A Salesforce Guide to Tableau
13th April 2021
Author Alex Waleczek
What is Tableau and why do people use it?
If you have used Salesforce for a while, in the last two years you will have probably asked yourself, “So what exactly is this ‘Tableau’ and why do I need another tool that creates charts?”.
There are different ways of creating charts out of your Salesforce data already: depending on your environment you can use the native Reports and Dashboards, you might have a Tableau CRM (Einstein) license, maybe you have access to Datorama or you just download the data and create charts in Excel.
Chances are you are very familiar with at least one of these tools and learning another one because Salesforce decided it was worth it might not sound very enticing. So, let me tell you why you and your company needed Tableau all along, why it’s different to the existing tools in Salesforce and how you get the most out of it.
Visual Analysis ≠ charts
It’s easy to equate data visualisation and visual analysis with charts. After all, they all result in a pretty graphic, don’t they? I wrote about it in more detail a few years back. In summary, data visualisation is the result of a process, from data acquisition and transformation through to analysis and communication. If you think of Salesforce reports and Dashboards, in most cases you will need to locate the right report type (acquire), create a customised report (transform and analyse) and then create a chart off that report (communicate).
And you will also know that the first three steps are likely to take much more work than creating the chart; especially when you realise at the end that you made a mistake early on and should have used a slightly different report type in the first place!
Tableau makes this process a lot easier and much more visual; it helps you to easily verify what you are doing and provides tools to enrich your data in most cases with simple drag and drop actions and instant feedback. There is the option to write simple formulas (similar to Excel) but you can get a long way without this.
Tableau is a platform, not a tool
Tableau CRM and Datorama are tools that provide charting capability. Tableau is a visual analysis platform and its main mission is to “help people see and understand data”. Tableau CRM and Datorama are good at what they do (Tableau CRM can provide insights that Tableau on its own cannot) but their main focus is on a different aspect of the analytics process.
When it comes to access to data and its ease of use, I can’t think of a tool that makes it easier than Tableau. If “insights at the speed of thought” sounds too lofty and you have two hours to spare, I’d encourage you to join one of their test drives (free and non-obligatory). In fact, I send everybody who starts using the tool at Davanti to one of these as they give a great quick introduction into how to use Tableau.
With well-curated data sets on the Tableau platform, you can be sure that people across the business will be able to get consistent results when asking questions that are relevant to their daily tasks.
Out of the box you can manage data sources and connections to make sure that the correct measures are used, and different data sources are joined correctly. With the data management add-on, Tableau becomes a full-on governance platform that enables you to manage data quality, identify usage of data assets through its automatic lineage feature and ensure that nobody works with stale data.
The Tableau workflow
I find creating something in Tableau more similar to creating a sketch and refining it, as opposed to a more traditional development process. With a new data set I can spend the first five minutes creating 10-20 different charts just to get an idea what I am looking at. If I don’t end up using any of them, I don’t mind because it’s merely five minutes out of my day. The same can’t quite be said for Salesforce Reports or TCRM dashboards.
More likely than not though, in these five minutes I will already have surfaced interesting aspects of my data. I might have seen a sudden rise or drop, an outlier in a correlation or noticed that one category is an order of magnitude higher than all others. From here I can start refining.
I can use my initial sketches to drill into the charts or quickly modify them to answer questions like:
Are these aspects of my data genuine? Is there a good reason for those outliers? Are they an artifact of upstream systems and I have to adjust my analysis accordingly?
Are they data quality issues? Do these issues impact my analysis? Can a quick fix be applied, or even better, can they be fixed in the source system?
Once I am happy with the bigger picture, I can build up an actual dashboard based on my initial sketches. I can remove the rough edges and only look at the categories or timeframes I am interested in. I can include further details that complete the picture and along the way I can check-in with my stakeholders to verify that I am on the right track.
If at any point I need to change something, I can do it easily without having to adjust my underlying data.
Tableau is external but fully integrated
If you are a regular Salesforce user, you are likely used to having your solutions directly inside Salesforce as a different App or Tab. Tableau is similar but different. It is its own hosted solution, either on-prem or as Tableaus SaaS offering “Tableau Online”.
For admins, this will mean a different platform with the advantage that you can manage your licences in a very granular way and people who only need to access one system don’t need to have a licence for both.
For users it can be set up to be natively integrated in Salesforce. You can set up Single Sign-On so that your users won’t need to authenticate again, and you can embed dashboards, such as Tableau CRM dashboards, right into your account, opportunity or case pages.
This includes all interactivity that you may be used from Tableau like tooltips to see details, URL actions to open an opportunity from a Tableau Dashboard in a new browser tab and setting up alerts and subscriptions.
Tableau also directly accesses Salesforce data, so you won’t need to set up API integrations or workflows to enable analysis, either.
It becomes more and more obvious that Tableau is THE analytics solution when working in the Salesforce ecosystem. Yes, you are able to use other platforms, but you really compromise on features and ease of use if you do so. Furthermore, even if a different platform fulfills your requirements now, Tableau is guaranteed to stay compatible since it IS Salesforce.
Tableau developed a concept of working with data that is very different to nearly every other visualisation platform out there. Trying it for yourself on a small project will help you understand the impact it can have on your analytics journey.
If you would like to know more about anything covered here, we’d love to talk. Please get in touch at email@example.com
In his role he is responsible for all things data. Having worked as a consultant with Tableau in the analytics space in New Zealand for the last six years, he is very familiar with the problems companies face when trying to make sense of their data and how to solve them to bring our clients closer to their clients. When he is not working on Tableau for Davanti, he is blogging privately about all things data and hiking New Zealand. You can get in touch with him via our contact form, LinkedIn or Twitter.