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A sneaky brush over the BI industry & Tableau as one of the tools

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Introduction to business intelligence

Data career is on the rise, and reports by major research organizations can for sure attest to that. Nearly every forward-looking organization is in one way working to implement their data strategy, if it does have one or probably hiring expertise in preparation for a data driven culture. Students on the other hand spend tonnes of hours on search engines trying to find the hottest skill to acquire. Other professionals are in the rush to switch their careers by acquiring different skills for data analysis.

The industry itself is huge, with all manner of vendors claiming how good their tools are. Some of claims might be true or just a market gimmick, however at the end of day, the real value of any product or tool comes to the problem in which it provides a solution. Therefore, you can’t rule out which of the data analysis tool is more superior than others, superiority will always come to the solution a tool provides to a specific organization's problem. No one tool fit for all problems.

With this in mind, lets jump in and explore a bunch of tools out there (Business intelligence tools), which as a student or professional preparing to switch career to data analysis should consider.

What is business intelligence (BI) tools?

These are tools deployed by various organizations to provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations, common functions of these tools include; reporting, analytical processing, analytics, data mining, predictive analytics etc. In a nutshell, many organizations rely on these tools to support business decisions ranging from operations to strategic.

To fully digest the BI industry, let’s review what Gartner says – a world leading research and advisory company providing insights, advise and tools for leaders in IT, Finance, Human resource among other specialities.

According to Gartner’s 2018 magic quadrant for analytics and business intelligence platforms report, which classifies different business intelligence (BI) tools into four quadrants; Niche players, visionaries, challenges & leaders, only three BI tools namely Microsoft, Tableau and Qlik were named leaders.

The report explores in detail the strengths and cautions of each of the BI tool, which you might consider reviewing before making decision on your next analytics skill to acquire or BI tool to implement for your organization.

Since this report appears to have been pulled-out recently, product reviews for the last 12 months can be a good place to start.

I think I need to learn Tableau!

Probably after reviewing Garter’s 2018 magic quadrant for analytics and business intelligence platform report, you found Tableau to be the right tool for you.

You might be right or wrong, but like I said before no one tool fit for all.

Before you go back to the report and reaffirm your stand, let me share something special about this tool you might consider too.

For six years consecutive, Tableau has been named as a leader in the Gartner magic quadrant for analytics and business intelligence.

Also, according to Gartner peer insights, Tableau is the most reviewed and highest rated analytics platform.

I hope after reading all these resources, you’re quite sure this is the tool you would like to learn. If that’s you, join me in the next paragraph to explore more about this tool.

Where do I begin?

Tableau has a bunch of products and therefore understanding them will be the first priority, these tools include; Tableau desktop, Tableau prep, Tableau server, Tableau online among others. Combination of some of these tools form unique solution to different organizations challenges. In detail, these tools help in the following;

Tableau prep

This is the latest product in the market introduced in the year 2018 to help users quickly combine, shape and clean data for analysis. Using a visual interface, users can easily build reliable data pipelines to power different analytical initiatives.

Tableau Desktop

Tableau desktop is part of the Tableau creator license enabling users quickly connect to variety of data sources, explore and answer questions all at the speed of thought in a friendly and intuitive interface, drag and drop. This is the tool, used to create those beautiful and highly engaging data analysis and visualization products in Tableau.

Note: Both the Tableau prep and Tableau desktop form the Tableau creator which is sold as a single license. Therefore, you can’t purchase Tableau prep or Tableau desktop as a single software – you must purchase the two bundled as Tableau creator.

Therefore, if you’re interested in learning data analytics and visualization, these tools (Tableau prep & Tableau desktop) should be in your top list.

But, Is there a free version of the Tableau creator license?

Yes, there is Tableau desktop for students & Tableau desktop public.

These two will help you build your skills and courage working with Tableau tools for free, before transitioning to a more complete commercial suite which has more features and capabilities.

Tableau desktop for students

This is a free tool for students and instructors around the world. Tableau for students provides both the Tableau desktop and Tableau prep. To access the free one-year license, students are required to provide details to prove that they are students at any accredited academic institution worldwide.

Tableau desktop public

This is a free tool to help users quickly connect and explore data for analysis. The biggest difference between the Tableau desktop public and Tableau desktop is;

  • Tableau desktop public can only connect to a few data sources (excel & text data) unlike the premium edition which can connect to any data sources.

  • Tableau desktop public can’t save workbooks locally in your computer, rather saves in the Tableau public server – no privacy.

  • Unlike the premium edition, Tableau desktop public is free to use.

Tableau server & online

The two provides environment to enable organizations publish data sources and dashboards for governance and secure sharing across the entire organizations.

Tableau server in particular is purchased by organization for own installation in on-premise or on-public cloud environment, meaning all overhead cost fall directly on the organization.

Tableau online on the other hand is Tableau server version which is fully hosted and managed by Tableau.

Where do I begin learning Tableau?

There are a lot of sites and blogs out there teaching and helping Tableau enthusiasts learn and appreciate the tool. This list can be endless, but here are a few sources you should consider.

What next?

Once you’ve acquired the much-needed skill in data analytics and visualization. How do you get the right job, with the right compensation and the much-needed work-life balance? First, acquiring data analytics skills presents you with a lot of opportunities in the job market. You can work as a data analyst, business analyst, analytics manager, data visualization engineer, data scientist etc.

Other than expanding your job search, analytics skills gives you the freedom and flexibility of working with some of the leading global companies through remote jobs. Check out some of the Remote Data Analysts Jobs available in the market.


I hope this article shaded some light on what business intelligence is and to a larger extend what Tableau ( one of the BI tool) offers. To receive more articles on Tableau, kindly join our mailing list by subscribing below.

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Thank you for reading!

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About Me

More About the Author

Bernard K

Analytics Consultant | 3X Tableau Certified

Bernard is a data analytics consultant helping businesses reveal the true power of their data and bring clarity to their reporting dashboards. He loves building things and sharing knowledge on how to build dashboards that drive better outcomes.

Let’s discuss your data challenges! Let’s work together!

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