A few months ago, I received a call from a close friend who was very elated and very frustrated. She was elated because after many weeks of difficult conversations with her company’s IT department, she had finally received access to the data warehouse. At the same time, she was extremely frustrated as the IT department didn’t supply enough information in order for her to move forward. Oh, and how can I forget, she was also under some serious pressure to answer some key questions for her internal customers. Pronto!
After this exchange, I decided to put a series of blog posts together to arm the Tableau business power users or new users with information to have meaningful discussions with their database administrator or their internal IT systems personnel.
Tableau is an amazing tool; however, for traditional business users who are accustomed to working with Microsoft Excel®, starting to work with Tableau and a data warehouse at the same time can be a bit overwhelming. Here are a few things you should request and be aware of, so you don’t get lost in the maze of IT acronyms.Below is a quick checklist.
Prior to Requesting Access, Ask About:
A Database Schema
This will be your road map to navigating through the data warehouse.
Base Tables vs. Reporting Layer
Base Tables – Location where all the information is stored after it has been brought into the data warehouse.
Reporting (semantic) Layer – This is where normalized data gets utilized to actually generate standard or common business reporting.
Ask Questions About:
- When database gets refreshed – You don’t want to query the database when the database is being refreshed.
- Is it a net change or addition of new records – This is very important for accounting / finance users of the data. If they are using the data warehouse for financial reporting, previously loaded records into the data warehouse should not change.
- Production or Development environment – How often does development change?
- Reporting Layer – What is the process to request that new standard data views get created?
- Define the value proposition. Lay out the ROI (Return on Investment). Don’t be shy, use this as an opportunity and share insights on the end business goals. It’s been my experience that many database administrators don’t have a lot of exposure on the business deliverables. Similarly, business folks don’t have exposure to the challenges a database administrator may face to support the business. There’s a good chance there are some conflicting priorities. I’ve seen it way too often!
- You will always receive “read-only” access, but be pro-active AND submit your request with “read only” access. You will get brownie points.
- Submit your request detailing the base tables or reporting layer (views) you will need for your analysis.
Access is granted, now what?
First, congratulations! You are well on your way to unleashing the power of Tableau on your data.
After Gaining Access, Get the Following Information:
MySQL, PostgreSQL, Teradata, SQL Server, etc. Without this information, you won’t know which driver to use. You can always download the latest drivers directly from Tableau.
This can be an IP address (i.e. 192.168.1.1) or a name (i.e. yourserver.yourdomain.local). Think of this as the address of the server where the actual database resides at.
This piece of information is important (it will generally be a number) because this is where the database application is listening for traffic. Most databases have a default port, but occasionally you will need to specify a different one.
This is the actual name of the database of where your information resides.
User Name & Password
If you get an email that says “access has been granted,” be sure to ask if you can use your network credentials (i.e. what you use to log into your computer on a daily basis) or if there are others.
In the case of my friend, she was given access in a very hastily manner which is great. However, it created a lot of confusion on her part, which delayed her ability to quickly deliver the analysis that her stakeholders needed.
If you have any specific questions, or if you are trying to build a business case for having IT grant you access to the data warehouse, send us a note and we can help you build a comprehensive business case.