Tableau Review
If you're evaluating Tableau as a potential data visualization solution, consider these points.


***We've upgraded to 2018.1 So I've updated the Pros and Cons accordingly!"

I've been working between Tableau and Qlikview (depending on use case) and have been jotting down Pros and Cons of each as I come across them.  Many of these, but not all, are centered around some fairly specific UI functionality and limitations that I've come across while trying to deliver on various dashboard solutions.  If you're evaluating Tableau as a potential data visualization solution, some of these points might help with your evaluation, or at least I'm hoping so!  One caveat I will apply to the "Cons" section is some of these may in fact be resolved in the latest version, or may be achieved through some means that I'm just not aware of (though I do generally research pretty extensively before throwing in the towel).  

Pros/Strengths

  • Multi-dimension Graphs, side by side bars
  • Formulas/Calculations are a familiar structure to many  (IF..THEN.. ELSE)
  • Visualization attributes:  Marks – Color, Size, Label, etc.. Easily Accessible and Intuitive
  • Very good Geo/Mapping capabilities
  • Built in Table Calculations (% of Total, Rank, etc..) Update:  Even more intuitive now.  
  • Publish to PDF.  Despite trying to encourage users to interact with the live tool, there seems to always be some need for this. 
  • Story Creation for presentations.  
  • Free Tableau Reader – You can create ‘Packaged Workbooks’ and those with Reader can open the file and manipulate the dashboard.  (No ability to refresh the data)
  • Easy Cube Connection.  Though it can still be quirky and limited relative to using other data sources.  You can't for example, use LOD calculations.  If you plan to use Cubes as a data source, be sure you thoroughly understand the limitations.  
  • Tool Tips (Hovers).  Easy to add all kinds of additional data to hovers.  Update:  The Viz in tooltip feature is fully baked and in certain circumstances, very useful!   
  • Adaptive sizing based on display resolution.  Also something Qlikview does not do - you must develop for particular display size/dimensions.  Update: I've since learned that it generally makes life easier if you still used fixed dimensions for your dashboard.
  • Drag and Drop Hierarchy creation
  • Device Layouts (Mobile, Tablet, etc.).  Update: Rumor has it Tableau is currently working on a better Mobile solution.
  • URL Actions - Allow you to enable workflow between Tableau and other Applications through click-throughs and parameter insertion in URLs.  

Cons

  • Small multiples (a.k.a. Trellis charts) are possible only through very hacky means.  Update:  Still remains a challeng
  • Sparkline Tables are not supported.  There are tutorials on how to accomplish this, but as with small multiples, it is hacky and limited. Update: Still remains a challenge.
  • Heavy data prep needed.  Blending within the tool is clunky and causes performance hits.  Some functions are limited or unavailable when using blended data (e.g. LODs) Update:  Blending has improved but it is still generally a better practice to do all your data prep prior to ingestion.  Tableau Prep now exists to help with this, but it is still very much in its infancy.
  • Sorting on joined data requires hacks.  Update:  Unchanged
  • No easy ‘Clear’ to remove applied filters and/or Exclusions/Keep Only, which makes it sometimes easy to lose sight of how exactly the data has been filtered. Update:  Unchanged
  • Combo charts unavailable without Date dimensions  Update:  Unchanged
  • Dynamic column headers/aliases difficult and hacky.  I find this limitation particularly frustrating.  Example use case:  I have two columns - Current Month, & Previous Month.  As these will always be dynamic, I want them instead to display the actual Month as it changes (e.g. Apr-2016, Mar-2016).  Update:  Very unfortunately Unchanged.  
  • Can’t format a single measure column in a table (e.g. make one bold or conditional format)  Update:  I've heard rumors that this is now easier, but have yet to identify how.
  • Image thumbnails in tables not supported.  In my last two roles this has been a fairly large impediment.  I'm likely not the only one.  Qlikview, SSRS, & Even MS Powerview/PowerBI are able to support this. Update:  Unchanged 
  • Large Table reports with many filters (our case was 14 columns, 300K rows, and about 8 quick filters)   to narrow the data set – Don’t bother!  It will be excruciatingly slow even on the server. Tableau will likely say this is not what it is intended for anyway (it's a Data Viz tool, not a Report tool), which is fair, but sometimes it's necessary as part of a larger solution. Update:  This seems to have improved some though you still run into the limitation of 16 columns.  Rumor has it, this will be done away with in future releases.

  • Any questions, or comments?  All feedback is welcome.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
10 visitors found this review helpful

18 Comments

Ariel LindenfeldCommunity Mgr

Thanks for your thoughts Jhornber - very interesting!

Like (2)14 June 16
it_user55293User

Some interesting points. However your review is on 9.2 not 9.3 which has been released for quite some time

Like (0)14 June 16
Diego HidalgoReal UserTOP 5POPULAR

Thanks for your thoughts - very interesting!, I think that it is optimal for small and medium enterprises, and that does not require further analytical work is optimal for end users

Like (0)14 June 16
it_user75033Real UserTOP 20

I still think that the biggest deal-breaker for Qlik is their TCO. Any installation above a thousand users becomes a costly proposition both in terms of infrastructure and licence cost.

Like (0)14 June 16
JhornberReal UserTOP REVIEWERELITE SQUAD

Correct Rick Cale, the review is not on 9.3 as we've yet to make the upgrade as an organization, which does have some new features (Improved data blending etc.), but to my knowledge, most of what I've identified as limitations in the context of our particular use cases, have not been addressed. And I agree Sohel, the licensing for Qlik can add up very quickly, but there are particular cases where it completely outshines Tableau. And vice versa of course.

Like (0)14 June 16
Ed DallalReal UserTOP 20LEADERBOARD

Very Interesting-Thanks for the detailed review. For small/Medium businesses I still believe that Qliksense, makes the most "sense" sorry no pun intended, as the desktop license is free of charge and easy to use with similar capabilities to Tableau.

Like (1)15 June 16
JhornberReal UserTOP REVIEWERELITE SQUAD

Ed, I agree! Qliksense is a great option for a smaller business without need for a server implementation (otherwise the cost starts to creep up there with the others.) We've actually used it as well for a few use cases, such as addressing the large 'table/many filters' problem that we encountered in Tableau. Qliksense was able to do this with ease.

Like (1)15 June 16
GaryMReal UserTOP 5POPULAR

Have you considered PowerBI in comparison to Tableau and QlikView? If not, why not?

Like (0)15 June 16
JhornberReal UserTOP REVIEWERELITE SQUAD

GaryM, I have just started experimenting with PowerBI. I did evaluate Powerquery/Pivot/View in my last role but at the time it had too many inter-dependencies and too many limitations when trying to build out the front end. PowerBI does look to have simplified things somewhat, and improved on the design/UI side.

Like (0)16 June 16
GaryMReal UserTOP 5POPULAR

Yes PowerBI is a world of difference from Powerquery/pivot/view - realize those are just Excel plugins, nothing more. PowerBI is both an independent desktop tool like Tableau and Qlikview plus it deploys to the web and soon to on-prem using SSRS server. And it gets updates monthly so you could review it one day and the next it has significant new features. And to top it off - the desktop version and limited cloud version is free. And if that wasn't enough, it integrates both with SSRS and Sharepoint online. No other tool does that - none. Just sayin...

Like (0)16 June 16
JhornberReal UserTOP REVIEWERELITE SQUAD

I definitely plan to keep an eye on, and get more familiar with it. The tools we're using within my current employer our fairly entrenched, but I myself am not a drinker of any particular Kool-Aid ;-)

Like (0)16 June 16
Gareth CrawshawConsultantTOP 20POPULAR

What I appreciate about the thoughtfulness of this review is it's from someone who seems software agnostic. It's taken me a great deal of time to get to that place myself, but it does make for a far richer experience in BI/Analytics world when you realise that some of the tools are actually complementary and there isn't a silver bullet solution that's appropriate for 100% of the use cases you come up against. Great reviiew Jhornber

Like (2)04 July 16
JhornberReal UserTOP REVIEWERELITE SQUAD

Thanks BIExpert221! I tend to be very weary of anyone touting a single tool as superior in all cases. I figure they're either on the payroll or incredibly myopic ;-)

Like (2)13 July 16
Orlee GillisCommunity Mgr

Jhornber, I'd love to learn about how you've found PowerBI to be so far (since your discussion here in June). Any key points that are worth mentioning? In addition, what improvements have you seen in its UI?

Like (0)06 October 16
Lourdes SuarezUser

Hello help me. I don´t speak english, but I need do a comparation between Pentaho and QlikView. I don´t have experience. thanks. excuse me my English....

Like (0)27 December 16
Carlos Mardinotto JuniorConsultantTOP 5POPULAR

how can you compare Power BI and Tableau ? Thank you very much

Like (0)01 August 17
Djalma Gomes, Pmp, Mba (Djalma Gomes@Yahoo.Com)Vendor

Tks for sharing your experience in this analysis. By the way, small multiples are pretty easy to do in Tableau as well as sparklines as you can see http://www.juiceanalytics.com/writing/better-know-visualization-small-multiples and http://kb.tableau.com/articles/howto/creating-sparklines. In version 10, cross database filters is pretty easy as well as cross databse joins (another option for data blending)

Like (0)07 August 17
JhornberReal UserTOP REVIEWERELITE SQUAD

Hi Djalma, thanks for the link. This is a fairly simple example and I agree it's pretty easy to accomplish. I should clarify, when I say sparklines, I am speaking more of the example here. https://community.tableau.com/thread/176753. More of a table with multiple measures and a sparkline within that table. Like the Stock example pictured in the link. I'd still stand by my statement on small multiples as well. Speaking from a comparison point of view, neither Sparklines (in a table) nor Small Multiples are inherent drag-and-drop options within Tableau, as they are within some other tools. Both require some creative work-arounds/calculations.

Like (0)11 September 17
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