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Why do people still use Tableau?

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Tableau desktop fulfills a huge need in business analysis work, where users without a computer science degree, development skills, or SQL query experience can access and interrogate large volumes of data. Tableau offers a wide range of connectivity options for almost any database - cloud-based or otherwise - and recently added (in 9.1) the ability to develop your own 'web data connector' to pull data from Web APIs directly.

Tableau's Server and Online offerings are effective but expensive - prohibitively so for many businesses. Their free offering for hosting work online means published works are public. This highlights a gap in Tableau’s pricing model since every Desktop user and every consumer of data for Tableau Server needs their own license, which can become very expensive.

To allow other users to access Tableau files there is Tableau Reader (free). Reader allows other users to open a packaged workbook and even interact with data 'offline' on a PC, Mac, and there are Reader apps for mobile and tablet also.

A common scenario for sharing might be that a company wants to build a dashboard so that all their clients get the same dashboard, but so that each client only has access to their own data in the UI. At present the cost of ONE end-user license is a few hundred (£) per user (per year). Minimum. So deploying a Tableau solution that will scale with demand is just not possible for many companies. You either hit the limit of Server’s concurrent users or you hit a financial limit instead. There is talk of a new subscription model though[1], so this could change in future.

To look at your question another way we need to consider why (and when) people might stop using Tableau. My opinion is that Tableau has failed to realise two important things about their software and that if another company can solve this problem then Tableau could really lose out:

  1. Companies need to create applications, not just reports
    Yes, Tableau is interactive but you cannot use Tableau to make applications that write back to a database. It has maps, yes.. But you cannot use Tableau as the basis for an app like you might with 
    MapBox (which has multiple SDKs for different platforms) or Leaflet.js for instance. Tableau is not designed for this, so if you need apps and not reports then it is not for you. You need a developer (or dev team) instead. This is a big gap in the product that other companies are also failing to see.
  2. Tableau’s software does not directly generate revenue for (the majority) of their users
    For a company to run several copies of Tableau desktop costs several thousand pounds. This is without the additional costs of Tableau Server or end-user licenses that you will need if you want your customers to use your hosted visualisations and dashboards. Any business that chooses to use Tableau to deliver interactive reports to its customers would need to consider passing some of that cost (or all of it) onto its end users. But when we’re talking about interactive reports, not applications, it is hard to justify data reporting as a stand-alone or additional cost.

Having tried Qlik, developed with D3.js (a JavaScript visualisation library, well for 'data driven documents), and used other tools on the market Tableau continues to be a front runner. It is not without scalability issues and can get very expensive with the server licensing. It is amazing for prototyping new data products though, and in combination with databases like Google BigQuery or Hadoop/Hive/Spark there is nothing else that really rivals it.



  • Quickly build interactive reports
  • Integrates with a wide array of databases
  • Makes it easy to explore high-volume datasets
  • Great for prototyping dashboards and data applications
  • Easy to learn
  • Large online community
  • Based on good research
  • Easy to share (interactive) Tableau documents with others using Tableau Reader
  • Visualisations can be embedded into web pages (at the cost of hosting on Tableau Server)


  • Expensive licensing for small businesses
  • Tableau Reader is not appropriate for sharing at scale
  • Tableau Server does not scale well financially for many businesses (~£200 per user per year !)
  • Not for building applications
  • Difficult for businesses to justify passing the cost of hosted Tableau reports on to their customers
  • Not suitable for integrating into applications compared to tools like Mapbox.

You can refer to Tableau Course as it will help you in preparing for a career as Software Developer, BI Professional, System and IT Administrator. Most data Scientists appreciate the horsepower of Tableau Desktop paired with the Online or Server versions of the software. Also, you can take a look at this video too.

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