Analytics / Admins / Tableau

Salesforce Reports vs. Tableau CRM – Which Should You Use?

By Mark Tossell

Salesforce reports and dashboards are out-of-the-box analytics, and as you would expect from the #1 CRM in the world, they are powerful, intuitive, customizable, and they work well for organizations of all types and sizes.

Salesforce reports and dashboards are the “go-to” option for quick reporting, however, you can hit a ceiling with native Salesforce analytics. Tableau CRM (TCRM) is a self-service data visualization and business intelligence (BI) platform that integrates Salesforce data with external data. Formerly known as Einstein Analytics, this product boasts some of the most powerful data analysis capabilities in the market.

In this guide, I’ll cover the differences between Salesforce Reports and Tableau CRM, signs you may need to upgrade to Tableau CRM, and the top benefits in doing so. I will illustrate these points with real-life use cases to make these relatable to your own Salesforce org and tech stack.

Use Salesforce Reports, or Tableau CRM?

Salesforce reports and dashboards are first-class, however, as I mentioned, you can hit a ceiling with native Salesforce analytics. Let me explain with an example where the complexity of the data model and business requirements exceeded what is possible with Salesforce reports.

Case study: Redkite

Redkite had hit a ceiling with native Salesforce analytics. Although valuable service delivery data was stored in Salesforce, getting that data into a regular service delivery report was extremely challenging, requiring many hours to export Salesforce reports into Excel:

“Due to the limitations of our existing system, these reports have been incredibly manual and time-consuming, taking days to produce, and involving the manual export and combining of many reports in excel.

This meant that valuable time which could have been spent exploring trends and gaining insights for service development were instead spent reporting on critical but basic metrics.”

-Kailly Hill, Strategic Outcomes and Measurement Lead, Redkite

Painful, indeed! Redkite implemented Tableau CRM (TCRM) with some expert help and built a dataset that does all the hard work for them.
What was the end result? According to Kailly:

“Visioneer360 created a dataset in Einstein Analytics (TCRM) that overcame all of the restrictions we faced in Salesforce, enabling us to combine data from multiple objects to provide a ‘whole of services’ view of our data.

They also created a live, dynamic and visually appealing dashboard that provided us with our key metrics instantly, while also allowing us to drill down easily into those metrics.”

What did their team think of the final result?

Note: EA = Einstein Analytics, now branded as TableauCRM

Salesforce Reports vs. Tableau CRM vs. Tableau

Are Salesforce reports and dashboards underpowered, inadequate, or obsolete? No! You need to know when to use them. Here’s a good ‘rule of thumb’ to follow:

“Use operational reporting for generating lists of data, preferably data or questions that don’t change too often. Dashboards are based on your reports and show a snapshot of data at the runtime. Everybody has access to reports and it’s easy to export your reports.” Rikke Hovgaard, Director, Analytics Cloud, Salesforce

Before we continue into why Tableau CRM could be the best option for you (or if you should stick to Salesforce reports and dashboards), here is a brief comparison of the three Salesforce analytics tools available:

Salesforce Reports & DashboardsTableau CRMTableau
One-line:“Go to” option for a quick win, based upon real-time dataActionable insights in the CRM workflow to improve productivityExploration and sharing across a broad range of data and use cases
Where your users are:Salesforce usersUsers are mostly already in SalesforceSalesforce and non-Salesforce users (or your organization doesn’t use Salesforce all together)
Salesforce integration: Native to Salesforce, no integration required. You want a native two-way integration with Salesforce. Quickly embed and action analytics in Salesforce.Simple, quick integration to ingest Salesforce data
Your wider tech stack:n/an/aYou want the option of on-premise architecture, and more flexibility around how the BI platform fits in with the business tech stack. You also require remote, federated queries.
Skill required:Quick to configure, intuitive. Requires TCRM expertiseRequires Tableau expertise
AI capabilities: n/a (Sales Cloud)Timeseries modelling; Easily embedded AI (machine learning) Timeseries modelling; integration of Einstein Discovery insights

Interested in the differences between Tableau and Tableau CRM? Check out my previous guide.

Reasons to Use Tableau CRM

Here are some common reasons why you should implement Tableau CRM:

Salesforce org customizations

Your Salesforce environment has customizations and complexities that make comprehensive reporting in Salesforce difficult, if not impossible.

Complex object relationships

You want to report on data that is based upon complex object relationships that cannot be handled by custom report types.

External data

You want to combine external data with Salesforce data. There are some data sources you shouldn’t/won’t ever store in Salesforce. For example, high volume data that is only required for insights and isn’t required for BAU processes would probably be ingested by TCRM, and not stored in your Salesforce org.

Multiple Salesforce orgs

You want to combine data from other Salesforce environments with your Salesforce data in one analytics dashboard.

Dashboard filters

You want to show a variety of reports from different objects on a Salesforce dashboard, but the filters don’t want to cooperate…

Business logic

Your business logic, data requirements, and reporting needs are too complex to be managed in Salesforce reports. For example, a business that needs to combine, transform and aggregate data from numerous business units that store data across 12 Salesforce objects – this cannot be executed with Salesforce reports.

Holistic dashboards

You want to give your users a holistic dashboard, embedded in a Salesforce record, that delivers insights into a variety of Salesforce objects.

For example, create an account dashboard in TCRM that gives insight into both sales and service for an account, then embed that dashboard on the opportunity record in Salesforce in order to keep a holistic view of the customer in front of the business user. It could surface that the recent service history with this account is poor, with several overdue cases – best to resolve these issues before pressing for a sale.

3 Signs you need to upgrade to Tableau CRM

  1. Export: you export Salesforce reports into a spreadsheet so you can aggregate and transform your data to create the desired dashboard.
  2. Logging in & out: Your team has to log in and out of various platforms and tools to get the insights they need, instead of having everything in front of them in Salesforce.
  3. Off-platform reports: Your team creates their own personal reports in spreadsheets and does not see Salesforce as the one source of truth because they cannot get the insights they need with reports and dashboards.

Case study: Bring ERP data into Tableau CRM

One business example comes to mind here. Their executives weren’t using Salesforce reports when analysing sales performance and managing their teams because the reports were difficult to slice and dice by region and product.

Also, the sales leaders required the actual sales numbers (orders) to be brought in from their ERP in order for the analytics to be useful, and guide decision making.

As a result, the executives dismissed the Salesforce reports, and tasked high-value team members to prepare bespoke reports as required – a laborious, wasteful exercise indeed!

That all changed when we worked with them to implement and roll out Tableau CRM, because they now have up-to-date, comprehensive, dynamic dashboards that include the orders data.

Top Benefits of using Tableau CRM with Salesforce

TCRM accelerates your adoption of Salesforce, as users are served up insights they previously didn’t have access to. In turn, this amplifies your Salesforce return on investment (ROI) to become a true customer-focused, data-driven organization. Here’s how:

Salesforce context

TCRM dashboards are embedded on your Salesforce customer record, right there in your CRM business process, with any relevant data from any system.

Take immediate action

TCRM enables you to take immediate, contextual action in Salesforce. For example, based on the insights, you could create tasks, open a customer record, use Chatter to collaborate with your team members. This action framework is the “secret sauce” of TCRM!


TCRM charts can be annotated, shared, and discussed in moments through a variety of means. It turns analytics from a pie chart into a conversation!

User experience

TCRM pages make the analytics experience layered without looking at three-page reports.

The full picture – external data/multiple orgs

TCRM gives Salesforce users the ability to analyze not just Salesforce data – external data can be processed, connected, and visualized without storing it in your Salesforce org. This takes analytics from disconnected graphs to a far more meaningful analysis through interactive dashboards.
As an admin/data analyst, you can use the intuitive data recipes user interface to profile, combine, transform, and clean data. This improves your analytics user experience, for example, by harmonizing data across sources.

Customization options

TCRM provides another level of customizability, empowering impressive and engaging visualizations, and enabling company or team branding.

Predictive and prescriptive insights

Using the power of machine learning, TCRM brings your data to life in a way that cannot be done manually.

Case study: UNICEF Australia

One organization, who has seen the power of Tableau CRM first-hand, is UNICEF Australia.

When they embarked upon an ambitious journey of digital transformation in 2020, they implemented Tableau CRM as part of their roadmap. Prior to this, they were using reports on more than five different platforms!

Today, their team has embedded, holistic and actionable analytics embedded in their BAU workflow, within Salesforce CRM – watch the demo:

Final thought

Many businesses that we speak to are investing heavily in cloud technology and Salesforce, but they are not getting the ROI that they hope for. In our experience, one of the top reasons for this is a failure to deliver the data insights they need to make smart, timely business decisions. Tableau CRM can turn this around, delivering dynamic, holistic, actionable analytics to users in their business workflow.

The Author

Mark Tossell

Lead Solution Engineer at Tableau

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