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Does Your Organization Need Tableau Prep?

Author: Srutimala Deka

What is Tableau Prep?

From the Official documentation.

Tableau Prep is a tool in the Tableau product suite designed to make preparing your data easy and intuitive. Use Tableau Prep Builder to combine, shape, and clean your data for analysis in Tableau.

Tableau Prep capabilities include:

  • Data pre-processing

  • Integrating programming scripts

  • Creating reusable flows

  • Publishing flows and scheduling it

  • Editing flows right in the web with Creator License

Now, Tableau Desktop allows some data preparation steps with limitations. Most importantly, it wasn’t designed for data wrangling and shaping. It is purely a visualization tool with the ease of drag and drop feature.

When to use Tableau Prep?

When the data source has more dirty data than clean data, the data requires text manipulations before it is usable, or has data that is not monitored for correctness, etc., then it needs to go through a set of preparation steps as defined by its end use.

Use the checklist below to determine if your organization would benefit from creating flows in Tableau Prep before the data is used for visual analyses.

  • The shape of the data in the source is different from the shape it needs to be in for visualization. In Tableau Prep Builder, we can reshape the data and fill up nulls as required to be used directly in charts. It will not affect the data source and is custom-made for the analysis.

  • Data requires complex calculations which are too elaborate for Tableau Desktop or need programmatic scripts like Python. Some calculations in Tableau can benefit from high-level languages that make logics simpler to write; for example, replace multiple LODs in Tableau Desktop with a single line of code in Python using TabPy Server (see here).

  • Tableau Workbooks are slow. Sometimes the simplest analysis will demand multiple calculations in Tableau purely due to the nature of the data in the source. For example, an index column being absent in the data will prevent Tableau optimization from performing at its best. The data can be prepared accordingly in Tableau Prep prior to creating the visualization (see more.)

  • Text manipulations. Text or string manipulations are always expensive in Tableau and best handled within the Data source or in Tableau Prep. For example, splitting a field into x parts and joining it with another column to create a new field within Tableau Prep.

  • KPIs that need to be reused or standardized. Tableau Prep allows not only data democratization but also the ability to maintain data accuracy. There are KPIs being defined locally within Tableau workbooks that more often diverge with time as the business undergoes change. Tableau Prep makes it easy to view what is being consumed and update them if required.

  • Number mismatch between visualizations. A uniform treatment of data across all deployed visualizations will help overcome the problem of data not adding up across reports. Tableau Prep allows the reuse of flows or part of flows in Tableau workbooks. Lastly, encourage your data team to get familiar with Tableau Prep and take their feedback on whether they would benefit from the tool.

Get started with Tableau Prep Builder

Tableau Prep has been renamed Tableau Prep Builder since the 2019.1.2 version. It requires installation of the file (find here), followed by activation of the account.

Points to keep in mind before installation:

  • Tableau Prep requires a Creator License for its users.

  • Install Tableau Prep Builder on the same system where Tableau Desktop is installed. They are built to work in cohesion.

  • It is important to NOT install Tableau Prep where the Tableau Server is installed/hosted (see why here).

  • The Full system requirement can be found here.

After installation, launch the application, which will open an activation page.

Activation can be done with either of the following:

  • Product-key

  • Login based

Login-based activation only requires the URL to the Tableau Server.

For more information on the activation of Tableau Prep, see here.

Note: Tableau Prep Conductor is part of the Tableau Prep bundle, which allows automating flow run schedules and helps maintain them as an easy editing feature on the Tableau Server itself. For more information on configuring Tableau Conductor see here.

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