Tableau: Pros and Cons
Founded in 2003, Tableau was created with the intention to make data analysis interactive and comprehensive. Built on a proprietary programming language called VizQL, it helps non-technical users turn their large data sets into beautiful, interactive graphics through a drag-and-drop interface, while allowing more technical users to manipulate their graphics even further. The value that it brings to organizations is widely recognized; Tableau has occupied a spot in Gartner’s magic quadrant for eight years in a row. In 2019, it was acquired by the CRM powerhouse Salesforce for the tidy sum of $15.7 billion.
If Tableau is so successful and prevalent, then why are people looking for Tableau alternatives? If it’s one of the best out there, why doesn’t everyone just use Tableau? Tableau actually has a few downsides and limitations, which for some, may be deal breakers. Before we investigate Tableau’s competition, let’s take a look where Tableau hits the mark and where it falls flat.
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When it comes to business intelligence, in order to make use of your data, your solution of choice has to first be able to connect to it. Tableau excels in integrations with other databases and data sources, with native connectivity to a wide variety of data sources whether in the cloud or on-premises. It also automatically refreshes information from web apps and cloud databases and supports live queries of data, providing real-time up-to-date connections to data sources. Through these integrations, Tableau is able to consolidate huge amounts of information in one place.
Data Visualization Leade
Tableau is considered a leader in the field of data visualization – and with good reason: hundreds of rave reviews praise its customizable, visually appealing graphs, charts and dashboards. The platform connects to any number of data sources, blends the data and converts it into comprehensive results in the form of interactive dashboards. Factoring in its powerful geospatial analysis and mapping functions, it’s no wonder why Tableau is one of the premier dashboard and data visualization tools on the market.
Example of an interactive dashboard from Tableau which explains details when users hover their mouse over a metric and changes the charts when users click on them.
Ease of Use
One of Tableau’s selling points is its accessibility to users of all skill levels. Its drag-and-drop user interface makes it easy to build data visualizations and derive insights from them, while its interactivity encourages users to engage in self-service data discovery to get data-driven answers to their burning business questions. With an intuitive, user-friendly interface, even non-dev users can perform data analytics, organize their data into digestible visual assets and make use of the platform’s basic features without in-depth training.
Support and Community
Another one of Tableau’s strengths lies in its attentive support team and active online community. Users with questions or concerns might be able to find the answer themselves through documentation, but talking to a real human, whether a trained support specialist or a fellow user, can often prove to be more effective. Tableau users can choose to seek answers through the platform’s thriving community forums where many visitors and fans are ready to lend a hand to others and share their experiences. Alternatively, they can submit a request for technical support from the Tableau team. Many Tableau users note quick response times from the support team and frequent updates to the platform that consider user requests contribute to their positive opinion of the solution.
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High Cost & Inflexible Pricing
Although Tableau isn’t the most expensive BI solution, especially compared to other counterparts, it definitely isn’t cheap. While Tableau has a free version, Tableau Public, it lacks in functionality and some users express concern over its data security. Whether users choose the desktop, server or SaaS version of the platform, costs can rack up quickly for per-user license subscriptions, on-premise installation, maintenance fees and add-on features. Pricing can be especially cost-prohibitive for personal or individual use. This pricing guide breaks down pricing information on Tableau as well as other BI industry leaders.
Additionally, because the company is so large, pricing plans tend to be inflexible and lack the personalization users can expect from smaller organizations. This means that even with different pricing tiers, Tableau offers set packages; even if you don’t need all of the features offered, you’ll still get (and pay for) the same licensing packages as someone who would use them all. For example, companies who want certain employees to have access to data but do not need to do any of the prep and analysis work, they can purchase Viewer licenses, but these subscriptions require at least 100 users. This makes it difficult for users looking to purchase a set of required features and scale if necessary.
Tableau’s reputation precedes itself in the business intelligence industry, but with that prestige comes a hefty price tag that not all companies will be willing to pay.
Need for Training
Tableau is often praised for its intuitive user interface and out-of-the-box data visualization functionality. However, many users note that there is a steep learning curve to master its more complex features, particularly in conditional formatting or creating more complicated data visualizations than basic line and bar charts. When it comes to the other aspects of business intelligence, such as reporting or data querying, the platform can be difficult for some users to manipulate to their specific needs, requiring SQL knowledge in some cases. Although Tableau gives business users a lot of self-service BI freedom, Tableau still requires someone with IT expertise to create and manage datasets. While there are free resources available online for training, these resources focus on the solution’s more rudimentary features and its more powerful ones remain inaccessible to many without guided, paid training from Tableau or one of the vendor’s partners — adding yet another potential expense to the bill.
Another significant disadvantage that often pops up in user reviews for Tableau is its slow speed, with the solution running into performance issues, especially when working with large datasets or complex visualizations. According to our analysis of user sentiment towards Tableau, over 90% of users who review Tableau and mention its speed report that it loads slowly for them, often struggling to process and refresh data.
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