If you've performed any sort of data prep, you know how time-consuming it can be. But it's a vital step in finding the hidden nuggets your data offers. You have to “fix up” the data so it can become the insights you need without any outdated or biased information.

So mastering, especially anything data-related, may sound like a pipeline dream — pun intended — but it can be done. 

Could Tableau Prep be the data preparation solution you need?

Our five key takeaways are:

  • Data prep is a time-consuming but fundamental step to discover what’s hiding in your data.
  • The lifecycle of data analytics is structured to help you access, use, and analyze your data to strengthen reporting abilities, overall business decision-making, and your organization overall.
  • Data preparation includes cleaning and transforming raw data points so the data can be processed.
  • Data cleansing can include corrections, updates, deduplicating, reformatting, merging, and enriching datasets.
  • Tableau Prep helps teams perform data prep and offers intuitive visualization tools to enhance reporting.

Table of Contents:

Data analytics follows a lifecycle that’s structured to help you access, use, save, and analyze your data, strengthening your reporting abilities and decision-making, therefore, strengthening your business.

Data preparation is an important step in the data analytics lifecycle. During data prep, you clean and transform raw data points to get the data ready for processing. A data cleanse can include making corrections and updates, removing duplicated information, and reformatting and enriching datasets through merging.

Tableau Prep was built with these difficulties in mind. This data prep tool helps you prep your data for analysis. However, data prep for Tableau needs an ETL, or Extract, Transform, Load, solution. 

The problem? Many ETL solutions aren't intuitively designed for the end user, and even those that are well-designed may not be capable of the data transformations you need for your unique use case. Plus, ETL tools can be a little on the pricey side.

But Integrate.io succeeds where other ETL solutions fail. Integrate.io is a sophisticated, cloud-native ETL platform designed for enterprise-level organizations. Our platform offers hundreds of pre-built connectors that let you build the ETL pipelines you need without coding knowledge or a pronounced learning curve.

Tableau Prep is also a no-code solution. Tableau Prep is a tool offered by one of today's best data visualization tools, Tableau, and both work seamlessly in Integrate.io's low- and no-code ETL and Reverse ETL environment. Whether you’re a beginner in data integration or you’re a career data analyst, you'll find our platform is easy to learn and navigate. Your account’s dedicated data integration specialist can walk you through various scenarios, answer questions, and provide support whenever needed.

Understanding Tableau Prep

What is Tableau Prep? Tableau Prep is a data preparation and visualization tool on the Tableau server built for teams to interact with data for hidden insights. With Tableau Prep, you can cleanse, explore, and mold your data to prep it for analysis. Real-time data manipulation and visualization makes it easy to build clean, quality datasets that you can then analyze in Tableau.

Tableau Prep's advantages help you and your team simplify the entire data prep process. 

The key features and benefits of Tableau Prep lie in its machine learning (ML) algorithms. This data prep tool provides recommended tasks, helping users clean and transform data faster and smarter. 

Other Tableau Prep features and benefits help you:

  • Prep data visually: With Tableau Prep's visual interface, you can see real-time data flows and transformations. This visualization capability lets you remove unwanted or unnecessary columns, update errors, and standardize formats so users understanding how their changes impact your data. Users can quickly see when an update creates an issue and fix it in real-time.

  • Profile and clean data: Users can spot inconsistent data, missing information, and other potential issues. Tableau Prep has several built-in tools to address common quality concerns, allowing users to cleanse data duplicates, convert data into common formats, and eliminate or update null values.

  • Reshape and combine data: Create more comprehensive datasets through actions such as join, pivot, and split. 

  • Drag and drop data: Like Integrate.io, Tableau Prep has a user-friendly drag-and-drop function for carrying out complex data prep — all without having to write a single line of code.

Other smart features include data profiling, smart connectors, and Tableau platform integration. 

Is there a difference between Tableau Prep and Tableau Desktop?

While both Tableau and Tableau Prep are data analytics tools, Tableau is a data visualization program used to create robust, interactive dashboards and visual reports. Tableau Prep, on the other hand, prepares the data for analysis and reporting in Tableau. While Tableau Prep can perform basic ETL functions, pairing Tableau Prep with Integrate.io automates the process and ensures the data is ready for robust reports and visualizations. Tableau Prep and Tableau Desktop reside in the Tableau Cloud and perform complementary tasks on the data analysis spectrum.

The Role of Tableau Prep in the Data Analytics Workflow

Tableau Prep lets users create stunning visual representations of data transformation. Workflows begin on the left with an Input step, followed by one (or more) transformation step, such as Clean, resulting in one (or more) Output steps on the right-hand side.

A text-based illustration of the Tableau Prep workflow in three steps: Input, Transformation, and Output.

Image: Tableau Prep workflow. Credit: Author

Tableau Prep creates an accessible visualization of your company's data so your analyses are built on reliable and thorough datasets. 

But no matter which data prep solution you use, your team may still face data prep challenges. 

The Challenges of Data Preparation

In data analytics — just like in life — what you put in determines what you get out. 

Some of the most common data prep challenges professionals face include:

  • Invalid values
  • Missing data or null values
  • Insufficient (or no) data profiling
  • How and when data needs enrichment
  • Standardizing name and address values
  • Data between enterprise systems isn't consistent
  • Documenting, expanding, and maintaining ongoing data preparation processes

Tableau Prep meets the data prep challenges of modern organizations by simplifying data cleansing and shaping tasks. A user-friendly, drag-and-drop interface lets users see their data, spot errors or data anomalies, and cleanse the data in real-time.

Integrate.io: Enhancing Tableau Prep Capabilities

Integrate.io is a cloud-native data integration platform that scales with your organization. Pairing Tableau Prep with Integrate.io's low- or no-code environment promises fast and easy access to all the opportunities you're missing. Uncover what's hiding in your hard-to-see data — without additional hardware or the need to hire coding experts. Integrate.io offers access to hundreds of pre-built connectors and immediately connects with a wide range of data storage types. Plus, our platform perfectly complements the entire Tableau environment through:

  • Enhancing data automation
  • Improving data workflows
  • Simplifying data integration from a variety of sources

Key Integrate.io features include:

  • Easy data transformation
  • Create workflows with defined dependencies
  • Native REST API
  • Robust data security and compliance
  • Multiple destination and data source options
  • Attentive and dedicated customer support

Other benefits of Integrate.io paired with Tableau Prep include data quality testing, data governance frameworks, and near real-time data observability.

Best Practices for Using Tableau Prep

To get the most out of this business intelligence (BI) tool, consider these Tableau best practices:

Take a holistic view of your data

How will others on your team, in your department, and throughout your organization use the prepped data? This is the first item here because it's the most important — holistically viewing your data like this helps you decide which datasets to include, how to input the data, and how it should be structured.

Know your data's basic structure

Once you know which departments, teams, and individuals will use this data, how they'll use it, and where the data will live, it's important to also know how the data is structured. It's a lot like remodeling a home. Regardless of the floor plan, number of rooms or floors, etc., there is a basic structure you can't tamper with — the load-bearing walls. In data prep, the "load-bearing walls" are the fields connected to other fields that depend on or relate to those other fields. You also should know if your structured data was input manually or through automation and how detailed each dataset is. Your understanding of your data structure informs the "blueprints" for your data preparation process.

Note the steps in your data prep process

Unfortunately, data prep isn't always a fluid Input > Action > Output process from start to finish. For example, you may realize a dependency you overlooked, a step in your process that needs to be changed, or a step that needs to be added or removed. There's no written-in-stone data cleansing manual you need to follow because your data prep process should make sense to you —  but you can make editing and updating your process much easier if you note each step and the actions you took at that step.

Monitor your process throughout

When you document your steps, make note of each action's outcome. What happens when you cleanse specific datasets? What changes occur? Ongoing spot checks throughout your process can help you identify errors the moment they occur, and spotting errors is much easier when you genuinely know your data. Knowing how your data should look makes it much easier for a spot check to reveal when something's not quite right.

Execute the workflow and analysis

After cleansing, restructuring, and filtering your data, now it's time to analyze it — what's it saying? Tableau Prep can integrate with your full suite of business intelligence tools and, when paired with Integrate.io, presents newfound visibility into your organization's data.

Implementing Tableau Prep with Integrate.io: A Step-by-Step Guide

Data prep varies according to industry, company, and unique needs, but overall, the data prep workflow is the same. 

To get the most out of pairing Integrate.io and Tableau Prep:

Step 1. Gather your data

You need the right data for the right answers, so choose the data according to your requirements. Integrate.io can extract from multiple data sources and you can even add data sources on an ad-hoc basis.

Step 2. Find and assess your data

Once you've gathered all of your data, it's time to uncover each dataset. This discovery process helps you get to know your data and what transformations the data needs before it can be a useful asset for a given use case. Data discovery is no easy feat, but thanks to Integrate.io's intelligent extraction and change data capture (CDC) capabilities and Tableau Prep's incredible visualization functionality, you can easily browse your data. 

Step 3. Clean and validate your data

Data cleansing can be one of the most laborious and time-consuming aspects of data prep, but it's a step that cannot be ignored. 

Data cleansing:

  • Removes unnecessary data and fields
  • Fills in missing field values
  • Standardizes a pattern for the data to follow
  • Allows you to mask any private information or otherwise sensitive data types

After the Clean step, validate the resulting data through testing for errors. Any existing errors are genuinely apparent at this point, and you can resolve them before moving on to the next step in the process.

Step 4. Transform the data

Data transformation updates the formatting or values of your data entries. Think of it like translating your data into a common language so all of your systems can "speak" to each other and everyone who interacts with the data can understand it.

Step 5. Enrich your data

Data enrichment adds important information or connects certain data points to others so the resulting enriched data can offer clearer, more meaningful insights.

Step 6. Store the resulting data

Once you've gone through the entire data prep process, you can store the resulting data or funnel it into another app, platform, software, or other tool so the data can be analyzed and used to facilitate improved business decisions. 

Are you considering pairing Integrate.io with Tableau Prep? Here’s why you should.

Connecting Your Data with Tableau Prep and Integrate.io

You can connect to your organization's data in various ways. Here, we’ll explore how you can connect with Tableau Prep and with Integrate.io. Then, we’ll look at how using Tableau Prep and Integrate.io together can revolutionize your entire data analytics workflow.

Connecting your data with Tableau Prep

Choose the built-in connectors in Tableau Prep by creating a workflow within any Tableau product (you can even prepare a workflow in the web-based version). Click on Add Connection to open the Connection pane showing the list of connectors offered. For example, if you have data in Snowflake, you can connect your Snowflake data warehouse to Tableau. 

To learn how to connect your data to Tableau Prep or how to use Tableau Prep connectors, visit Tableau's Supported Connectors help page. (All available connectors are listed on the help page in the same order as they appear in your Tableau dashboard after clicking the Connections option.)

Connecting your data with Integrate.io

Choose from hundreds of pre-built connectors on the Integrate.io platform. Integrate.io can aggregate data from various systems, apps, software programs, and other business and ecommerce tools, as well as databases, data lakes, and data warehouses. Set the change data capture feature at the necessary interval and experience how fast your data becomes accessible, understandable, analyzable, and able to inform the most pressing, major business decisions.

Integrate.io workflow and transformation functions and abilities include:

  • Data management
  • Data integration 
  • Data transformation 
  • Data cleansing 
  • Data analysis 
  • Machine Learning
  • Data governance
  • Business Intelligence

Our lightning-fast ETL and Reverse ETL functionality let you extract and transform disparate datasets into a universal language, and load the resulting uniform dataset into the data storage of your choice.

Tableau Prep + Integrate.io = The Ultimate Integration for Streamlined Business Intelligence

Tableau Prep's versatility and efficiency make data preparation steps, such as cleansing, shaping, and transforming, easier and more user-friendly for users of all backgrounds, with or without coding knowledge, from business analysts to tech-savvy data professionals.

Integrate.io is a cloud-native and enterprise-level robust data integration platform. Our solution further simplifies the data prep process with low- to no-coding experience necessary. Choose from hundreds of pre-built connectors and other features for your organization. 

Your data is everything. With Tableau Prep as your ship and Integrate.io at the helm, it’s smooth sailing to actionable insights you can access from your desired storage location. Using Integrate.io with Tableau Prep can reveal how valuable your data really is! See for yourself when you sign up for a free, 14-day trial of Integrate.io. 

Do you have a very niche use case? If you're curious about Integrate.io's benefits for your unique business, schedule an intro call. We'll set you up with a dedicated data integration expert who can walk you through how the platform works and how Integrate.io can help your organization. 


How does Tableau Prep integrate with other data tools?

Tableau Prep integrates with other data tools through the Tableau Prep Builder. The Builder offers multiple built-in connectors for today's most common and popular types of data. Due to the ever-evolving nature of data, new connectors are built and added to Tableau Prep frequently.

Can Integrate.io automate data workflows for Tableau Prep?

Yes. When you connect Tableau Prep to the Integrate.io platform, you can automate several workflows. Some of the most common workflows include those for:

  • Data integration
  • Data transformation
  • Data cleansing
  • Data analysis
  • Machine Learning
  • Data governance
  • Business Intelligence

What are the advantages of using Integrate.io with Tableau Prep for data analytics?

Some advantages of using Integrate.io with Tableau Prep in your data analytics workflow include:

  • A low- to no-code, jargon-free environment
  • Fully scalable platform
  • No hardware, software, or personnel investments
  • Immediately connect to multiple data sources 
  • Out-of-the-box transformation capabilities