With the release of Tableau 2020.2, the Metrics feature was released. And it’s one of the biggest impact changes implemented this year. This feature ushers in a significant reduction in dashboard building time for many designs and fundamentally changes Tableau’s position versus competition.
Why This Is Big
Big, bolded KPIs are one of the most common things I implement on dashboards. While these KPIs cover the most important highlights for the dashboard and target audience, users always want one more data point or highlight. This either leads to scope creep or a handful of unhappy users.
Metrics takes care of this. Similar to the Ask Data feature, which allows your most “independent” users to interact with the data directly to create their own ad-hoc analyses, Metrics gives users a quick way to get the exact info they want. Now, instead of developers making additional views for each and every KPI people want to see, users can be taught how to create their own using this out-of-the-box functionality. Just like your dashboards, they can be refreshed regularly. Unlike your dashboards, users can see a quick snapshot of their metrics in one place on Server compared to going into each and every dashboard. These Metrics can be seen either in a project or in the user’s favorites.
This means less hours spent tweaking dashboards and adding additional KPIs up-top and more time providing deeper insights from the data.
Did I Mention They’re Mobile First?
If you’ve used Tableau on your phone, you know how painful it can be. Most of the time developers aren’t focused on their dashboards’ mobile layout and interactivity. Target users usually are accessing dashboards through their computer. But the BI community is catching up to consumer trends, and mobile is becoming more dominant every day. Executives might only carry their phone and a tablet on trips, and don’t want to go through clunky dashboards designed for laptop screens.
Tableau realized this and Metrics handles this shift. It’s meant for mobile devices, so it just works. That’s a huge step and a big hint as to where the Tableau platform is heading.
Repositioning Against Competition
PowerBI dashboards have a very specific boxed look. This lends well to the familiarity business users have with products like Excel. Usually you’ll see a few top KPI boxes with some bar charts and/or a map. Tableau dashboards seem to vary further in their design and doesn’t necessarily encourage this type of layout with its dashboard layout builder.
Tableau Metrics moves further into this look and feel that is familiar to business users. A big KPI with a small bar chart or line chart. It shows Tableau (at least on mobile) is repositioning its product slightly to encourage a more business-user centric design. Once again, they’re pushing the big important number with small trend look that many executives like to see.
Summing It Up
Tableau is heading towards mobile-first functionality, eliminated the low-hanging developer fruit of KPIs on dashboards, and further integrated Ask Data type functionality with a few clicks on a dashboard. While I would’ve considered Tableau more of a general purpose data visualization tool, I believe they’re focusing their product roadmap towards the standard business use cases.
It is important to note that there are some specific considerations developers need to have in mind while developing their dashboards to maximize Metrics. Check them out here.