5 Replies Latest reply on Nov 29, 2012 1:17 AM by kettan

    Can I link workbooks in Tableau?

    Jeff Cook

      I'm relatively new to Tableau, but I've worked in BI for many years.  I want to know if it is possible to nest or link workbooks in Tableau, in a parent-child fashion?  I've done this in the past with llnked universes in Business Objects.  The idea is that you create a workbook for each table then create a master workbook that joins in the child workbooks.  This really helps with development and maintenance of workbooks in a conformed dimension data warehouse environment.  I would like to create one workbook for each dimension table, then create master workbooks for each fact table which join in the related dimension workbooks.  If I have to add a column or a calcuation to a dimension workbook, I can change it once in the dimension workbook and it is automatically propogated or used in the master-fact table workbooks next time they are used.  Does this concept exist in Tableau?  I'm trying to avoid the creation of many workbooks for each star in our data warehouse where I'll have to re-create each dimension table with all of its hierarchies, aliases, calculated columns, etc...  Please let me know if there is anything like this or any other way that I can reduce the development and maintenance of my Tableau workbooks.



        • 1. Re: Can I link workbooks in Tableau?

          As far as I know, there is no such functionality in Tableau.


          The closest thing I can think of is to create a workbook that has all the joins and custom calculations that you want and publish its data source to Tableau Server or share it via file system.


          The downside there is that performance will most likely suffer as a result, and even if it didn't -- no-one can predict and foresee all possible joins and calculations that might be needed.

          That's where Tableau has the advantage compared to a fully blown bulky/cumbersome/rigid/hard-to-use data warehouse solution. Tableau makes it easy to quickly pick only what you need straight from data - no need to write change requests and go through the motions of adding dimensions, schemas, etc. to the DW. I think that's the philosophy behind Tableau, and that's why it is lean and quick and was never intended to replace a DW.

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          • 2. Re: Can I link workbooks in Tableau?
            Ryan Robitaille

            Hey Jeff, unfortunately there is no workbook joining in the way you describe (yeah, I did some hard time in a BOE shop too) - what I generally do in that situation is just write custom SQL against the DW tables directly, so that way when things get added to a dimension or fact table (non query-breaking changes that is) I can just add it to the source query if I need it.


            In fact, I'll usually only include what I need for the viz in my join - as to avoid the huge fact / dim 'flat view' join that you'd have to do to include all possible dimensions, etc.


            Probably not helpful - but you'll end up loving Tableau way more than any server-deployed Crystal or WebIntelligence reporting. : )


            Tableau can handle almost any data source, which is awesome - but when paired with an existing "robust" backend (like a DW, OLAP, or transactional database) it's even more powerful, in my opinion. Flexibility gone wild!

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            • 3. Re: Can I link workbooks in Tableau?
              Jonathan Drummey

              Dimitri had pinged me on Twitter, I just sat through a Business Objects demo last week so this is a bit fresh in my mind. Comparing Business Objects to Tableau is very much an apples to oranges comparison. BO and the whole SAP stack is built to do everything from the database layer on up through interactivity & analysis with Web Intelligence and Visual Intelligence, whereas Tableau focuses on just visual analysis and interaction. Tableau is by design not built to do the whole universe thing, so trying to shoehorn those concepts onto Tableau is going to be messy.


              The closest match I can think of is basically what Dimitri posted: Starting with your initial data sources, create workbook(s) with the necessary calculated fields for each data source and publish those revised data sources to Tableau Server. The sources you publish to Tableau Server could be as simple or complex as you want, and users would be free to mix and match as they needed by using Tableau's data blending feature to relate the different data sources. You're probably going to want to check out Chris Gerrard's work at http://tableaufriction.blogspot.com, he's been doing some great stuff on documenting Tableau workbooks for keeping track of fields.


              However, given how Tableau works and the views that users may wish to create, there can be times when going to the raw data and/or and generating your own SQL will be better, as Ryan noted. An example of this is when you have event data with a start & stop date/time in one row, Tableau does queue/utilization/census/throughput analysis a lot better when each start & stop time is in its own row, so a UNION query usually does the trick there.



              • 4. Re: Can I link workbooks in Tableau?
                Ryan Robitaille



                Granted, most of my heavy experience with Business Objects Enterprise is a few years old - but in my mind, I always viewed Universes as kind of materialized table views (joins, etc included - BOE treated it as 1 query, cached) - the DB knew what each piece was (dimension or measure), because you had defined it, and you just used the web based client to make it a query and (ultimately) a (Webi) report (which actually had great flexibility and pagination for traditional "reports" of the time).


                These days, even with all the viz strides that (that) platform has made - I'd much rather take raw data in a Tableau shared (published) data connection and let 'subject matter expert' peeps fly with it.


                Like Jonathan said with 'Apples to Oranges', I think that the BOE folks try to instill a certain (warped) mindset when it comes to data, reporting, and visualization... none of which (in my mind) matters so much in 2012....


                It's the same close-minded and "stacked" approach that most vendors are taking now. Sad, really.


                "Don't buy my tool, buy my tool box - by the way, you can't use them on anything except what I sell you."

                • 5. Re: Can I link workbooks in Tableau?

                  Ryan R wrote:

                  It's the same close-minded and "stacked" approach that most vendors are taking now. Sad, really.
                  "Don't buy my tool, buy my tool box - by the way, you can't use them on anything except what I sell you."

                  Hi Ryan, I also strongly dislike this practice of abusing-customers-with-vendor-lock-in-techniques.

                  Recently I checked prices in a locale shop selling electric shavers and noticed that extra parts for lower price shavers cost considerably more than the same extra part for more expensive and advanced shavers even if it visually obvious they are cheaper to produce. In protest I did not buy a new razor at that time.

                  I might be wrong in generalizing, but I think this behavior is more common in big companies, which seem to focus more on vendor-lock-in than creating excellent products. I think this happens when focus on high profit (value for owners/sellers/consultants) comes before great products (value for customer).

                  May this never happen to Tableau Software.