How to use Data Driven Alerts in Tableau 2019.1

Chris Dunigan

Introduction

Tableau is great for creating and sharing intuitive, interactive and dynamic dashboards.  However, wouldn’t it be great if Tableau could actively scan your reports and alert you if certain conditions in your data have been met?  Tableau has provided this functionality since version 10.3 - and with version 2019.1 these alerts have been made easier to create and manage.

 

Creating an Alert

You’ll firstly need to have created a visualisation in Tableau Desktop that has a continuous numeric axis, for example, a chart showing the UK population over time.

 

Once this is published to either Tableau Online or Tableau Server, navigate to the view and click on the numeric axis - in this case, the “Population Total” axis.  Now, to create the Alert - click on the Alert button.

The Alert options screen is displayed allowing you to tailor the alert you receive to your requirements.  In this scenario, I can set an alert to trigger if the UK Population reaches, for example, 62 million.

Some great real-world examples that would work really well include alerts when patient waiting time targets have been breached; alerts when ticket sales reach a defined percentage of the venue capacity; or alerts when data quality issues reach a certain level.

If and when this happens an e-mail will be sent to any number of recipients.  This can be determined by adding recipients to the ‘Recipients’ box of the Alert options screen. NB - your recipients must have an active subscription to Tableau Online / Server for them to be able to receive these alerts. The title of these e-mails can also be changed through the Alert options screen - as well as the frequency of these e-mails.  For example, once only when the criteria is first met; or perhaps weekly whilst the criteria is being met.

When you’ve set up your Alert options, click on the Create Alert button.  You’ll get a message confirming your Alert has been created,

Your Tableau Online / Tableau Server administrator will need to ensure that the correct permissions are set up to allow users to both create and receive alerts. Further details can be found here - https://onlinehelp.tableau.com/current/server/en-us/subscribe_alert_access.htm

Receiving an Alert

Tableau Online / Tableau Server will check your view every 60 minutes (admins can change this frequency) to see if your alert criteria have been met.  NB: this is when you are using a live connection to the data. If you are using extracts, they are checked every time the data is refreshed. If your criteria have been met then an e-mail will be sent to all recipients. 



The e-mail’s first line clearly states the threshold that has been met; then includes a picture of the chart showing the data.  This chart also acts as a link to the view on Tableau Online / Tableau Server. Finally, the e-mail contains further links for managing your alerts.  We’ll touch upon these later in this section.

 

Managing Alerts

The quickest way to manage your alerts is through the e-mail links.  Here there is a one-click “unsubscribe” by clicking on ‘Remove me from this alert”.  You can also click on “Manage my alerts” to be taken directly to the Alerts section of the “My Content” page.  Here you can view all the alerts you’ve either created or signed up to.



Actions here include the ability to remove yourself from one or multiple alerts; editing the alert (more on this later); changing the owner of the alert, or deleting the alert altogether.  Remember - some of these options depend on your being granted that level of permissions.

If you have a colleague who may benefit from being on an alert, then forward the alert e-mail to them and have them click on the “Add me to this alert” link.  This is probably the quickest way for them to get added.

For Administrators, navigating to the Alerts tab of the Tasks screen provides you with a server-wide view of all alerts that are currently active.  From here you can access all the alert management functions as discussed above.

 

Editing Alerts

Alerts can be edited either from the alert e-mail or the Alerts tab of the My Content page.  Any of the values selected when the alert was originally created can be edited using this screen.  This includes the threshold, e-mail title, e-mail frequency and recipients. In the example below, I’ve changed the UK Populations threshold from 62 million to 64 million.

There are two things to note - first, under the threshold value is an indicator of whether the condition has been met or not.  If the threshold has been met at the time you create the alert, then an e-mail will immediately be sent to the recipients.

Also, in the Alerts view (under My Content) you’ll notice that because I've changed the alert criteria - the dates shown under “Last Checked” and “Your Last Alert” have now changed to reflect that the alert has just been created (and therefore checked) and no alerts have been sent under this new criteria.

NB: Users with “Viewer” permissions (as opposed to “Explorers” or “Creators”) can’t create alerts or edit existing alerts; however they can add themselves as recipients to existing alerts.

 

Troubleshooting

If an alert fails you’ll receive an e-mail notification that tells you which alert has failed - and a link to Tableau Online / Server to fix the problem.  The most common failure reasons are that a) the data source has been removed; b) the credentials to the data have expired; c) the worksheet or view that the alert is applied to has been removed.  Once the problem has been resolved, an e-mail notification will be sent confirming the alert is working again.

 

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