the preparation process clearer, so it’s ideal for sharing with other users and teams. This will definitely save time for your company when it comes to organizing and preparing datasets.

Public

Unlike the desktop version, Tableau Public gives free access to Tableau and is located online only (with some limitations). You will need to create an account to begin with, which won’t take too long. 

If any dashboards are published, these will be published to the public server and accessible by members of the public. For this reason, be sure to avoid using personal information – stick to  publicly available information only. It’s also worth noting that you cannot save a local copy when using Tableau Public.

CRM Analytics

CRM Analytics allows you to connect directly to Salesforce and integrate it with external data – this is purely for those operating within the Salesforce ecosystem. It contains pre-developed dashboards, which is a fast way to get descriptive and forecast analytics and KPIs. 




READ MORE:
Tableau vs. Tableau CRM – Which Should You Use?

Summary

The aim of this article has been to introduce you to the world of Tableau. Whether you’re an analyst, a business leader, or simply someone who’s enthusiastic about data and analytics, you will find something applicable in the Tableau space. 

Depending on your position and experience, you should now have a good idea of which product is most suited to you and your requirements, as well as a clear answer to the question: what is Tableau? 

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