Jen Lee and Zach Banks in "How I Solved This" video.

How I Solved This: Turn External Data Into Actionable Insights in Salesforce with Tableau CRM


Welcome to another “How I Solved This.” In this series, we do a deep dive into a specific business problem and share how one #AwesomeAdmin chose to solve it. Once you learn how they solved their specific problem, you’ll be inspired to try their solution yourself! Watch how Zachary Banks, Technical Product Manager at Paypal, used Tableau CRM to turn external data into actionable insights in Salesforce.

Key business problem

Oftentimes, businesses have external data stored in many systems. Some of these systems (okay, a lot of these systems) can integrate with Salesforce. A few of them (again, a lot of them) can even integrate with Tableau CRM. But, sometimes, the business just isn’t ready to perform full system integration, possibly due to technical or cost limitations. One thing is for certain, though: Data dumps, whether manual or automatic, will not be going away anytime soon. Loading external data into Tableau CRM, and directly surfacing this within minutes to your end users in Salesforce Lightning, is what you’ll learn from this blog today. Did I mention this is all clicks and zero code? But you could get as fancy as your heart desires.


At a previous company I worked at, industry sales targets were stored in a .csv or Excel file. Daily, someone would compare targets in the file to Salesforce and any other necessary external systems. Not only would executives complain about not being able to take action on their data, but also it was time consuming to have to export Salesforce data and compare it to external systems. 

Let’s think about it. Say you’re a sales account executive, in charge of multiple industries. You have separate quotas depending on the many industries you serve, but you’re not able to access this data yourself, as it could contain executive-level reporting. So, you need to wait for your 1:1 with your manager to track how you’re doing, all because the access to this file is in one Excel document. This document also happens to have a lot of other information you should not be able to see. 

Let’s use the power of Tableau CRM to bring these insights directly to the user’s homepage!

How I solved it

To solve this issue, I uploaded a .csv file into Tableau CRM. I then used the Sales Analytics app’s datasets to connect the opportunity data and build a quick dashboard.

1. Upload the .csv file or external data into Tableau CRM and load the Sales Analytics app

When you go inside Tableau CRM, you have the option to create a dataset. By creating a dataset, you can consume information, even information found outside of Salesforce.

Creating a dataset in Tableau CRM.

We’re going to take that executive sales target .csv file and load it into its own dedicated dataset. This file has just two columns:

  1. Industry
  2. Annual Target

The Industry column has values that correspond to a matching custom picklist field on opportunity. This will be important later on!

Image of the dataset waiting to load.

After the dataset has finished loading, let’s move on to building the Sales Analytics app. This is a default app that comes with certain editions of Tableau CRM, and it’s a great way to get started with Tableau CRM. Why? Because it’s LOADED with preconfigured sales charts and sales datasets, including your organization’s opportunity data. We’re going to kick things off by clicking Create and then App.

First step to building the Sales Analytics app. Click Create and then App.

Next, search for the Sales Analytics app, select it, and then click Continue twice.

Search for the Sales Analytics App and click Continue twice.

Be sure to give it a name.

Continue with the basic configuration for the app.

Continue with the basic configuration and wait for that to complete, then let’s move on to creating a simple dashboard! If you’re feeling fancy, you can choose Custom. I believe in you, regardless!

Option to create a basic or custom dashboard.

2. Create a simple Tableau CRM dashboard 

By using the Create feature we’re oh-so-familiar with at this point, let’s move on to creating a basic dashboard from scratch.

Option to create a blank dashboard or a dashboard from a template.

Switch on over to edit mode and click Create Query. Then, select a data source. In this case, I selected the .csv dataset I imported, which is aptly named Sales Targets.

Selecting a data source.

Since I have an Annual Target field that consists of number values, I’m going to use that as my measure. I’m going to set the Industry as the dimension, and convert this over to a polar gauge chart to see each industry target in a more dynamic view than a bar chart. We can control how far the circle is filled, but for the purpose of this blog, it’s fine to not get that fancy. Want to take it to the next level? If so, then configuring the polar gauge chart is a great project to further level up your skills with Tableau CRM.

Example of a polar gauge chart showing each industry target.

Now, let’s do the same for our opportunity data from Salesforce. I go back to create a query, but, this time, I select the Opportunities dataset from the Sales Analytics app.

Opportunity data in a bar chart.

I’ve set the Bar Length to the Sum of Amount, while setting the Bars to the Industry picklist field on opportunities. This will automatically group the sum of the amounts for all the opportunities, organized by the industries. 

But we still have a problem: These datasets aren’t connected yet. Although we can visualize and manipulate the data, we have one more step to make actionable insights with our live Salesforce data. Let’s integrate these two datasets together with the Connect Data Source feature in Tableau CRM. While in edit mode on the dashboard, click the dropdown, and then click Connect Data Sources.

Step to connect Data Sources.

Create a new connection, and select your datasets. I’ve selected the datasets I’ve used, as well as the Industry fields from opportunities and the sales targets .csv.

Example datasets for a new connection.

This will specifically allow the charts to filter off of each other. So, if I click Energy, all the related opportunities will filter off of that.

Example of charts filtering off one another.

I’m also going to drop in a quick table with the opportunity dataset so my users can see some more opportunity data. Don’t forget to give your dashboard a title.

A table and opportunity dataset together.

3. Edit your Lightning page with the Tableau CRM component 

Finally, let’s bring that dashboard directly to our users! Switch back over to Salesforce; In this case, I’m in a default app called Sales app. I’m going to click the gear in the upper right corner, and then click Edit Page.

Screenshot of the option to Edit Page.

Since I was on the Home tab, I’m going to edit the Home Lightning page. You can also get fancy with Lightning pages. Let’s search for Tableau CRM in the Components tab. Then, drag and drop the component onto the Lightning page in your desired location. On the right-hand tab, you can choose the dashboard you just created, as well as configure the height to display as much or as little information without a scroll bar as you desire.

Example of a customized Lightning Page.

Don’t forget: If this is a new page, you should always activate it. I already have it set as the org default, but you can set it as an app or even an app by profile default configuration.

Screen showcasing how home pages can be assigned at different levels.

Just like that, I have the external .csv loaded into a custom Tableau CRM chart and on the homepage for my sales users.

A table and opportunity dataset together.

We didn’t have to perform any custom object model creation, code, or create any new fields. We also don’t store this data inside of Salesforce. While the business will ultimately decide on how it wants to display more data as it grows, in the interim, I’ve often used Tableau CRM to bridge the gap between immediate business reporting needs while balancing healthy architecture decisions.

Business results

It sounds simple, but we’ve now turned external data into actionable insights directly in Salesforce with the power of Tableau CRM! Now, sales users and executives can always identify where they’re at as it relates to sales targets. That is, without having to wait for that next meeting or for access to additional systems. 

Do try this at home

This example was real and it’s very simple. But the principle behind it could be applied in all sorts of ways. Let your imagination run wild! View the resources below to start your Tableau CRM journey.


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