I work with a lot of organizations that want to take advantage of the efficiencies of hosted data sources. Their IT and BI teams manage data that’s been provided to business users for ad hoc analysis. The challenge that these teams inevitably run into is change management across all of their centrally hosted data. When it comes time to rename a column, how do you go about handling that in the least disruptive way?

I’ve seen some teams go ahead and make the change. Depending on the number of business users, that could end up being messy and resulting in tons of complaints. It’s usually best to socialize the changes before they happen. But how do you go about doing that when it’s so hard to track down all the different data source dependencies?

Managing Workbook Dependencies

My colleague, Jubail Caballero, shared that he recently ran into this exact scenario at an oil and gas company in Houston. The number of calculations they needed to manage was a few hundred. It would have likely taken Jubail several days to build out a list of all the different dependencies.

Fortunately, he was able to save that time and use the Data Source Audit tool found in Power Tools for Tableau: Desktop. After generating just one initial PDF export from this tool, they were convinced it was going to be a critical part of their governance process. It’s now something they can generate on a regular basis.

Above: An example of Data Source Audit’s results. 

The Data Source Audit tool enables a constant awareness of how these hosted data sources are utilized throughout the various workbooks on Tableau Server. The output gives a list of the worksheets and calculations that depend on a specific field and data source. It’s easy to track down the authors of those workbooks to discuss the changes.

The great thing about this approach is there is no room for human error in the process of tracking down all of the different dependencies. When it’s a manual process, it’s easy to forget that a workbook has a dependency. That is especially the case if it was built several weeks or months ago. Data Source Audit eliminates this never-ending guessing game.

No More Breaking Workbooks

Instead of taking several hours to circulate a change request, you can simply run a quick scan of all the workbooks on a particular site or project on Tableau Server. You will then have the option to export the results to either a Tableau workbook, an Excel file or a PDF. I’ve worked with a lot of folks that prefer the Tableau workbook because it’s very easy to publish it back to Tableau Server where everyone can see results of the audit on a regular basis.

The efficiency happens at different points in the process. You are, of course, saving time by not breaking things. Another big gain is in adoption. It’s generally not great for the subject matter experts to be emailing business users saying they’re going to make a change and break a bunch of stuff. When workbooks start breaking in unplanned ways, it can definitely hurt user adoption.

If you can carve out fifteen minutes or so, it’s easy to run a test audit on your workbooks and see the advantages for yourself. The free trial usually takes less than a minute to download and it’s very easy to go through the process. This five-minute video will show you all the basics. We look forward to hearing how it goes, and please send us a note if you need any assistance.