Thursday, 17 December 2009

Tableau at hyper-speed – using Extracts to make your analysis fly


Tableau is so fast for development of data visualisations and ad-hoc analysis of data sets that any performance problems coming from your databases are immediately obvious and can take the edge of the promise of truly fast analysis.

No problem, Tableau thought of this too, and provided ‘Extracts’ to help solve this problem. 

Extracts are ONLY available for relational or flat data sources, not for multi-dimensional sources such as  Analysis Services.

Suppose you have a data set which is taking 10 seconds to respond – you will experience this 10 second delay every time you change a filter, move a dimension etc – anything you do will cause this 10 second wait (approximately!).

By taking an extract of your data, this delay almost always drops to almost zero, and you can fly through your analysis at light speed.  Refreshing the data is a one click operation.

To create your first extract, simply use the data menu inside Tableau Desktop:


You are able to specify attributes of the extract such as filters, percentage of data set to extract, and Top n rows etc.

You will have to specify a local file location for the extract file – which of course means you are now able to work OFFLINE!!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

How to learn Tableau Desktop


Tableau is super easy to learn, but in the end, it doesn’t come for free.  You’ll have to put a little effort in, but Tableau have also done a great job of making the trip up the learning curve an enjoyable and easy one.

Here’s how to get from beginner to Jedi in a few days.

STEP 1:  Start by downloading the free trial, unless your boss has been kind enough to purchase the software for you.

Download from HERE.

STEP 2:  Watch the product tour.  This gives a great overview of the product in under 10 minutes and should leave you wanting to know more!  You can find the product tour HERE.

STEP 3:  Start using one of the data sources provided within the Tableau installation files – Coffee Store, or Superstore sales to produce visualisations.  These data sources are relatively rich and contain interesting data which allow you to evaluate the mapping features for example.

STEP 4:  Use the on-demand videos to continue your training – the top level index for these can be found HERE.  These appear to be long (3 hours +), but in reality they are broken up into a series of short clips which are very goal orientated.

Start with the introductory videos, and move into advanced and Jedi topics.

Treat the Advanced and Jedi topics as reference manuals – you do not need to remember everything in these sections, just knowing that these sections exist is enough – come back to them when the need arises.

STEP 5:  To achieve true Jedi status, you’ll need to work with many different visualisations and many different data sources.  Tableau have done a great job of making this possible by providing a suite of examples.  You can find them HERE.

These examples are ‘Packaged Workbooks’ which means both the data and the visualisations are included in the file.  If you download these workbooks and open them into Tableau Desktop, you’ll be able to see how they were built.

I recommend trying to recreate each page (without using ‘Duplicate Sheet’!!) – if you can recreate them all (there are nearly 100), you can truly call yourself a member of the Tableau Jedi.