Tableau 2020.3 Review: Top 5 New Additions

by Raymond Chan

Tableau Software announced Tableau 2020.3 last week, positioned as ‘scaling prepped data just got easier’. 2020.3 enables users to output to and update external databases directly from Tableau Prep Builder.

Will this deliver the broader set of data preparation capability that you and your business need?

I was keen to review the new functionality, and this article is aimed at helping users decide if this Tableau version update is the one you are looking for. I am pleased to present my top 5 favourite functions.

1. Write to External Databases in Tableau Prep

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“Any changes done on top of the original data will not be written back (out of the box) to your data source, whether it is an excel file or a database table.”

This is a sentence I usually say when conducting Tableau training, giving a level of comfort to inexperienced users as it means anything they do will not impact the original source.

For the more data savvy users, they can now use Tableau Prep to export their data manipulation back into a database table.

“By introducing the ability to write to an external database, Tableau Prep can now be used for analytics use cases outside of the Tableau platform, from data science to data governance,” said Francois Ajenstat, chief product officer at Tableau Software.

Learning: This means users can now use Tableau Prep – instead of third-party tools or custom SQL scripts – to create new tables for use in Tableau, bringing more control and flexibility across
different functional teams in the business.




2. “IN” Operator for Calculation

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The “in” operator for calculations has been requested by many and it is finally available with this update.

With the “in” operator, you can simplify “if and else” or “case” -based calculated fields by removing many unnecessary “then XXX” clauses. More importantly, it now allows users to have even more dynamic and flexible conditional statements, as you could derive what goes inside the operator from other fields or calculated fields, thus eliminating hardcoded keywords.

Learning: The “in” operator accepts comma-separated values, sets, or combined fields and supports them in string, numeric, date or Boolean data types.

 



3. Viz Export Improvement

As a Tableau consultant for 5 years now, I have seen an increasing number of clients ditching the Tableau Server interface and embedding their dashboard into website interfaces to bring about a more customised experience to their end-users.

This effects several limitations to the dashboard utility – as it means many out-of-the-box functionalities, such as navigation or export, are then removed.

To address this issue and enhance visibility of these available functions, Tableau has started to add extra buttons that dashboard creators can insert, such as the ‘export to PDF’ button, to have some of the functions easily and quickly accessed direct from the dashboard.

Learning: This update makes it even easier to export crosstab from the click of a button, and more options to export dashboards as a PDF.

 



4. Relationship Improvements


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Relationship was my favourite feature and the most useful one, in my opinion, from the last major update.

At Tridant, we are seeing increased interest from clients in the usage of Relationship in the official Tableau training curriculum. I am expecting more users to pick up this function as they start to update their Tableau instances.

In this update, Tableau enables some minor quality of life updates with improvements on the drag-and-drop experience and the ability to use custom calculated fields to edit relationships.

Learning: Users don’t have to rely on conducting extra data manipulation before combining multiple tables through relationships anymore.

 



5. Subscription Run on Extract Refresh

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Extract refreshes can sometime be unpredictable, with unexpected delays or errors when the data source is not responding.

I have seen many cases where dashboard subscriptions are sent out with obsolete data and users then spend time analysing the results – only to realise later that the data had not refreshed.

Learning: The updated subscription option resolves the risk of receiving obsolete data with one simple function – the ability to schedule a subscription after a data source refresh has completed. This ensures that when a recipient receives a new report, it is always based on the most up-to-date data.

 



Conclusion

This time Tableau has focussed on bringing more small quality of life improvements in existing functions instead of brand-new ones.

Many of them are useful to me as a consultant but may not be for everyone, based on the current functions you use and the context around your Tableau architecture and server setup.

If you haven’t updated Tableau for more than a year, I recommend doing so. The two previous versions (2020.1 and 2020.2) brought many new useful features such as Metrics, Relationships and Animations.

Read my review Introducing Tableau Metrics – 5 Great Functions in Tableau 2020.2.

If you are already running 2020.2 and not seeing key benefits from this platform update, wait for the next release update, expected before the end of the year.


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