I’ve seen all the hoopla over Tableau over the past few years and even followed their stock over the past year. I’ll admit to having regret over not purchasing the stock. They do have cool visualizations but I’m still hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Here are my three main reasons:
1. Difficult to distribute results
Getting results from my toolset to an audience is a key measure of its usefulness. If it’s too difficult and there are too many boundaries then people won’t use it and that alone makes it useless. Currently, the ways to distribute Tableau results appear to be through their public website, as a workbook on your own server, or a workbook on their server. There are limitations to all three, the if you go Public, your data is now public and open to anyone, if you choose a workbook, your user needs to install reader and for the server, well money is one issue and then setting it up and administration, all another big headache.
2. GUI – Point and Click Interface
Though some people may find this a plus, I find this a drawback. I like the option of a GUI, but when it comes time to operationalize a visualization I can see the difficulties. Remembering exactly what buttons you clicked in what order 8 months ago to create a viz will be a pain in the ass. I can totally see a client coming in and saying, I want exactly what you did for such-and-such, but with my data. In Tableau, that implies recreating an entire workbook because you can’t copy and paste the code and need to relink all the fields.
Also, have you ever tried to explain a solution to a person for a GUI tool, first you click A, then hover over B, then Drag to C. Its infinitely easier to provide solutions that are code.
3. Not Enterprise Ready
Tableau is a great tool, but I don’t feel they’re quite enterprise ready. I’ve tried to work with their mapping focus, and they don’t work with any of the industry standards for maps, SHP or TAB. The proposed solution is to use open source tools to hack your way through it. Its not impossible and I got it working, but I couldn’t do it on my work computer because no big corporation allows users to self install programs. The same with their recently released Excel add in to reshape data. Great idea, but I can’t install it because I don’t have install privileges. And I wish I was alone in that, but that’s been the standard at most places I’ve worked at.
At the end of the day though, its still a toolset, you still need a person with the vision behind the data. To manipulate, twist and turn it until it tells its story.
My Tableau Viz: