As a user of Tableau for over 8 years, I'm sure I'm not the first to have a view of where the product should go or what features should be prioritised, but something I feel that gets lost when we critique just features and product is the experience. What's it like to use something? How can all these features be repurposed or organised to help me do what I can already do today even faster!
For the last 2 years, I've had an idea in my mind about this, and it largely aims to solve the oldest experience in tableau, The Tableau Creator experience, but I believe it scales and elegantly accommodates all users of the product whether in a browser or in an application.
The concept isn't perfect, it's got issues, but I'd love to put this idea out into the world to see where it ends up. Would love your thoughts in the comments below.
0:40 The Problem
5:59 Experience over Features
9:26 Inspiration for the solution
11:43 Tableau Experience Re-imagined
18:39 & Tableau 2023 1 Release
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Oh, it's good to be back.
Now one thing that's been going through my mind
for the last two years is this, this
problem with Tableau.
And the problem is this, the way Tableau sells
the product is completely detached from the
way people use the product.
And that might sound like a really bizarre
And you're probably thinking, well, what do you
mean by that?
Well, in this video, I want to present that in
two ways, essentially present the problem
and then present the solution.
As ever, let's get started.
So we're not going to mess about, going to go
straight to Tableau's pricing page.
And I'm going to sort of try and tease this out.
And I'm going to use a couple of analogies in the
You see, when you buy Tableau, I have to say most
people are actually removed from this
If you asked, if you asked every single user of
Tableau, how on earth they got access to
Tableau, the only thing they could probably tell
you is who gave them the license key
and you know, who's responsible for managing
license keys in their organization.
But very few people know the experience of buying
By buying Tableau, I mean procurement.
I mean sitting down with Tableau and negotiating
the total mix of creators, explorers and Tableau
viewers in your organization.
And as part of that process, what you kind of
have to do is you have to have a really
good idea of what the analysts in your
organization are going to be doing.
And Tableau have sort of broken that down into
these three buckets.
Now there used to be a time where these three
buckets didn't exist.
There used to be a time where if you wanted Table
au, you paid for Tableau server at the
time cloud was fairly new.
So Tableau server or Tableau cloud and you paid
for desktop and there wasn't really sort
of anything in between.
And one of the downsides of that is that if you
just wanted to use an access report, it
was kind of a little bit ineffective in terms of
cost because essentially you are paying
sort of full whack for something that, you know,
some users weren't just going to use
all the features.
And so came this model, this model which has
Tableau creator, explorer and viewer.
And it's sort of demarcated by the expectation of
what those users are going to get when
they get access to the platform.
So a viewer in simple terms is just someone who
really just needs to see reports, needs
to interact with reports and occasionally maybe
even needs to type into their keyboard
and get a chart back through features like RSt
That's a Tableau viewer, the lowest level but
probably the most common user inside of
the Tableau ecosystem.
Users are kind of a halfway house between
creators and viewers.
They get given a little bit more capability but
on the same token, they're also quite
limited so as soon as they hit the edge, they're
almost definitely going to want creator access
because as soon as you hit those boundaries in
the Tableau explorer license, they're quite
hard boundaries and it's quite easy to hit them
if you end up sort of moving through
And so the way Tableau sells its product and this
is where I think there's a fundamental
problem is it's demarcated by the way Tableau
looks at its product rather than the way people
use the product.
You see when you approach the product in this
manner, what ends up happening is you create
arbitrary boundaries that essentially decide what
you have access to on the platform and
how you basically access them, how you use them,
how they work.
And so what that ends up meaning is you need a
matrix like Tableau have on their website
here that sort of explains for each license the
activities you can do.
So govern, interact, collaborate and author and
Now it's interesting because to me, these sort of
five items on the left-hand side,
govern, interact, collaborate and author, prepare
as well are actually the core tenants of what
makes the product really, really good.
And what ends up happening is when features come
about, when new features are sort of
drawn up, they get put into sort of different
elements of this quadrant.
I can almost envision the meeting inside of
Salesforce now where they're going, right,
we have this amazing feature.
What is the feature?
It's a zone visibility.
Who's it going to empower?
It's going to empower the creator.
What is it going to empower them to do?
It's going to allow them to build more
interactive visualizations that allow them to do
dynamic sort of capabilities that means they can
meet the needs of a whole range of people.
So every single feature has to sit in the matrix.
And then at the end of that process, once you've
gone through this matrix, they then
decide which part of the platform it sits in and
therefore then which price then gets
allotted to that feature.
And so as the platform gets bigger and bigger,
what you end up with is this sort of massive
matrix of not just licenses across the top, but
now add ons as well that have little capabilities
built into them.
And this is where this detachment from the way
the product works starts to really show.
Because as a creator, I'm just going to take a
creator because I've been using tablet for
And I think this is the one that I can speak to
But maybe as a viewer and explorer, you can put
something in the comments that sort of
really highlights this.
As a creator, what this means is that although
there's one license, there's one product for
me to go off and buy on the shelf, it means that
there are four products that I really
have to sort of battle with.
Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep Builder, Tableau
Server or Tableau Cloud.
And the fourth product in my head is basically
these other management add-ons, these other
Because as a creator, you're going to be expected
to have to manage one of these three things
when the organization gets larger.
So in your head, you kind of have to hop around
Note that I didn't say the features.
I said experience.
And experience is a very different thing because
experience is not about, for example, I bought
So there's so many notebooks in the world.
I bought this notebook.
It's called the Sidekick.
It's from a podcast that I follow called Cortex.
And they have a notebook called this Sidekick.
It's really, really nice.
What makes this nice isn't the fact that it's a
What makes this nice is the experience of using
If I just show you one of the pages, it's got a
really well thought out layout.
You probably can't see it so well.
It's got a really well thought out layout.
The cover folds over and it has a really nice
sort of shiny emboss.
This is some notes I'm making for the 23.1
The experience is what makes this product.
And so that's what I'm really sort of trying to
narrow in on.
And what that really means is if you just sort of
close your eyes as I say this and
you just imagine this journey.
Let's say I'm an analyst and I'm empowered with a
Tableau Creator license.
And I've been asked to go and solve a data
problem in an organization.
The experience today looks something like this.
First of all, I'll connect to my data in whatever
Let's say we're connecting to Snowflake.
The second thing I'll do is I'll then put it into
Tableau Desktop most likely just to
get a look at the data and see how it works.
I'll then realize that I need to do some data
So what I'll do is I'll then go back into Tableau
Prep, open another product, open Tableau
Prep, start cleaning my data and making it work
Except for the end of the Tableau Prep experience
, I can't create a data model.
So now I have to publish that data source
In some instances, I can't use a published data
source to build a data model.
So what I'll then have to do is publish that
output back out to a database so that I can
then use it in Tableau Desktop again.
So now we're back in Tableau Desktop to build a
data model that is going to help answer
the analytical questions that I need.
And at this point, I'm still working with the
connection of the data and the data prep,
the very beginning of the journey.
And then once that's done, I can actually start
building visualizations, making them
look great and publish them up to Tableau Server
or Tableau Cloud where I'm essentially
sharing those things.
People will then look at them, give me feedback,
and they'll make subtle suggestions.
And I'll need to sort of traverse my way back
through each and every one of those products.
Meanwhile, if this is my actual laptop, I have
Tableau Prep, I have Tableau Desktop,
I have Tableau Server open as many times as I've
published the particular tool.
And I also have probably my database open because
I need to have all these things going.
And in essence, what I'm actually doing is
managing Windows and managing an experience
across multiple products.
It's not really cohesive, yet I am a Tableau
I'm empowered with all these amazing capabilities
, but they're scattered across so many different
interfaces for doing different things.
And they don't sort of come together cohesively,
if that makes sense.
Yes, they all connect to Tableau Server and Table
But in terms of my workflow, the thing that
actually makes me work better and faster,
I have to traverse all of these different
And so that to me is the fundamental problem.
And I know this exists in the viewer license and
it exists in the explorer license as well.
I'm purely talking from a creator license.
So, what is the solution?
Well, for this, I take inspiration from something
I do to make you guys videos.
One of the things I really appreciate about the
software I use is that pretty much all
of them have had the benefit of years to
understand the specific needs of their users.
And so one tool I use to edit videos for this
channel is called DaVinci Resolve.
Now some of you might have heard of other tools
such as Camtasia, which essentially
does the same thing.
You might have heard of Adobe Premiere Pro.
They're all the same.
The fundamental thing all these tools understand
is that when it comes to making a video, there
are different steps in the process.
And so if I take DaVinci Resolve, which is what I
use for editing videos, I haven't got
an actual project here.
I've just loaded it empty so you can see the
point I'm making.
The first step and what I really want to sort of
call out is what's happening here at the
bottom of the window.
I'll sort of make sure I highlight it on screen.
At the bottom of the window, the process that I
go through is broken down into different
Each icon represents a different step in the
So the first step is called media because that's
where I bring in all my recordings.
As soon as I finish recording this video, I will
get the files on my computer and I'll
drag them into this interface.
Once I've dragged them here, I can see them, I
can mark them, I can label them, I can tag
The next part of the interface is cutting them.
So once I have all my clips in a folder, I can
essentially cut them up into sort of short
video segments that I'm going to use and I can
bring them around, put them together, kind
of get an arrangement and an order that works
until I'm happy.
That's sort of called the first cut in video
The second thing is now the actual edit.
The edit is where you add the finesse, the titles
, the labels, the things that sort of
make the video a little bit more interesting.
And you also add transitions.
You cut out certain things that might be
You might add zooms and pops.
All of this stuff gets done here in the edit.
That's where you're adding to the creation.
And then after that, you might want to do some
And you can see here as I go through each of
these steps, the interface is fundamentally
changing to enable that one activity because it
understands that it's guiding me through
a specific flow.
And so if I sort of close this and we just go
back to talking about Tableau as a creator,
it seems that the version of Tableau, the perfect
version of Tableau for a creator is
the version where you don't have to have five
things open to get your work done.
I was about to say job to get your work done.
And so what does that look like?
Well, just bear with me here because what I'm
going to do is I'm probably going to put
like a graphic up on screen as I talk to just
sort of narrate this.
In my head, the first thing any analyst will do
is connect to their data source.
That's just the number one thing.
Go find your data, bring it in, connect to it,
make it work.
The second thing you'll do is you'll want to
start to do data visualization.
And so in that sort of visual step, you're
probably going to miss the really crucial
step of data preparation and data modeling
because you'll go straight to the visualization
And when you get to the visualization step, you
might then at that point realize you need
to go back to do some data prep or you need to go
back to do some data modeling.
And that prep and modeling, I separate them as
distinct steps because in my mind, they
can kind of happen in a different order and in a
When I talk about data modeling, I talk about the
relationships between the different tables,
the way that Tableau allows you to do that.
I think Power BI also lets you do the same thing.
When I talk about data prep, I talk about
explicitly shaping the data.
So making sure the data is in the right shape
orientation for you to do what you need to
So prep is about row level sort of adjustments
and calculations and finesse.
Data modeling is about sort of slightly higher
level thinking about how the different data
sets come together to enable analytical answers
to be done.
And so if I draw this line out for Tableau, what
it actually looks like is you have your
connection to data, you have your data prep, you
have your data modeling, you have your
visualization as the next step.
And the visualization is different from what I
would then call layout because dashboarding
is actually a layout exercise, it's actually a
And so when you're working in a sheet, building a
chart, you need very different tools to
when you're building a visualization.
Actually you get a little bit of that in Tableau.
If you want to create a dashboard, you have to go
into a different interface to do that.
So that is already an understood concept inside
And then once you've done your dashboard, you
want to then be able to publish it up,
share it with people.
Okay, so these are I think six steps.
And the ideal version of Tableau, if they were
really building the product to match
the way they sell the product, is that they would
offer the Tableau creator experience
in one application.
One application that lets you do all six things
in one place.
So you don't have to switch tabs, you don't have
to switch applications.
And more importantly, when you save your work,
what you're actually saving is the entire
workflow as one piece of work.
And the benefit of that is all the metadata of
how that analytical question gets answered
goes up in one file.
And it enables other people to come in, look at
different parts of that flow, and create
tangents in development.
They call these forking projects in GitHub.
I've not sworn, my intonation is maybe not good
But when you're developing as a developer, it's
called forking because what you're essentially
saying is that I'd love to take this project and
create a tangent that goes off in a slightly
different direction that suits my needs.
And it would really also start to open up amazing
capabilities for collaboration.
Because what you can say is that, hey, I don't
want the visualization, I don't want what
the person has shared up to the server.
But I love all the modeling they've done, I love
all the data prep they've done, and
I'd love to use that for my own creation.
And because everything is one file, it's just
much, much easier to share.
And the other sort of really important thing is
it actually just leads to much, much more
And I think it maybe frees up each of these steps
to be more of what they need to be,
if that makes sense.
So if you look at Tableau Prep, as a creator, it
's really hard to understand why that's
a separate product.
Why is that a separate piece of software if as a
creator have access to both of them?
And Explorer doesn't have access to a Tableau
Prep, they can't build with Tableau Prep.
The only thing they can do is start visual
izations with existing data sources.
So why on earth is that a separate product?
It makes absolutely no sense.
It should just sit inside of Tableau Desktop.
And it might be because you don't want to sort of
encumber the whole product.
And there's probably really good technical
But if you are just sort of, you know, really
meeting the promise of picking the product
off the shelf, and understanding what the product
is, the one product will be called
And the Tableau Creator allows analysts to build
analytical workflows from start to finish.
That's data prep, connecting to data, modeling
the data, visualizing it, laying it out, and
then sharing it with people in the organization.
That is the creator promise.
The Explorer promise starts after the data
So because Explorers can't create their own data
sources, they can only use certain parts
of data sources that already exist, they would
essentially be coming in halfway through this
sort of flow.
So they would only be really getting access to
the latter half of that.
So the visualization, the sharing, strictly
speaking, the visualization, the layout, and
the sharing, they wouldn't be able to connect and
And then the viewer would just get access to the
very end part, just be the ability
to look at things, and then ask data.
And then everything else can kind of slot around
But to me, that would mean that only really be
three products, the creator product, the
Explorer product, and the viewer product.
And that would be one cohesive experience across
the entire platform.
I'm editing this video, and I realize I made a
slight mistake here.
What I meant was there'd only be one product,
It's just got those completely switched around.
So there'd be one product, it would be called
Tableau, one application, you download it,
and whatever license you have opens up different
parts of this experience.
As I've just laid out the timeline, different
licenses open up different parts of that timeline
And all the other features around add-ons and so
on and so forth just slot into those
particular pillars and open up different
But the product vision is super clear, what the
product does is super clear, and also
it communicates very easily how you get access to
do more, depending on the license you have.
It's just all in one place, so it's just much,
much easier to understand.
And so that's my take.
That's my view on this particular topic.
Now, there are massive flaws with this idea, and
it's something that I've sort of been
mulling around in my head.
And I have talked to a few people in the
community about it, sometimes sort of off-book,
off the record as well.
And it's super interesting to see sort of some of
the thoughts that come out of it.
But this is an idea.
This is not, I'm not pitching this as the end all
and be all.
There's tons of issues with this idea.
I've thought of many.
I'd love you to sort of highlight what you think
Maybe that's a separate video.
But to me, that vision of how the product is sold
and how the product is built is starting
to get so fragmented that I think it's getting in
the way of really delivering the experience
that users deserve.
Not necessarily the features.
Anyway, I've waffled for way too long.
I'll stop the video here and I'll catch you in
the next video.
I think 23.1 is about to drop, probably the day
after I'm recording this, 23.1 will drop
and I'll get punished for not having done any
prep for 23.1.
But as ever, I'll catch you in the next one.