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Tableau Dashboards Sourced from OLAP vs. a Relational Database: An Analysis

Seattle-based Tableau Software is widely recognized as one of the leading providers of data visualization products that focuses on Business Intelligence (BI) and Business Analytics (BA).  Their systems help corporate users analyze, visualize and share information.

Tableau has been ranked by Gartner and IDC as one of the world’s fastest growing software companies. With a customer base of over 10,000 companies, and tens of thousands of people using Tableau to share data in their blogs and websites, they are a force in the BI world.  There are other data visualization systems in the business intelligence market, but the purpose of this article is to specifically discuss Tableau dashboards sourced from Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) vs. Relational Database (RDB) sources.

Reasons for Using Tableau

Tableau is a popular BI and Analytics tool among technical and non-technical users for several reasons.

  • Self Service BI.  Users of corporate BI and BA systems can create their own reports and dashboards without putting additional strain on the BI development team.
  • Quick Development.  Tableau is designed with quick and straight forward design and drag/drop features that allow non-technical users to quickly build effective dashboards.
  • Data Visualization. Tableau allows for a highly interactive and effective analytical experience for users and provides professional layout templates and features for meaningful reporting and dashboarding.

A Typical BI and Analytics User Profile

While BI and Analytics users come in many varieties (finance, accounting, operations, marketing, sales, and more), here is a classic profile for a typical user.  The user:

  • Has very little, if any, database or technical knowledge outside Microsoft Excel—where they are often quite knowledgeable
  • Is not educated on relational database concepts such as tables and metrics
  • Has different formulas, calculations and requirements for corporate metrics—based on their own needs or departmental needs and procedures
  • Needs required data to be updated frequently throughout the day in order to make the best business decisions

Because of this typical profile, the need for a BI dashboarding system that is easy to create, navigate and use, is very important.  The platform needs to provide near-instantaneous data query results and with data that is refreshed frequently. 

Whether they realize it or not, most users also need a system that is reusable and maintainable.  All underlying components need to be reused by other tools and users.  Dimension hierarchies and business metrics should be standardized across all business units and maintained in a central location to avoid data errors. 

Based on these factors, click on the link below to see the complete, formatted PDF article and see the pros and cons of users obtaining their reports and dashboards from an OLAP source vs. a RDB source.

Tableau Dashboards Sourced from OLAP vs RDB

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