REVIEWER: Mark S. Burgess, CTO for sandiego.com.

BACKGROUND: sandiego.com, Inc. is an online publisher with an information portal for the San Diego region.

PLATFORMS: PCs running Windows XP and NT Professional.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Customer data resides in 18 databases within our system. Creating company-wide reports is a nightmare of data translation, importing, exporting and server credential management. The data changes on a daily basis and reports are needed on a weekly basis, making programmer support expensive.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With Tableau, nonprogrammers can connect to our databases and study them quickly and easily. Tableau connects to the database and automatically configures the dimensions and measures, which can be dragged into the viewing port to create the graphs. If you grab the item, it's easy to remove it and replace it, giving you the ability to try different views of the data in rapid succession with no negative impacts. Once the initial graph is built, you can add time dimensions to a date element for display that goes from years to quarters to months to days, with a single click for each one. Rearranging those to show the same month from two years is done by simply dragging the elements into a different order. The "show me" button can then be used to quickly cycle through different variations of the presentation. Once you've created the worksheets with the graphs you want, it's easy to export the data to your own machine so the continuous link to the data is no longer required. You can study work remotely without a connection and facilitate presentations.

STRENGTHS: Strengths include the ease of connection to multiple database types and the intuitive interface to present the connected data in multiple representations graphically.

WEAKNESSES: Some fields in a database may contain dates, but are technically text fields, so Tableau doesn't recognize them as dates, creating difficulty for a nonprogrammer. Sometimes it's not easy to tell why a particular graph looks wrong: it's easy to represent the wrong view of information for the same reasons it is easy to present any view.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Tableau based on the lack of a requirement for a programmer or database administrator to be involved in studying rapidly changing databases on different servers. All other products considered required continuous involvement from a technical person. The speed at which the view can be changed was faster and easier than other products considered.

DELIVERABLES: We have two primary output requirements for Tableau graphs: the ad hoc study of data and graph images to be included in presentations and reports.   

VENDOR SUPPORT: The trial period is time limited but not functionality limited, so we were able to try all of the scenarios we anticipated for using the product. We haven't used the technical support.

DOCUMENTATION: I have read some of the online help, but the product is so intuitive, I don't even know if it has a manual.

Tableau Professional V3.0
Tableau Software, Inc.
400 N. 34th Street, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 633-3400
www.tableausoftware.com

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