Adrift in a Sea of Numbers

This summer I helped a client automate several Excel sales reports, comparing sales forecasts to actual sales, and last year's results to this year's. It's a complicated process, pulling numbers from different systems, updating lookup tables, compiling the numbers, and creating reports by product, by customer and by sales rep. Before we automated the process, it took one person almost a week to create the reports, and despite all that effort, nobody was happy with the results.

  • The sales reps thought there was too much data to wade through – they wanted to focus on their customers and sales. Were sales on target? Which customers need more attention?
  • The managers wanted to see the big picture, and quickly assess how things were going overall. Were all the brands performing as expected? Which products or customers were growing or declining?

Tableau Dashboard

While working on the reports, I noticed peopletalking about Tableau dashboards in Twitter. I followed their links, and was really impressed by what I found. With Tableau, we could quickly connect to the data in Excel, and also link to the lookup tables, so all the prices and descriptions would be accurate and instantly updated. So, I downloaded a trial version of Tableau, and created some reports from the client's data. It was really easy to get up and running, creating tables and charts, with quick filters that let me focus on a specific brand, customer, or sales rep. Next month, when there's a new set of data, the old file can simply be replaced by the new file (with the same name), and the charts and tables will automatically refresh when the Tableau workbook is opened.

Share the Results

After you create reports in Tableau, you can send out a pdf file, or a Tableau workbook, to share the results. There's a free Tableau reader, so recipients can open the workbook file, and adjust all the filters, sliders and other controls that you've added to the dashboard. Each person can analyze the data in a way that's meaningful to them, and drill down to the details, or step back to absorb the bigger picture. To give you an idea of what's possible in Tableau, I've created a sample workbook, shown below. Dan G. Murray, COO of InterWorks Inc., generously shared the sample sales data that he used for a presentation at the Tableau Customer Conference this summer. With Dan's data, I made a few dashboards, and Elissa Fink, VP Marketing at Tableau, published them on the Tableau Public server.

Try It Yourself!

Here's the first dashboard in the workbook, focused on sales rep results and country totals. Each sales rep can see their overall total, and total and average sales by country. The map gives a snapshot of sales location, and clearly shows that large sections of the USA aren't buying the company's products. You can experiment with the dashboard controls, and change the way the data is presented. You might have to widen your browser window, to see the full dashboard.

  • There's a date range selector at the top left of the dashboard. Only the past four weeks of sales results are in the dashboard, but you can select a specific number of previous weeks, or other range, such as previous quarter.
  • At the bottom left of the dashboard, in the Salesman Name list, click the highlighter at the top right, to turn on the Highlight Selected Items feature. Then, click on a Sales Rep name in one section of the dashboard, and that name is highlighted in all the sections.

Dashboard on Tableau: Sales Rep Dashboard


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38 Responses

  1. Bob Phillips says:

    It’s not cheap though.

  2. Michael W Cristiani says:

    Dan, what you said. Plus, you didn’t mention, though I know you meant to, that Debra claims she did this using the 14-Day Free Trial of Tableau. That’s relatively inexpensive. Some other random thoughts related to the value proposition:

    ROI per seat for Tableau, measured in time saved and reduction in health care costs related to Excel-Stress alone is nearly instantaneous (speaking from experience here). I would be happy to discuss this in detail with anyone who wishes.

    Tableau training is organic and freely available and accessible. Proficiency comes very rapidly for many Tableau users. I think it has much to do with the fact that the focused mission of the scary smart Tableau Software founders and developers is to help people answer questions in ways that lead to action that can change to world. This has led to the pursuit of products that respect the human person and leverage modern research about the way the brain works. As a result, Tableau is beautifully simple and simply beautiful.

    Conversely, as Debra and many other Excel experts will probably tell you, even significantly “experienced” Excel users have notable difficulty using Excel for simple data analysis tasks, let alone visual data analysis. And, no judgment here, the Microsoft’s mission for Excel is not the same.

    Peace and All Good!
    Micheal W Cristiani
    Market Intelligence Group, LLC

  3. Dan Murray says:

    I respectfully disagree with Bob.

    From a cost perspective Tableau shouldn’t be compared with Excel. More appropriate cost comparisons would be with applications starting at $40,000.

    My own personal experience with Tableau/Excel for reporting analytical data from large data sets is that the time savings for compilation and reporting was huge (exceeded 90% reduction). Finally, Tableau’s can display more data, more easily and in a more accessible way for most information consumers.

    When you consider capability, ease of use, and the ability to distribute visually stunning reports via a free reader application, I think Tableau is a bargain.

  4. Thanks Bob, Dan and Michael, for your comments. My first Tableau workbooks were made with the 14 day trial version, and the sample posted here was done in the licensed copy. And yes, Tableau is more expensive than Excel, but it’s not something that every employee needs on their desktop. One or two people can create the reports and distribute them.

    I’ll post another article here in the next few days, and show why I found it much easier to create these sales reports in Tableau, than in Excel.

  5. Dan Murray, what is your relationship with Tableau?

  6. Iain Noakes says:

    Tableau is a fantastic visual analysis tool that we have used here at Draftfcb London for over 2 years completing our broader data and analysis software SAS 9.1 & Enterprise Guide 4 and of course more broadly MS Office & Excel . Tableau is exceptionally easy to set-up and get to grips with – anyone competent with Excel can develop multi layered dashboards and analysis very quickly. Ease of updating the data sets and visualisations is a god-send. Try it – you’ll be sure to buy it.

  7. Dan Murray says:


    I started using Tableau over two years ago as a way to develop a high value low cost BI solution for my company as a purchaser of Tableau’s desktop products and later its Server products.

    Joining InterWorks Inc in December 2008, I faciliated developing a reseller agreement for InterWorks with Tableau Software.

    So, we are affiliated with Tableau as a reseller.

  8. Michael W Cristiani says:


    Well said. Also, in Excel, one might blow the up front cost of a Tableau named user desktop license on one hand-cranked visualization. This makes Tableau worth a look, for sure.

    Peace and All Good!
    Micheal W Cristiani
    Market Intelligence Group, LLC

  9. Andy Cotgreave says:

    Of course Tableau is more expensive than Excel, but it’s not trying to be Excel. It’s trying to be a world-class BI, visualisation tool. That puts it up against the big and ugly BI behemoths like Oracle BIEE.

    Those big boys do not offer the exploration abilities that Tableau does – the visualisation interface is so flexible and fast you can change the layout of a visualisation almost instantly. You certainly could not do that in Excel, and the big BI tools don’t do it either.

    (keen customer of Tableau, organiser of the UK Tableau User Group conference)

  10. Bob Phillips says:

    Debra, Dan, Michael,

    I am not arguing that Tableau is or is not a good product. What it does is to create the same dichotomy that made Excel so ubiquitous in the first place, namely that an expensive resource is necessarily limited, those owning that resource control its usage, the real user get frustrated by this, and so they do their own thing.

    We have seen it in the past with central IT areas, probably quite capabble of delivering what the users wanted (they were when I worked there), but being directed towards more ‘enterprise’ endeavours, meaning that the users went and did their own thing.

    By having expensive software, even if it is cheaper than some of the major players offerings, and suggesting that it is only required by 1 or 2 people is playing the same tune. Those 1 or 2 become powerful, they control the workflow, the real user get frustrated …

    This is the same dilemma we have now with MS and their attempt to push BI towards SQL Server, it can deliver great stuff, but it isolates the business again.

    Of course, it can create good opportunities for good consultants like Debra and myself to buy a copy, build solutions for our clients, give them the free reader, and tie them into coming back to us each and every time they need an amendment. But is that really good business.

    Now if Tableau were $125, we can get ubiquitous.

    @Andy – when is the UK Tableau User Group conference, I would love to attend.

  11. @Bob
    You make some great points!

    The UK conference already happened, back in July. Amazing day – we had 40 attendees, including Pat Hanrahan, one of Tableau’s co-founders. Some great sessions, and a really good vibe.

    It was only advertised to existing UK customers, so word didn’t get too far. Keep your eyes peeled on the link on my name, or on the Tableau site for details of next year – it’ll probably be around the same time.


  12. Bob Phillips says:

    Thanks Andy, I will keep an eye open.

    Next time we meet, I would love to discuss the whole topic, Tableau in particular, BI in general, with you.

  13. Dan Murray says:


    The reason I feel that Tableau is a bargin:

    A single license for Tableau Desktop Pro allows a single report designer to build visualizations for many people…those people can download the FREE Tableau Reader software and interact with the visualization. You can go to Tableau’s website and try it out by downloading Reader, then downloading one of the many free prebuilt visual examples.

    Think of Tableau Reader like Adobe Acrobat on steroids.

    In addition, there is no risk with Tableau. You can download a 14 day trial of Tableau Desktop Pro and try it out. I generally recommend to our clients that we identify some specific data to play with, then download the trial software so that you can fully appreicate the differences between Tableau, Excel and much more expensive data cube technology.

    In addition, from a standpoint of ease of use for non-technical information consumers, there is no comparison between Tableau and other analysis tools. Based on my personal experience working with my own employees and clients, Tableau is just easier for non-tech info consumers to interact with.

  14. Bob Phillips says:


    This is an interesting thread, so please read my statements as interested comments/questions, I am not just dissing the product. It is an important aspect of BI, and I would like to learn more.

    I have already made the point that concentrating the tool in a few hands is a double edged sword, it does mitigate the cost, but it can create bottlenecks, and power cliques. It needs good management, something I rarely see in larger corporations unfortunately.

    As for no risk, sure, many products give a trial period, but do you really believe that 14 days is long enoug to evaluate it. I don’t. I cannot afford to devote time to an evaluation in such a short period, no client would pay for my time so I would have to do it in spare time, which is difficult.

    I am struggling to see how Tableau can compete with cube software as you intimate. The whole rationale of cube software is to take the source data and pre-process it into a form that can be queried in a very fast manner. I can see that Tableau can sit on top of this and make the dashboarding process a lot more efficient, but how does it make it quicker to query a 10M row ERP?

    I am never going to be buying the enterprise BI products, I see far more mileage in OLAP cubes and an Excel front-end (a pivot table connected to a cube is an awesome beast, and cube formulae are fantastic). Dashboarding can be done, obviously if we can ease that process that would be great, but I think I could struggle to convince clients to buy Tableau, even if I believed. As I said, I could supply Tableau enabled product and my clients could use the reader, but that is not a good business model.

    I am quite prepared to believe that Tableau is a great tool, but it seems to me to be a niche tool, and I have already spent far too much of my time on such tools (NeXt, Whitelight, Brio, Cast, and so on). I want to deploy the tool that is going to really imapct (is that Gemini?).

  15. Dan Murray says:


    I don’t feel that you are dissing the product. I’m just want to clearly outlining the value proposition. So, I want to address each issue you raise.

    1. Concentration the tool in a few hands.

    I completely agree, you don’t want bottlenecks. With Tableau Desktop and Tableau reader you will be democratizing data, not locking it up. With one Tableau workbook saved as a packaged workbook you can share a “flexible” workbook that will meet the needs of many users.

    2. 14 Day Trial: Yes, 14 days is enough (if you plan or you get help from someone who can shortcut your learning)

    3. Tableau and Cubes (10M row ERP) – Tableau isn’t meant to replace a data cube. It will however, make the cube more accessible to more users. Tableau reads SSAS and Oracle cubes. I would not recommend connecting any tool (cube or Tableau) to an unaudited 10M row database unless you warn your user base of the potential for granular data issues.

    When I first started using Tableau personally I was looking for a flexible way to build a BI solution on top of Excel. I was able to build basic sales reports, AR, and AP reports within the 14 day trial. After I purchased a single copy of Tableau Desktop, I added inventory and purchasing reports in another 2 weeks.

    Tableau is a unique product. One that I feel at least 10% of the legal users of MS Office (Excel) should be taking advantage of. I would be happy to demonstrate the value of it in real-time with a web session if you’re interested. You can reach me via my email directly at Call the main desk and ask for me. No obligation. I will show you how Tableau can visualize data in real-time.

    My work experience predates Lotus 123. When Lotus hit the market in 1982 and I got my hands on a copy and realized that the spreadsheet was going to change how business gets done. Tableau is as big a paradigm shift (for analyzing data) as the spreadsheet was in 1982.

    Regarding cube software….Tableau can read SSAS and Essbase cubes. I’ve personally linked it to 12M row database with reasonable performance. If you have an ERP system that has 10M row of data, how do you analyze that granular data now? It can’t be Excel. :)

    Please realize Bob that I’m an avid fan of Excel and I have advanced pivot table skills. I can tell you, Tableau can express more dimensional aspect of the data, more easily than a Pivot table.

    I’ve implemented low cost BI solutions for clients using Tableau as the rendering tool and Excel as the back-end repository…or Access. Tableau is not a niche product like Brio, Cast, Whitelight or NeXt. It is an evolutionary product that takes the best science of how the human mind perceives information and applies that logic to any dataset you it to. You can connect it to Excel, Access, text, or a multitude enterprise class database product.

    Alternatively, if you happen to be looking at a table on Wikipedia, you can copy that table, open Tableau (edit/paste) and analyze that table in Tableau very quickly.

    Finally…you can render a dashboard with information from multiple data sources using a single view in Tableau. You can prove all of this to yourself without investing a penny for the software. I will be happy to send you samples of workbooks I’ve created using public data which you can view using the Free Reader product.

    Debra….sorry for hogging so much space on your blog:)

  16. Dan, no problem. ;-) As Bob said, this is a very interesting thread, and I appreciate everyone’s comments and questions.

  17. Bob Phillips says:

    Dan, I am very much into SSAS, generally using Pivots and cube formulae as I said earlier. A decent sashboarding tool would be useful which is why I picked up on this blog in the first place, but finding time for an evaluation is difficult. I would like to avail myself of your offer though and look at some of your sample workbooks in Reader.

    One other question regarding solutions that you have built. Is your business model that you build a solution and give it to the client for consumption with Reader, or do you look for them to buy Tableau, and you give them start-up consultancy?

  18. Dan Murray says:

    Hi Jeff;

    I’m not sure I can satisfactorily address your questions in this forum, but I’ll give it a try.

    1. Regarding the 14 day trial – I’m speaking from personal experience. I was able to do several Tableau workbooks within the two weeks which related to sales analysis, inventory analysis, AR and AP analysis within that time. I then purchased a license. Following that, I was able to develop purchasing analysis within another couple of weeks. Most of that time was sorting out how to get all of the information related to PO, receipt and ultimately the vendor invoice. They all had to be matched….which in my case the transactions themselves, in some cases, stretched over (3) accounting periods.

    2. Regarding SQL Script – Tableau uses a proprietary variant of scripting called VizQL. You can read more about it here. ( So, your script may not work exactly the same in Tableau. But, I haven’t run into a situation were I couldn’t script a solution (if necessary). It most definitely will do T-SQL and all the other major variants. You may need to download a driver here:

    3. I admit that I’m a bit of a data freak. I enjoy doing this stuff so I tend to do it after my kids are in bed and early in the mornings on my weekends. When I first discovered Tableau (mainly due to Stephen Few’s books…which I highly recommend), I was a man with a problem looking for a solution. Tableau fit my needs perfectly. So….I went at learning the tool pretty hard from the very beginning. I think I watch all 13 hours of the training videos on Tableau site ( the first weekend I had the product. I’ve also outlined the training videos for InterWorks clients so that you can skip quickly to particular parts. You can email me at and I’ll send you those outlines.

    4. Tableau is serious about there product being the best. But, the definition of what is good or great can be wholly dependent on your specific situation. I use Excel every day for may tasks. I just find Tableau to be a better tool for multidimensional, visual analysis.

    5. I have no control over there pricing model that Tableau has established but in my opinion Tableau competes well with products costing over $40,000. Most other “BI” or “Visual Analysis” tools on the market cost much more. I don’t consider Excel to be competing directly with Tableau.

    In my experience the time saving that I’ve received from using Tableau has been significant. My payback on the single license that I started with (based on labor savings only) was under 30 days.

    5. I love my job…..playing around with this stuff is fun for me.

    Jeff, perhaps I should do some kind of blog post using your specific data as an example. If your interested in participating in something like that I’d love to. Perhaps Debra would like to work on that with me and it can be a post on this blog. This thread has generated a little interest. I’m game if you are:)

  19. Jeff Weir says:

    Dan, your point that a is enough (if you plan or you get help from someone who can shortcut your learning) to me misses the point that Tableau could offer a longer trial at no cost to themselves but at maximum benefit to the evaluator.

    I downloaded Tablea and had a play with it yesterday. First thing I did is cut some really complicated SQL queries out of Excel that feed my Pivot Table, and paste them into Tableau. They didn’t work…maybe because of the intermediary tables that the query creates and then drop, maybe because it doesn’t understand TSQL, maybe because these queries are just too damn long, maybe it doesn’t like my joins. I didn’t have time to troubleshoot it then and there…I was just having a quick test drive. I only work 4 days a week, and next week I have stuff to do that my boss is breathing down my neck for. At home, I have a young family, so time is a very precious resource 24/7.

    14 days is a very narrow period of time in the corporate world. If Tableau were serious about their product being the best, and think that all we need to do is play around with it in order to get hooked, why not offer 2 or ever 3 months trial? Only cost to them is that some people might do small projects in that time without ‘renting’ their tool…which is a very small and relatively painless risk. But much kudos from those of us that are soo busy doing our jobs on existing tools that we’re practically forced to play around with this kind of stuff on our own time.

  20. Jeff Weir says:

    Whoops, that was supposed to read “your point that a 14 day trial is enough…”

  21. Andy Cotgreave says:

    hi Jeff
    I am sorry you haven’t found the Tableau trial useful. I’ve had no problems with some very complex SQL; I am sure you could iron those out with time. In the meantime, couldn’t you just connect directly to your Excel? The point of the trial, in my opinion, is to get used to the simple way you can create vizualisations, and the rapid way you can find the story in your data.

    Ironing out connections can come later; in the meantime, just hook Tableau to some of your Excel files – I am sure you’ll see the power of Tableau that way.

  22. Gordon says:

    @Jeff Weir

    Agree 100% about the evaluation time and the fact that many, myself included, have to evaluate products such as Tableau in their own time.

    My own evaluation has only a few days left and yet this morning is the first time I’ve had a chance to work on it since the middle of last week. It is highly unlikely that I will be able to do more than scratch the surface with it it, and sadly that probably means it won’t figure in our future plans.

    Tableau looks to be an excellent piece of software but the restrictive evaluation period kills it for me. A non-expiring version with publish/print options disabled would probably achieve much the as the time-limited trial, but allow those with genuine interest but limited time a chance to fully explore the possibilities of the software.

    Agree 100% about the evaluation time and the fact that many, myself included, have to evaluate products such as Tableau in their own time.

    My own evaluation has only a few days left and yet this morning is the first time I’ve had a chance to work on it since the middle of last week. It is highly unlikely that I will be able to do more than scratch the surface with it it, and sadly that probably means it won’t figure in our future plans.

    Tableau looks to be an excellent piece of software but the restrictive evaluation period kills it for me. A non-expiring version with publish/print options disabled would probably achieve much the as the time-limited trial, but allow those with genuine interest but limited time a chance to fully explore the possibilities of the software.

  23. Michael W Cristiani says:

    Regarding the length of the Tableau trial period: IMHO, a phone call (206-633-3400 x1) or e-mail to your sales rep (, and if we are talking about the UK, it is probably will likely get you a new trial. Alternatively, just go to the trial page on their web site and download the trial again – no biggie. Actually, I have heard/seen at least one of their bigs tell a potential customer to do that. In my experience, they would rather you do that and engage them on the merits, than have you walk away with an unsubstantiated foul taste in your mouth for no good reason.

    Peace and All Good!
    Michael W Cristiani

  24. Michael W Cristiani says:


    Echoing Dan’s offer, and my e-mail address is As is surely the case for Dan, I will sign any MNDA you might require.

    Peace and All Good!
    Michael W Cristiani

  25. Bob Phillips says:

    @Jeff, that was my point exactly. We cannot dedicate ourselves to evaluating full time, and if a product is worth $999 that it needs a proper review.

    @Andy, I respectfully have to disagree with you. It is not just a question of seeing the pretty pictures, we have to know how it works, what demands it makes, and so on. Jeff needs to know whether the product can dela with his particular requirements, just being assured that .. I am sure you could iron those out with time.., is not gooed enough, he might just as well take the salesman’s pitch and buy it.

    @Michael, if Tableau are willing to do that, even advocate it, why not just extend it in the first place. When I first downloaded SQL Sever they gave me 90 days, and I could still have done with more (although I knew by then that it was for me). It is not a cheap product, it needs a proper review, and as I said, not all of us can dedicate our time, we have to make a living as well as keep abreast.

    @Dan, that would be a great blog, and I would like to see it. But it will not alter my view that 14 days is enough, it isn’t. Are those workbooks still on offer?

  26. @Bob
    Fair enough, I accept that the way the connections work are as vital as the vizualisations. I’d echo Michael’s suggestion that people contact Tableau for an extension, but yeah, I suppose it would be useful if they simply extended the trial period and turned off a few more features.

  27. Dan Murray says:


    Mike’s correct. If you want an extension you can call Tableau and get one. Rather than worrying about that why not get a full demo with your own data. I’m happy to do that. My email address is above. I’ve found that end users love Tableau..but they need to see it working to appreciate it.

  28. Michael W Cristiani says:


    After doing some checking and reviewing our own pre-purchase experience re: Tableau Desktop Professional, I think it can be said that Tableau Software will extend license trials when working with prospects who are progressing toward a purchase decision. Often, just a phone call to explain what it is that needs to be evaluated further is all it takes. The 14-day trial is a real product, not a demo. It is probably the case that most who do set out to evaluate Tableau have an immediate/pressing business analytics problem they are facing and have been frustrated by the time and effort associated with alternatives. In our case, we did as Dan suggests, and checked out the online videos and tutorials before even downloading the trial, just to get the picture (forest). What we discovered is that the Tableau trial and the sales process Tableau Software uses are designed to be Try it, then Buy it, or not if it is not for you. That’s different from try it, use it, learn about your own issues with it, solve real business problems with it, maybe render income producing visual analytics applications with it, educate yourself about great software with it, and then finally buy it, or not.

    Tableau Desktop is priced so that it can be purchased in single user quantity. So the cost of a “pilot” copy in very small when considering a larger order of many desktops or a Server.

    From following discussions on the Tableau forums, I have learned that many Tableau customers insist that they experienced positive ROI on the purchase price – during the 1st two week trial even, and gladly complete the purchase cycle, not knowing what issues they may experience down the road. Usually, Tableau users are more than ecstatic over the increased interactive insights and discovery afforded by this tool.

    Peace and All Good!
    Michael W Cristiani

  29. Bob Phillips says:

    @Michael, I have worked for large financial organisations responsible for product purchases that would cost millions (GBP, not even $) and I have to say that every organisation that we dealt with realised that we needed pproper time to do a fullroduct analysis and review, and granted us that time. Of course, our buying clout may have influenced them, but I doubt that was the only reason.

    I do not have a pressing need for such a product, and I would suggest that most people like myself do not. I can create dashboards very effectively now, but I am cognisant that the way that I do things may not be the best, and so I am looking out for product all of the time. Unfortunately, I am a one man band and to me the cost of Tableu is high. If I am to buy, I need to know that I will recover that outlay, I will certainly not get a RoI in two weeks as I don’t do data analysis as my job, but I will be looking to generate business by having a solutions edge (and don’t forget, as well as buying it myself I have to convince my customers to buy it). But the purchase price ie not the whole story, I have to fit it into my schedule, and I am busy (I have evaluated 4 products already this year, not to mention Excel 2010 and Gemini testing), so I need time.

    I am sorry to keep banging on about this, but I think Tableau are making a big mistake in restricting it to 14 days. I hope the guys from Tableau are following this blog, because I believe that 30 days should be the minimum that they offer. They may be willing to extend, but by only offering 14 days makes them look as though they are just product-shifters, which I don’t believe is the case, but is the impression given out. I heard of Tableau some time ago, probably frfom Andy, but I didn’t follow it up then because of the price and evaluation period. Whilst yours and Dan’s offers are very generous, and I will avail myself of them, you cannot do that for the whole world (or that part of it that might be interested in Tableau).

    I think I should shut up now, I have said all I can on the matter, Tableau will either do something or not which of course is their prerogative, and find some time to do a proper trial as the positive response from real users is impressive.

  30. Matt says:

    In response to Bob’s original comment: from the strict perspective of distributing non-public web reports, Tableau – more specifically, Tableau Server and it’s Web Interactor and Web Viewer licenses – does not seem cheap to me, either.

    For web-based bar graphs, line graphs, heat maps, stock charts, country maps, bullet graphs, etc., there are either plain html/css techniques, javascript libraries, or flash tools that are either free or appear less expensive. I mention amcharts in particular – no, I’m not a marketer – because I haven’t seen a cheaper option that can produce such quality results. The charts may have too many way to produce chart junk, but they have the capacity to make clean visualizations. But more to the point of the latter half of the discussion: because amcharts is linkware, your “trial” period never expires; you can test as long as you see fit before you decide to purchase – if you even do decide to purchase. Their visual editor is impressive, too.

  31. jeff weir says:

    I just invited Lindsay Lang the International Sales Manager of tableu software to comment here. Will be great to have the manufacturer participating in this conversation.

  32. Joe Mako says:

    In my year of using Tableau, I found a passion for data. Tableau has allowed me to answer questions in an iterative process of discovery, with speed and ability I previously thought were outside my capabilities. Tableau has made data more approachable for me. Yes, Tableau was difficult for me to understand the first time I used it, but there are many avenues to gain understanding of Tableau’s approach: weekly live training, recorded training videos, access to experts via your sales rep, an active Q&A forum, and a multitude of sample workbooks all over the site that can be looked to understand how it was made. If you want to see the benefits Tableau can provide for your data before you learn how to use it, Tableau has expert services available too. The community of Tableau users are very welcoming, just post a tweet with the tag #Tableau, or a question on the Tableau forum, and answers abound. As others have said, Tableau provides a high ROI, but like anything thing else that is new, it takes an investment of time to learn how to be highly effective. I have also heard good things about Stephen McDaniel’s book “Rapid Graphs with Tableau” for getting up to speed quickly with Tableau.

  33. Elissa Fink says:

    What an interesting thread this is – thanks everyone who is making it so. And Jeff, thanks for inviting us from Tableau to participate. Of course, having worked with Debra on the original dashboards that spawned this conversation, I’ve been keeping up. This has been very valuable.

    We have heard that for some people Tableau’s 14-day trial period is too short. However, in a recent survey of people who tried Tableau, we learned that most people said 14 days was the right amount of time (or more than enough time). And as other ways of evaluating Tableau, we offer a lot of free training resources, videos, industry-based examples, and case studies.

    That being said, we recognize that for some people a 14 day trial is not enough time. That’s why we are generally flexible in granting extensions, as Dan and Mike indicated. Since we are in our 2010 marketing planning phases, we will look at the length of our trial time, ways it can be extended more easily and/or other ways people can try Tableau for a fuller evaluation.

    In terms of how Tableau is positioned, I think Dan, Mike and Andy have nailed it. We like to say we help people see and understand their data. So we think of ourselves as a visualization and business intelligence solution that people all over an organization can use.

    If anyone would like to talk offline, please email me at

    Thanks again for all the comments. And thank you Debra for generating such an interesting set of comments!

    Elissa Fink
    VP Marketing
    Tableau Software

  34. jeff weir says:

    Thanks Erica. I hear what you are saying, but Seth Godin is in the back of my head yelling something. Wait a minute, I’ll put him on…

    Hi Erica. Seth Godin here. Why wait until your 2010 planning cylce to look at this? You exceed someone’s expectations more if you offer something that they don’t ask for (but desire) than if you wait until they ask for it themselves. In economic terms, there’s an opportunity for a more pareto-efficient solution – a solution that makes both parties better off. I don’t think a 14 day trial will exceed anyone’s expectations. An automatic 30 day trial would just meet my expectations. A 90 day trial would exceed them. If Tableau is a desirable and remarkable purple cow,you guys should aim to exceed expectations from the get go.

    Okay, thanks Seth. Sorry about that, Erica…sometimes I need to free those voices, or I end up muttering to myself in my cubicle, which upsets my colleagues more than usual.



  35. Thanks Elissa, for contributing to the discussion here. Dick Kusleika has just posted an article on software trial periods, sparked by the comments here.

    I’d like to see the trial period increased to 30 days, to allow enough time to explore the features, and test with different data sets. It’s amazing how many interruptions occur, even during a slow week in the summer!

  36. jeff weir says:

    @Andy…good point re just hooking up to Excel for now, and sorting connections later.
    @Dan…thanks for the pointer to a driver. I’ll just hook up to Excel for now given limited time, but I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on.

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