What is Tableau? (How Can it Help Your Business?)

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If you’re accustomed to the function within Microsoft Excel, I’m sure you might have come across some limitations to the charts feature in creating beautiful yet intuitive charts and dashboards. Excel was made for structuring and shaping data but is lacking in the areas of visualization. This is where Tableau comes in as a great alternative.

Tableau has been rising in popularity over the past few years as a business intelligence visualization tool. You might have heard of it from some analysts or even from some friends within the financial and mathematics fields. Being the mainstay analytics software of many companies, there’s a reason why Tableau is a popular option. Here’s an introduction to Tableau and why it can help you.

1. What exactly is Tableau?

Firstly, Tableau is a data analytics software that allows raw data in multiple forms to be translated into easily-interpreted visualizations. In the rapidly-changing business world, Tableau offers visualizations that can help non-technical users understand business insights.

Secondly, by using simple drag-and-drop functions to build charts, Tableau does not require knowledge of programming languages. These charts are made to be interactive and easily filtered when placed on a dashboard.

2. Tableau Visualization Creation Process

A typical visualization creation process goes something like this:

  1. Tableau is connected to a data source

    Data sources can vary from online sources such as cloud or offline Excel sheets or relational databases
    Raw data is pulled from the data source live or in extracts

  2. Raw data is joined or blended

    Raw data is stored in logical or physical tables
    Specific raw data can be queried

  3. Data is put into visualizations

    Visualizations are created on sheets and put together on dashboards

  4. Dashboards are shared to business stakeholders

    Interactive dashboards are used to dig for deeper business insight

As you can tell from the steps above, the process is made streamlined to a data analytics pipeline where data is converted to information and then to insight.

3. Tableau Products

Tableau Desktop

A desktop application used by analysts to craft visualizations and dashboards. It is the main platform where the dashboard building will be. It features connectivity to Tableau Server and Tableau Online, where the dashboards can be shared and stored.

The desktop application has features for connecting to databases, joining and blending of data tables, cleaning and shaping data, building charts and cards and forming dashboards with those charts. This application is relatively easy to pick up, but also offers advanced data modelling, comprehensive calculations and analytics options.

Tableau Online

As its name suggests, Tableau Online allows visualizations to be viewed and interacted with online in the browser. All visualizations have to be first created within Tableau Desktop before uploaded to Tableau Online. The dashboards and workbooks created are stored in the Tableau cloud, instead of a server by the organization.

Tableau Server

Used primarily as a platform for sharing wookbook visualizations built in Tableau Desktop. This option is great for sharing purposes within an organization, especially in reporting.

Tableau Prep

A simple data-cleansing tool built for quickly preparing data before analysis. For shaping and structuring data to build clean visualizations.

4. How can Tableau help your business?

With the powerful features available across the various products, Tableau is a great alternative to Excel in terms of producing versatile and interactive dashboards. Here are some reasons why it can help boost your business optimization:

  1. Tableau reduces the technical need for programming
  2. Tableau simplifies data into business insight
  3. Tableau offers a large variety of connectors to common data sources
  4. Tableau produces interactive, highly-shareable visualizations


Overall, Tableau is great for creating simple charts to represent information for business insight. With the function to filter and interact with data points in dashboards, your business may uncover hidden insight that could never have been discovered with the traditional Excel charts.

Related Questions:

What is Tableau Used For?

Tableau is used for creating data visualizations for dashboards. Tableau enables users to produce charts easily using a simple drag-and-drop interface. Tableau users create dashboards by connecting to databases and visualizing them to present business insight to their stakeholders.

My Favorite Data Learning Resources:

Here are some of the learning resources I’ve personally found to be useful as a data analyst and I hope you find them useful too. These may contain affiliate links and I earn a commission from them if you use them. However, I’d honestly recommend them to my juniors, friends, or even my family!

Recommended Online Course Provider: I find Coursera online courses the most well-structured and comprehensive! You can get a Coursera Plus Membership to get started here.

Using my link, you’ll only pay $1 for your first month (Offer ends 4 December 2021). I’d recommend using this to just get started, with just a small cost, and if you find that it’s not for you, you can always cancel before the next month!

Learning Data Analytics: I really like the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate program made by Google, because of its credibility and focus on the skills required as a data analyst. You’d get the first month off of the subscription using my link!

Learning Tableau: Tableau is my main data visualization tool for work. I recommend going for Data Visualization with Tableau for an online course and Practical Tableau by Ryan Sleeper.

Learning Python: I’d recommend Learning Python for Data Analysis and Visualization for an online course and Python for Data Analysis as a resource book.

Learning Power BI: Power BI is a great tool I use for my personal projects and analysis for its lower cost. Getting Started with Power BI Desktop is a great online course to start with and Beginning Microsoft Power BI is a good book to accompany your learning.

Learning R: The Data Science: Foundations using R Specialization online course is real solid one you should check out. For books, I’d recommend Learning R.

Learning SQL: A good started course is Introduction to SQL from Datacamp and for books, SQL: The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Learn SQL Today should be a useful resource while you learn.

Learning Data Visualization: I personally think that the Big Book of Dashboards is an excellent book for reference when designing your dashboards, especially on Tableau.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I’ve put together for you here.

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A budding data analyst with great interest in writing all things about data!

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