Tableau Doesn’t Have to Tear Us Apart

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At the Tableau conference this year, I noticed a theme in conversations among developers and analysts. There seems to be common experience of “friendly animosity” between IT departments and marketing departments. Analysts rely on developers to supply them with data, but a lack of clear communication can quickly lead to this nightmare:

Your worksheet? Gone. The culprit? The dreaded red pills and red exclamation points that signify not just that your data is incorrect, but that your dimensions and measures no longer exist. Wonderful.

So what happened?

Most likely, a variable name was changed in a table or view that you were connected to. The developer who did this probably thought nothing of it, but Tableau doesn’t know the two variables are the same thing. Any calculations you wrote using that variable have also turned red.

In some companies, the same person handles the tasks of integrating the data and of building reports and dashboards. In others, they are divided into completely different departments and the people who do these things sit in different rooms, sometimes on different floors. In ours, it’s a little of both.

A quick fix in either situation is to right-click on each dimension or metric that was renamed and “Replace References.” From here, Tableau will give you a menu to select the correct variable name.

Perhaps a better long-term solution to avoid these tiny heart attacks (especially before client meetings) would be to better communicate between departments. This pain point seems to come from IT team members not entirely grasping the effect of changing variable names in the database on Tableau.

With a better understanding of the effects that the changes we make can have on other team members, we can all finally get along.

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