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).
- 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.
- 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.
Which version of this solution are you currently using?
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Last updated: Sep 05 2018
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