February 17, 2022

How Much Does a Tableau Consultant Cost?

By Luke Stanke

There’s a common joke amongst consultants that they rarely give straightforward answers. Their answers are almost always, “it depends.”

So when we look at the question, “How much does a Tableau consultant cost?” Of course, the answer is, “it depends.” In this article, I’ll try to give context and narrow in on costs.

To start, the cost for a Tableau consultant is somewhere between $10/hr and $500/hr.

Obviously, this is a wide range. To understand this large gap, I’ll try to describe what you get when you hire a Tableau consultant and the different factors that will affect the price.

What Expertise Should a Great Data Consultant Have?

Before you judge the price, it’s important to evaluate consultants on AT LEAST eight criteria: 

  • Platform expertise
  • Data expertise
  • Analytics expertise
  • Design expertise
  • Usability expertise
  • Project management expertise
  • Domain expertise
  • Communication skills

Platform Expertise

A strong consultant will know the platforms being used and the nuances associated with them. Additionally, the Tableau consultant will be able to quickly tell you how to improve the performance of a dashboard just by looking at the dashboard, its calculations, and the type of data.

The consultant will also be able to distinguish what can and cannot be done on the platform.

Data Expertise

In addition to understanding the platforms that will be used for the data visualization, consultants should have a good understanding of how to manipulate data for analysis. This might include the use of data preparation platforms or SQL.

Nine out of ten clients will say their data is ready for use in their data visualization platforms, but the reality is, only one in ten are truly ready for analysis. This means consultants must be ready to make informed decisions on data preparation and data structure to get the most out of the data visualization engagement.

Analytics Expertise

Assuming that your consultant has both data visualization platform expertise and data expertise doesn’t guarantee success. Consultants must have a level of analytics savvy to know the types of analysis that will be most relevant and how to manipulate the data in the platforms to perform these types of analyses.

For instance, a strong consultant will quickly know how to manipulate data to perform customer lifetime value, promotional lift, or measure seasonality. 

Design (User Interface) Expertise

Consultants must also make selections that apply data visualization design techniques that make content accessible to almost all users. On the surface, this includes the selection of colors and fonts but it also includes the layout and other visual design elements. 

The challenge with most data visualization consultants is that they have either analytics expertise or design expertise–but usually not both.

Usability (User Experience) Expertise

So many times in my career I’ve seen things that look good not get used by their intended audience. This is because of a lack of usability testing of these data products with their audiences. As part of the usability experience, good consultants should build wireframes and prototypes, interview end-users, and help determine how the product will be best adopted by these users.

Sometimes a highly interactive dashboard is needed, other times an automated slide deck, and other times it’s just a table or exploratory data extract that is going to be best.

Project Management Expertise

Great consultants must go beyond their skills to build things. They need to be able to plan a project from conception to implementation, map a timeline, identify and mitigate potential risks, and communicate with various stakeholders throughout the engagement — all while delivering the data visualization product.

Experienced consultants will typically develop a process for regularly discussing project timelines, budget, scope, and blockers (which can help shorten the delivery of a project).

Domain Expertise

Sometimes when working with consultants, you’ll want them to know your particular domain. This could be industry-specific, like healthcare and finance, or data specific, like working with HL7 data, streaming IoT data, or Nielsen data. This could even be specific to the type of business unit they are supporting, like accounting or marketing.

Communication Expertise

Because a data visualization consultant will have to work with domain experts, data experts, end-users, and leadership, they must be able to juggle differing styles of communication. 

Managing expectations with the owners of the data will look different than those with the stakeholders. Expert consultants will have a defined methodology for how to best work with each of those groups and lead change management efforts.

Lastly, for some consultants, they will solve for exactly what you specify. Other consultants will dig deeper to help refine the broader impact and insight that you may not know how to directly articulate when defining the project. Consultants supporting the latter will be priced much higher.

What Type of Engagement Do You Need?

The next section is to help you determine which type of engagement will best support your needs from time commitment to output. 

Full-Time or Part-Time

Some clients don’t expect full-time support with their projects. This might be because the project won’t take a lot of time or the client perceives that the project won’t take significant time or effort.

In general, the fastest I’ve seen a project go from idea to dashboard in production is four weeks. To do this, you have to have data already structured for analysis or at least a clear understanding of the underlying data sources. It also requires an individual focused on project management and change management, a data expert, and a dashboard developer. 

Staff Augmentation or Project-Based

Staff augmentation is where you are looking for someone to add capacity to your team with no specific deliverables. This might mean delivering multiple projects at once. 

If you have specific deliverables, then you are probably looking for a more specialized consultant who will likely cost a little more than a consultant who provides staff augmentation support.

Dashboard, Deck, Planning Tool, or Something Else?

While the rate may play a large factor in the selection of a data visualization consultant, buyers should be cognizant of exactly the type of data visualization or business intelligent product they are looking to develop. They should also be sure they are not looking for a custom application, rather a solution built within the platform.

At first glance, the product typically will be a dashboard, but there are other types of products that can be created on these platforms. It could be an automated slide deck for an executive team or sales teams that must present in the field. It could also be a complex scenario planning tool that runs a machine learning model

Whatever the solution, it’s important to understand that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The selection of your consultant should absolutely focus on the product being created and not solely on the knowledge of the platform.

What Type of Consultant Should You Hire? 

We have already discussed the expertise the consultant should bring and the way the engagement could be structured, now let’s walk through five types of consulting services.

Freelance Consultants

Freelance consultants are extremely varied in price and skill. Even seeing items in a consultant’s portfolio might not allow you, the buyer, to have a great sense of technical skills. Many of these freelancers will be part-time consultants and will have more than one project they are dedicated to (this is not always the case).

That said, there is occasionally great value in some of these consultants. If you are working with a Tableau consultant, be sure to ask for their Tableau Public portfolio.

The cost of these consultants is typically between $40/hour and $150/hour.

Staffing Consultants

As mentioned earlier, some teams just need someone to join their team in a long-term capacity, but not as a full-time employee. These individuals operate more-or-less as just another member of the team.

The cost of these consultants is typically between $80/hour and $130/hour.

Super-Experts, AKA Tableau Zen Masters

If you are unfamiliar with Tableau Zen Masters, these individuals are at the top of their game with these platforms. While the number of Tableau Zen Masters is limited, there are a number of people across the globe with similar skillsets as these individuals–just without the title. They typically will command the highest rate in terms of dollars per hour.

These individuals run $200/hour or higher. They are often worth every cent, though.

These individuals have all the eight competencies discussed above and can deliver on projects significantly faster than a typical consultant or full-time employee–sometimes as much as twenty(!!) times faster than a typical consultant. What might take the average employee weeks can be solved in just a few hours by these individuals. It’s important to note that these individuals usually have limited capacity.

On-shore, Near-shore, or Off-shore

Off-shore consultants are often associated with lower cost rates for individuals with strong technical skills. Off-shore is often successful when an organization has strong off-shore developers with strong on-shore communication skills. This is particularly ideal when managing a large volume of projects or tasks for a single client.

The most common challenge with off-shore consultants is that you will get exactly what you ask for as these consultants build to specification. This means you need to know exactly what you want. You’ll need to know the exact charts, design, even how you want calculations to change from month to month or year to year.

Additionally, a challenge of off-shore can be the timing of delivery or skill sets that don’t necessarily meet the expectations of clients.

Off-shore consultants are often associated with very low bill rates ranging from $15-$60/hr.

Near-shore consultants have many of the financial benefits of off-shore consultants but with the added benefit of being in a similar time zone to the actual delivery. Once again, while the hope might be to have low-cost development work, there are additional client needs that go beyond pure data and visualization development.

The cost for these consultants can be $20-$100 depending on the near-shore location.

On-shore consultants are typically much more expensive–the price is based on experience and abilities as related to the eight items above, as on-shore consultants typically must deliver on all components from development to change management.

These consultants typically range from $120-$250/hr, which again depends on experience, location, and time commitment.

The price varies significantly. For example, a $250/hour consultant could deliver a data visualization three times faster than the $125/hour consultant, which would make the $250/hour consultant far more cost-effective than the lower cost.

Consulting Firms

Consulting firms that specialize in data visualization often are very strong at delivering platform, data, analytics, and design expertise. Some firms might also be domain specialists which often bumps their billable rate up between +$20/hour and +$50/hour. The remaining capabilities will vary by the maturity of the firm to cover usability, project management, and communication capabilities.

Smaller firms will support a project with a single consultant. This means the project is solely dependent on that particular consultant. Through onboarding and training, these consultants can have consistent delivery between individuals at a single firm.

Larger firms can provide leveraged models. This means a single consultant can support most of the work of the project, but portions of the project management or even the extremely technical aspects can be supported by other individuals who can provide high-value support when needed. This means a less experienced consultant could support a project at a rate of $165, but for more technical needs, bring on a super-expert who may support a project only a couple of hours a week at $250/hour. This way clients can get the support of some of the best in the world, but at a rate that is more budget-friendly.

So, How Much Does a Tableau Consultant Cost?

When inquiring about the cost of a data visualization service, you will likely get quoted a number. A flat fee or a per-hour rate. Maybe there is a discount, maybe there are tiered options. Whatever it is, that number is a product of a lot of considerations. Baked into the dollars and cents are all the elements listed in this blog. 

When you are soliciting the work of a Tableau consultant, you may have just the output in mind but a good consultant is going to bring a range of skills to the project and a great consultant is prepared to meet you and your organization where you are and work with you to take your analytics to the next level. 

They will be equipped with the tools, experience, and knowledge to make recommendations on data structure, interactivity, and design and have a deep understanding of the data landscape and best practices for your visualization. And the engagement will be tailored to fit the desired use of your dashboard at the cadence that best fits your needs. 

So while our answer is still “it depends,” we hope this blog helps you to understand all of the pieces that go into it and feel better prepared when signing up for your next data visualization service. 

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