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Tableau Data Connection Options

18 Years in BI and analytics
6 Years as a Tableau partner
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350+ Tableau engagements completed
1200+ Tableau dashboards built
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Tableau connections: direct to data sources vs. data mart or data warehouse

Tableau can connect natively to many different SOR (System of Record) data sets found in an organization. They can be from transactional databases, CRM, financial systems, Excel files and so on. While connecting directly to visualize data in Tableau may seem more efficient, the results are often not optimal. The diagrams below illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of connecting directly to the SOR compared to bringing those data sets into an OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) database instead, such as a Data Mart or Data Warehouse that is specifically designed for reporting and data visualization.

Tableau connected directly to data sources

Faster to implement
Less infrastructure to manage
No ETL skills required for dashboard designers
Requires business users to understand underlying SOR database structure
Dashboards can be fragile if underlying databases change
Data blending can have poor performance
Requires extensive permissions across databases if there is sensitive data
Requires direct access from Tableau Server to SOR
Analysis is often less robust and complete

Tableau connected to a Data Mart created from various data sources

Dashboards resilient to underlying SOR changesRequires technical (ETL) skills to implement
Business does not need to understand underlying SOR database structureETL scripts require updating as underlying database changes
Combining data sets provides more analysis and insightsRequires planning and construction time
Data access permissions can be consolidated into a single locationAdditional infrastructure required (e.g., software, hardware)
Dashboards never go directly against SOR
Enterprise solution that can grow with the organization

Not sure whether you need a data warehouse or data mart to achieve optimal dashboard performance ?

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