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User Case Study: Building a Product with Tableau Online

Let me start with a crucial point. My company, Numerical Insights, is in no way associated with any vendor. We are real users of data visualization software just like all of you. Our opinions on products are based on our own hands-on experiences.

Earlier this year, Numerical Insights embarked on a journey to build a data portal to host the types of external data our clients were having to go get manually. We wanted to build that data into a series of online dashboards with easy filters for our users. As examples of the data, we are hosting labor information, salary and benefit cost information, data on college / university graduating classes and our own diversity benchmarking database.

Our first decision, and probably the hardest decision, was to select a tool to host our dashboards. We didn’t want to build a website portal from scratch since that would not be cost effective and it would take far too long. We needed to produce an online portal for our clients quickly. We gathered together some thoughts on our requirements:

  • A way to define groups of information so we can “put like dashboards into folders,”

  • A way to control access and allowable actions within the online portal,

  • A way to easily publish our dashboards online,

  • An easy-to-explain interface for our clients,

  • A low-maintenance hosting product,

  • Good support for any questions we may have, and

  • A way to brand our product with our own company name.

We had several more requirements but we’ll keep the list small for this article. As we began to compare the solutions on the market, we quickly found the ones that would not let us put dashboards into “folders.” That was a must for us because we planned to expand the number of dashboards in our portal based on client requests. Without the “folder option,” our clients would eventually experience a long, chaotic list of dashboards. That narrowed the field quite a bit.

The next factor we looked at was maintenance. Some of the solutions out there required us to purchase a server. As a small, boutique analytics company, we didn’t want to tie up our IT colleagues’ time with tasks associated with maintaining a server… and that isn’t the type of work they prefer to do. They prefer to work on custom applications. That led us to the decision to use on online hosting platform called Tableau Online. The only wish list item that Tableau couldn’t grant was the ability for us to “skin” the product with our own branding. Hopefully they’ll grant users that feature soon.

After seven years of using Tableau for dashboard creation, it wasn’t much of a hurdle to figure out Tableau Online. And the surprise that came when we purchased our first license into Tableau Online was the following email:

“As part of your organization’s Tableau Online purchase, you have been included in our Deployment Advisor program. This program is provided at no additional cost.”

This program gave me access to a 1-on-1 advisor where I can click on his calendar at any time and book his time to ask questions and obtain the help I need. I’ve used it twice and so far, my advisor has answered every question that I have thrown at him. I certainly can’t complain about that level of personalized support for my business. My time is limited, so fast access to the answers I need is priceless.

We built our product and publishing our dashboards was quite simple. We showed it to some of our clients as part of a beta program and they loved it. The interface was so easy to explain that our clients only needed about 15-20 minutes to get started with it.

We will certainly continue with this product and grow our business with Tableau Online… but don’t forget Tableau, I’m waiting with great anticipation for the ability to brand the front sign-on screen!

Tracey Smith is an internationally recognized business author, speaker and consultant. She is the author of multiple books and hundreds of articles. Tracey has worked with and advised organizations, both well-known and little-known, on how to use data analytics to impact the bottom line and how to conduct strategic workforce planning. If you would like to talk to Tracey about consulting work or speaking engagements, please visit  or contact Tracey Smith through LinkedIn. You can check out her books on her Amazon Author Page.