Image: Tableau Software

The sheer volume of data generated by modern businesses on customers, transactions, and operations is staggering and mostly incomprehensible unless properly processed and analyzed. A study from Accenture and Qlik shows that, while businesses of all types can find value in data analytics, only 87% believe that data is an asset for their organization. Tableau Software’s stated mission is to provide the tools your business needs to make all that data useful, informative, and ultimately valuable.

Tableau provides the tools organizations need to transform massive volumes of business-generated data into digestible, understandable, and actionable information–the kind of information business decision makers can use to form strategies and plan operations. Tableau’s analytical tools revolve around data visualization and its ability to make data understandable to everyone in your business.

In this introduction to Tableau Software, we will discuss some of the basic features found in the suite of applications. Subsequent articles in the series about Tableau will provide detailed tutorials on how to create projects in Tableau, explore advanced features, connect to various data sources, and develop data visualization dashboards for your business.

SEE: Tableau business analytics: Tips and tricks (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Various applications in the Tableau suite

The most effective business decisions are typically dependent on a thorough comprehension and understanding of current strategic conditions and the complicated problems they present. That situational awareness is achieved through data, but only if that data is first analyzed and processed into useful information.

Image: Tableau Software

By providing applications that can gather and process data into useful information, Tableau Software can help business users at all levels of the organization visualize patterns, trends, and strategies that otherwise would remain buried in massive stores of uncorrelated data. Tableau’s suite of applications includes the following.

  • Tableau Desktop is the flagship product, providing self-service data visualization and analytics to ordinary people in your business.
  • Tableau Prep empowers your employees with tools that allow them to combine, shape, clean, and operationalize data flows.
  • Tableau Online provides a cloud-based and cloud-managed sharing and collaboration server.
  • Tableau Server provides larger business enterprises with on-premise data sharing and collaboration that is managed hands-on and under internal protocols and controls.

Tableau Software’s applications are also accessible using mobile application versions. Developers can take advantage of specific APIs and other tools to create customized business solutions based on organizational needs.

Some businesses may want to provide their customers with branded data analytic services; Tableau Software makes that possible with a set of tools called Embedded Analytics.

SEE: Feature comparison: Data analytics software and services (TechRepublic Premium)

Tableau Software pricing structure

Pricing for Tableau varies depending on what suite of tools you access, but the basic Tableau Creator package for individuals costs $70/user/month. That includes Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep, and either Tableau Online or Tableau Server.

At the organizational or team level, there is Tableau Server, which offers several more choices. Besides the Tableau Creator package at $70/user/month, there is also Tableau Explorer at $35/user/month, which allows individuals to change data in visualizations created using the Creator package. There is the Tableau Viewer package at $12/user/month, which allows users to view data visualizations but not make changes to the presented data.

For businesses looking to take advantage of cloud-computing, there is Tableau Online with the same Tableau Creator package at $70/user/month. However, using the cloud management package will raise the cost of Tableau Explorer to $42/user/month and Tableau Viewer to $15/user/month.

Tableau Software offers a free 14-day trial so businesses and individuals can try the software for themselves before making a commitment. In addition, the company also offers a public version of its software that is free for anyone to use. The Tableau Public version does not have as many features as the retail versions, but it can help you decide whether Tableau Software offers the data visualization and analytic tools your business needs.

SEE: Tableau highlights work with retailers like Yeti and Pepsi (TechRepublic)

Data analytics and visualization tools from Tableau

Gathering and processing all of the data your business generates can seem like a nearly impossible task at times, but in a modern data-driven world it is vital to your overall success. Data visualization tools like those offered by Tableau Software provide a navigable path your business can use to transform massive streams of data into useful information. Allowing data to pass without analysis places your business at a competitive disadvantage that it may not be able to recover from.