The State of Tableau: Q&A with AIM Consultant Tricia Duncan


We recently had a chance to sit down with AIM Consultant Tricia Duncan to discuss some Tableau tips and tricks for both businesses and users.

Q: Why should an organization invest in a platform like Tableau? Is this sort of investment more relevant to an enterprise than a small to medium business?

I think the numbers speak for themselves, for the seventh consecutive year Tableau has been recognized as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics Business Intelligence platforms. This recognition is extremely valuable to an analyst like myself, I’ve had this exact conversation with multiple enterprise and SMB clients who are deciding in which BI tool to invest. From my experience using 10+ business intelligence tools, Tableau is the most flexible from a developer standpoint. The discussion of what size companies should use Tableau actually has very little to do with the platform itself. I tell clients and companies of any size that when evaluating these platforms you need to consider two main things: your current data environment and your stakeholders. When you look into investing in a BI platform like Tableau you need to be 100% certain it fits the needs of both.

Q: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Tableau, as compared to other data viz platforms?

Great question. The answer is long and other individuals have had the time to write detailed answers so for your benefit I’ll summarize. First off, the disadvantages:

  1. Tableau is not a data processing tool
  2. Tableau is very expensive to scale across an enterprise.

Secondly, the advantages (this took me awhile to narrow down since I would like to list my top 10):

  1. Speed and agility to create interactive visualizations at any level
  2. The Tableau community. I’ll dive into this some more below.

Q: What are some resources you would recommend to learn more about Tableau tips & tricks?

The number one resource that has helped me pick up tips and tricks is my local Tableau User Group that meets monthly here in the Twin Cities. These groups have picked up momentum over the last few years and are in most major cities. Secondly, the many Tableau practice sites are great resources that allow you to grow with real time examples – check out #makeovermonday or #workoutwednesday.

Q: What would you recommend to a Tableau newbie who wants to improve their skills?

I would recommend going through the Learning tab in Tableau as a first step along your Tableau journey, then if you or your company can swing it I suggest the annual Tableau Conference. This year the conference will be in Vegas! Another recommendation is to push for doing much of your current analytics in Tableau even if you’re not 100% comfortable, using real world examples is the best way to learn and improve your skills.

Q: Can you discuss the benefits of the Tableau Conference and what it entails?

The benefits of the Tableau Conference are almost immeasurable: 4-5 days to soak in the best knowledge through networking, hands-on trainings, case studies and Zen masters blowing your mind with tips and tricks. The conference is what you make of it and heavily focuses on Tableau newbies, but also does a great job providing something for all users at all levels. Plus you may just get to dance onstage with Sir Mix-a-Lot (true story).

Q: What is it like being a Tableau Partner? 

There are multiple levels of partnership with Tableau but the most popular is the Alliance Partner tier which is where AIM sits. Tableau is always working to improve its relationship with partners. They have a great partner portal where companies get access to trainings, marketing material, license control, demo software, and deal registrations. As an analytics consultant trying to stay on top of the latest and greatest upcoming features, I greatly enjoy the quarterly meetings to which we have access where Tableau leadership discusses the roadmap for the future. This helps me stay on-top of the latest releases even before they go into Beta. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great support and assistance from our Partner Manager, Chelsea Graham.

Q: What is your favorite feature in Tableau?

I have tried avoiding this question for a while, since Tableau comes out with new releases so often that the awesome features list is long! But alas, my favorite feature is still the classic drag-and-drop functionality which Tableau perfected many moons ago. Those in the biz now simply refer to this as Dragon Drop, t-shirts are available.

Q: Talk about the Tableau community and local Tableau User Group. 

One of my favorite topics surrounding Tableau is the User Group. I may be biased as I’m a co-organizer with the Twin Cities Tableau User Group (TCTUG), but the community surrounding and supporting Tableau is strong! Our goal with the User Group is to provide a fun and safe environment for all skill levels, companies, sectors, backgrounds, and Zen Masters. We talk shop on all topics which may include case studies, technical demos, real business problems, tips and tricks, as well as personal Tableau projects. I also can’t forget the epic networking and social hours we usually have each month before the TCTUG to get everyone warmed up for learning. This community truly cares about the advancement of the platform as well as its users which is hard to come by in the competitive world of Business Intelligence technologies.

For more information about our local monthly meetings: