What is Tableau And What Does Tableau Do? [A Complete Guide]

The advancements in big data technology have created a need for powerful tools to structure the data and present it in an organized manner.

Tableau is the fastest and most powerful data visualization tool used in the business intelligence industry to understand large and raw data sets easily.

Over 99% of LinkedIn’s sales force uses the Tableau server every week to measure performance and monitor the business turnover for sales analytics.

But that’s not it.

Tableau has a wide range of use cases that can help businesses leverage the raw data and extract useful insights for making well-informed decisions.

So what is Tableau and what does Tableau do?

To understand the details, to understand if Tableau is easy to learn, we need to dive deep into the topic’s nitty-gritty elements.

Let’s get started.

What is Tableau?

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Source: Tableau

One of the stand-out data visualization tools for business intelligence and data analysis, tableau enables businesses to report and analyze vast volumes of data with finesse.

Tableau has become a vital asset for professionals to understand the data and create customized dashboards for better data analysis.

Apart from fast data analytics and powerful visualizations in worksheets and dashboards, Tableau offers multiple features like data collaboration, data blending, and real-time analysis.

You don’t require technical background or programming skills to explore the benefits of Tableau because the tool is focused on helping professionals in multiple industries and business sectors.

Tableau’s data analytics is divided into two parts, developer tools, and sharing tools.

  • Developer tools: Multiple Tableau tools used for creating charts, dashboards, report generations, and other visualization are developer tools. Tableau Desktop and Tableau Public are two product suite elements of Tableau that uses these tools to help professionals with data analytics.
  • Sharing tools: The primary purpose of sharing tools of Tableau is to share the reports, visualization, and dashboards created using the developer tools. Tableau Online, Tableau Server, and Tableau Reader are Tableau product suite elements that use sharing tools.

The tableau product suite is segmented into multiple parts:

  1. Tableau Desktop
  2. Tableau Public
  3. Tableau Online
  4. Tableau Server
  5. Tableau Reader

Let’s get an overview of these products.

Overview of table

  1. Tableau Desktop

  2. The Tableau Desktop product has feature-rich elements that assist you in customizing and coding different reports. From creating charts to reports, you can blend them to form a powerful dashboard using Tableau Desktop.

    Tableau Desktop provides great connectivity to a data warehouse for live data analysis and other file types. The dashboards and the workbooks created in the Tableau Desktop can be shared publicly or locally.

    Tableau Desktop Interface

    Source: Tableau

    Tableau desktop is classified into two types based on the connectivity to the publishing options and data sources.

    • Tableau Desktop Personal: It has similar development features to the Tableau Desktop, but the workbooks cannot be published online because of the personal version. The access is limited, and the workbook is private and can be shared in Tableau Public or offline.
    • Tableau Desktop Professional: It is also similar to the Tableau Desktop, but the major difference is the work done in the Tableau Desktop Professional can only be shared in the Tableau Server. It offers full access to multiple data types, idealizing publishing work within the Tableau network.
  3. Tableau Public

  4. tableau public

    Source: Tableau

    Tableau Public is a version of Tableau built for cost-effective users. The workbooks are not saved locally as they are saved on Tablearu’s public cloud that can be accessed by anyone, anytime, from anywhere.

    Important Note:
    You don’t have privacy on the files you create because anyone accessing the Tableau Public cloud can download the file. If you want to use Tableau to share data with the public or learn about Tableau, it’s ideal to use the Tableau Public version.
  5. Tableau Server

  6. Tableau Server

    Source: Tableau

    It is specifically used to share visualizations and workbooks created using the Tableau Desktop application. You need to first publish the files in the Tableau Desktop to share them in the Tableau Server.

    Only licensed users can access the work shared in the Tableau Server. You don’t need to install Tableau Server on your machine to access the shared files; you can use the login credentials to check the reports using multiple web browsers.

    Tableau Server is suited for sharing files quickly and effectively in an organization. That’s why the security of the Tableau Server is high compared to others. The admin has complete control over the server, and the organization maintains the hardware and the software components.

  7. Tableau Online

  8. Tableau Online

    Source: Tableau

    Tableau Online is a sharing tool of Tableau with functionalities similar to the Tableau Server. The Tableau group maintains the data stored on the server in the cloud.

    You don’t have limits on the published data that can be saved on Tableau Online. Over 40 data source links are provided by the Tableau Online host on the cloud server like Hive, MySQL, Spark SQL, and Amazon Aurora, among others.

    If you want to publish a worksheet on a Tableau Online or Tableau Server, it must be created on Tableau Desktop. Tableau Online and Tableau Server also support the data streaming on the web applications.

  9. Tableau Reader

  10. Tableau Reader

    Source: Tableau

    Tableau Reader is a free tool.

    It allows professionals to view the visualizations and workbooks created using Tableau Public or Tableau Desktop. You cannot modify or edit the data visible on the Tableau Reader, but it provides the flexibility to filter the data.

    There are no security precautions as anyone who has the workbook can access Tableau Reader. You can share the dashboards with your colleagues, but they need to have the Tableau Reader to view the created files.

    Now that we understand the basics of Tableau. Let’s explore how it works.

How Does Tableau Work?

Tableau connects and extracts the stored data from multiple places that can help you achieve your targets.

Tableau can assist you in getting data from simple databases like pdf, excel, or different complex databases like Amazon web services, Oracles, Google Cloud SQL, and Microsoft Azure SQL database, among others.

The ready data collectors enable the user to connect to the database once the launch command is triggered in Tableau. The number of data connectors varies based on the version of Tableau you have purchased that can affect the data extraction from the desired database.

The pulled data is extracted or connected live to the Tableau Desktop or Tableau’s data engine. The data analyst or the data engineer work on the extracted data and start working on filtering the raw data to create visualizations or workbooks.

Once the visualizations are ready, they can be shared with multiple users using the Tableau product suite because the file shared can only be viewed using Tableau Reader.

The data created on Tableau Desktop can be published on the Tableau Server. Tableau is an enterprise-focused platform that supports distribution, collaboration governance, automation, security model, and other features.

The end-user can use multiple locations like mobile, email, or desktop to access the file available on the Tableau Server to get the best viewing experience of the converted raw data into well-vetted visualized data.

5 Use Cases of Tableau

There are multiple uses of Tableau that can help enterprises manage data visualization and analytics in an enhanced manner. Have a look:

  1. Bring Multiple Data Sources at a Single Point

  2. Tableau helps to bring data from Access, Excel, Salesforce, and SQL databases together in a few clicks. You don’t need to script a code to perform the task.

    Tableau enables data science professionals to get a holistic view of the data and have one definitive source to perform all business reporting. It helps the workforce analyze the data better and deliver better results for the future.

  3. Quick ETL Operations

  4. Tableau enables you to perform ELT (Extract Transform and Load) operations faster.

    You can transform the data into a different format with the help of Tableau’ automated data reshaper tools.

    Within a few clicks, you can concatenate fields, split fields, Join calculated or concatenated fields, change data formats, and eliminate headers or white spaces.

    Tableau limits the time consumption of the SQL coder or professional using Excel to perform the same task done using the Tableau product suite.

  5. Provide Intuitive Reports and Dashboards

  6. One of the primary uses of Tableau is transforming the visual appeal of the reports.

    With the help of built-in visual best practices, the users can effectively present information.

    Tableau assists the user in ensuring that the reports are built informative and eye-catching for easy understanding. Once the reports are ready, you can share them with others to help them view and extract useful insights from the data.

  7. Speedy Investigative or Exploratory Analysis

  8. Tableau enables the user to experience a state of flow where they can quickly explore their data and find answers that can lead to new questions that quickly deliver valuable insights.

    It helps to conduct investigative or exploratory analysis that can help to amplify the data analysis and convert the information into premium quality reports.

  9. Automate Reporting

  10. Tableau software uses automated reporting to easily build reports, refresh the data automatically, and set the data organization.

    Because of Tableau’s automated reporting, you don’t require coding, additional time, or additional meetings to perform a robust reporting process.

    These are some uses of Tableau that helps it stand out from the rest and be a proffered choice for data visualization for data experts in the industry.

    Are you using Tableau to simplify your data representation and reporting process?

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better: Excel or Tableau?

The use of Excel or Tableau depends upon your requirement.

If you want to handle big data problems and perform in-depth data analytics to extract valuable insights, you can choose Tableau.

But if you want descriptive analysis or mathematical transformation using the data, then Excel can be your first choice.

What advantages does Tableau offer?

Tableau has multiple advantages over other data visualization tools available in the market. It can help you with quick data visualization and assist you in creating intuitive reports that can help in better data analysis. You can handle large amounts of data using Tableau to deliver quality data analysis results. It can provide you with easy implementation, sharing, and scheduling of the reports.

How does Tableau work?

Tableau is a top data visualization tool used for business intelligence and data analysis. It can help you extract required data from multiple databases and combine it to enable you to perform different changes to structure the data using Tableau Desktop. It assists in adding intuitive visual elements to the workbooks or reports to improve the report’s visual representation.

What are Tableau’s main features?

Tableau offers a wide range of features that can assist the user in performing the desired tasks. Features like collaboration and sharing, live and in-memory data Sources in Tableau, advanced visualizations, high security, and great mobile view are some of the stand-out features of Tableau.

How to read Tableau files?

Tableau files can only be read using Tableau Reader, which gives the user access to the files created on Tableau Desktop. The tool restricts the user from making changes to the file, but it can be used for filtering.

Tableau – A Quality Data Visualization Tool

Tableau has a vast range of applications in business intelligence, data collaboration, data visualization, real-time data analytics, data blending, and importing data.

Now that you understand how to use Tableau and how it’s working, you need to decide whether or not it’s suitable for your business requirements and needs.

If it is, try it out once to get a hands-on experience of the tool and transform your data analytics and reporting process.

Gaurang Bhatt

Written by

Gaurang Bhatt

Gaurang has 15+ years of experience solving complex business problems and enabling businesses with data-driven decisions using data analysis and predictive modeling tools like Tableau, Power BI, Looker, and Google Data Studio. His expertise lies in data visualization, reporting, and creating ETL pipelines. In addition, he is passionate about exploring different technologies like machine learning and AI. He shares his knowledge and learnings on the LabsMedia platform.