We’ve all heard about the classic concern that many IT departments have when it comes to new tools: How will we govern their use and output? The phrase “we don’t want it turning into the Wild West” is all too common. It’s exactly the type of scenario I recently helped a client in the financial industry remedy with Tableau.
First, the good news is that this type of scenario is in fact avoidable. By setting up different development, testing and production environments for Tableau workbooks, we can streamline efficiency. But moving those workbooks from one environment to another is still quite the task. On top of that, making edits across all workbooks is another time drain. Fortunately, Power Tools for Tableau can help immensely.
Sound Governance with Power Tools: Desktop and Deployment
The finance industry is notorious for tons of regulation and that, of course, means that the need for governance is very high. Anticipating this, the leader of this client’s BI group did a bunch of research on what solutions were out there and discovered Power Tools about a year ago.
With 500 Tableau users, workbooks were multiplying and there seemed to be no way to bring order to the process of creating reports that was spinning out of control. Order was not only important from the standpoint of quality assurance, but it was also necessary to have documentation that you could go back and audit. Manually, achieving these things at scale is a full-time job.
The first thing the client needed to do to get on track was to set up different places on Tableau Server for workbooks that were in the development, testing or production phase. They would then need to be able to quickly move the workbooks between environments and have a way of checking their quality with each migration. All of this was possible with Power Tools: Deployment.
Above: This diagram shows a typical migration path for workbooks and datasources on Server.
Before the workbooks would be ready for deployment, they would still need some quality assurance checks to ensure they were up to the client’s stringent performance standards. The Best Practice Analyzer, part of Power Tools: Desktop, became an important component for checking their workbooks. Using Power Tools: Desktop, the client could scan an entire site on Tableau Server and the tool would show them which workbooks were not following best practices for workbook design. It would point out which specific issue needed to be addressed and would categorize the issue by severity level.
For any workbooks that had critical issues, one of their orchestration tools would bounce the workbook back to the developer. After all critical issues were addressed, the workbook would successfully be picked up in the deployment process and moved to the next server environment with Power Tools: Deployment. As long as the workbook was tagged as “Approved,” then it would be moved automatically.
Using Power Tools as a Consultant
It’s important to note that just like our clients get value out of Power Tools, our consultants also get value when doing their work. This client provided a great example of that. After they started seeing efficiency gains with the use of these tools, the client realized that it made sense to incorporate the expertise of InterWorks for achieving better performance across the board. I was able to step in and provide some consulting that would help them comprehensively address the topics of Tableau workbook and Tableau Server performance. Power Tools: Desktop was invaluable in helping me diagnose these performance issues.
For instance, I used the Data Source Audit tool to identify all the data sources with custom SQL and started moving queries from the Custom SQL dialog to the database. I could then use the Performance Analyzer tool to show the client exactly how much time would be saved on their workbooks if they adjusted the queries and elements that impacted workbook performance. I also found that they were caching thousands of images every morning – another drain on performance.
To recap, what started with one group using Tableau is starting to spread rapidly. What’s great is that new methods of governance, leaning heavily on Power Tools, are also being rolled out across several different groups in tandem. This is already helping to prevent the dreaded “Wild West” feared by IT.