Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Tableau Wish List

With TCC 2012 coming up, there's not enough time to write separate blog posts for all the individual friction points and areas where Tableau should (IMHO) make improvements, so I'm listing all the big ones here. I'll elaborate on them as time and opportunity permit

Have something to add to the list? Leave a comment or sent me a message and I'll add it in if it fits, with attribution unless you wish not.

Eliminate all the friction identified in this blog –or– Don't let Tableau become a toad..

Provide a dashboard layout manager capable of producing real publication-quality material.
Tableau's improved the dashboard layout manager with each release, but it's still like drawing with crayons.

Provide Tableau Desktop automation.
Routine repetitive tasks shouldn't require us to do work a trained monkey could handle.

Incorporate a true programming language, preferably Ruby or Python.
For calculated field coding, automation (per previous point), data munging etc.
Along with this and automation, add the ability for Tableau to access data from a standard pipe, this would enable a tremendous expansion of the high-value Tableau Use Cases.

Create and publish a bona fide Tableau philosophy.
It would explain the guiding principles behind the product, and be the standard to hold the product to.

Add the ability to access hierarchical, multi-path data.
This is a significantly harder problem to solve from the user experience perspective, but Tableau's inventors cracked this nut with single-path data visualization, to their eternal credit. This ability is necessary for Tableau to implement the next item in this list:

Add introspection and self-analysis.
Tableau has no general ability to expose its internals for analysis.
Workbooks are collections of data sources, worksheets, dashboards, real fields, calculated fields, etc., that have multiple interrelationships. It's extremely helpful to be able to see, from a data perspective, what's in a workbook, and how the parts are related.
With this ability we'd be able to answer questions such as:
  •"Is this data source used, and if so where?"
  •"Which dashboards does this worksheet appear in"
  •"How many different ways is Profit calculated in my workbooks, and in which worksheets and dashboards do they appear?"
  •"If I change this database, how much work will I need to do to update my Tableau workbooks?"
I built The Tableau Companion (TCC, formerly TWIS) to be able to answer these questions, but it would be far, far better to have it be an integral part of Tableau.

Add visualizations for hierarchical, multi-path data.
Extensions of the previous items, this ability is at least useful in visualizing the structure and content of Tableau workbooks. A visualization of the Tableau Science Sample Workbook can be seen here, and other examples can be seen here.

Hire someone to ensure that Tableau honors the Tableau philosophy.
Someone responsible for ensuring that the various Tableau products adhere to the Tableau philosophy in their broad strokes and details. Ideally, this would be me.



  1. Hi Chris
    Great post. Here are a couple of quick responses to some of this:
    Tableau Philosophy. It is to "help the world see and understand their data in a way that is fast, easy and beautiful."

    Did you download the TWB Auditor? I know it does a similar thing to TWIS, and is also not an official product, but it does do exactly what you're after.

  2. Hi Chris,

    Great blog with lot of information. Actually I am new to tableau and I have a requirement to integrate Tableau with listening Tool Radian6[which generate reports from social sites ]. So could you please suggest me how to integrate tableau with Radian6 . Any help on this really appreciated.