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Creation of a dynamic business plan with Tableau

A business plan is essential for every company. By combining a Business Model Canvas, design thinking and data-driven analytics in Tableau, you can easily create a dynamic business plan that facilitates collaboration and depicts real-time insights.


by Rutuja Pawar

Be it to evaluate your customer relationships or to calculate the risks of entering a new market – the way to do it is a business plan. It provides an ideal basis for decision-making and helps in the strategic planning and management of a business. Now, imagine you had a completely dynamic business plan that you could work on together with your team, and that displayed real-time analyses (for example on your key partners) in clear dashboards with just one click – and, last but not least, you created this business plan yourself!

Curious already? Then let me show you in my hack how to do this.

In terms of content, I base the business plan on the Business Model Canvas (BMC) (see Figure 1). This is a strategic management template that can be used to develop new business models or document existing ones. A BMC contains the most important aspects related to how a company creates and delivers value. Additionally, since the creation of BMC follows a design thinking approach, the generated solution is well-structured and user-centric.

Figure 1: Example of a Business Model Canvas (for more information see Reference 1).

In the following hack, I outline the four steps to create a dynamic business plan based on the above BMC template using the data visualization and reporting tool Tableau.

1. Create the data sources.

Of course, everything starts with the necessary data source. To establish it, create an Excel file named "Canvas_Input" with two worksheets: "Version" and "Canvas Details".

The worksheet "Version" contains the information for the header of your canvas with the columns "Designed For", "Designed By", "Date" and "Version" (see Figure 2). This dynamic header ensures proper version control.

Figure 2: Example of a "Version” worksheet.

For the second worksheet, "Canvas Details“, consider the 9 fields of the canvas blocks and create columns accordingly: “Key Partners”, “Key Activities”, “Key Resources”, “Value Propositions”, “Customer Relationships”, “Channels”, “Customer Segments”, “Cost Structure” and “Revenue Streams”. You then need to brainstorm with your team to fill out the values for these columns according to your business structure (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Example of a “Canvas Details” worksheet.

2. Connect the data sources.

In a next step, you connect the created data source in Step 1 to Tableau. To do this, select "Data->New Data Source->Microsoft Excel" in Tableau and locate the Excel file you just created. Since the two worksheets are not related, you need to create two data source connections: one with the worksheet "Version" and the other with the worksheet "Canvas Details" (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Data sources for worksheets “Canvas Details” and “Version”.

TIP: to facilitate collaboration within a team, the dashboards created in the next steps should be published on the Tableau Server. To do so, make sure to establish a “live connection” to your Excel files and to save them at a shared location with the server also having access to them (for more information see Reference 2). Thus, different users can make edits and updates and they will be automatically reflected on the canvas dashboard.


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3. Design and implement the Business Model Canvas.

Now that you have created and connected the data sources, you need to create the BMC as a dashboard in Tableau analogous to the template (see Figure 1) with color coding (for more information see Reference 3). This can be done in two steps:

Create views.

First, you create views in Tableau to be placed on the BMC dashboard. Create a total of 10 sheets – one for each block visible on the canvas template (see Figure 1) and one for the Version header. Then create text views on each of these sheets via drag & drop, the relevant Excel fields to “Rows” and a calculated “Blank” field to “Text” on the “Marks” card (see Figures 5 and 6). Eventually, these 10 sheets/views can be placed on the BMC dashboard (see Figure 7).

Figure 5: Example of the block "Key Partners” as a sheet with text view.
Formatting used: Title – Comic Sans MS (15 pt), Fields – Calibri (11 pt), Colour palette: #D0EEF7, #FFD5C2, #FAE99F

Figure 6: Example Version sheet with text view.
Formatting used: Title-Comic Sans MS (11 pt), Fields-Calibri (11 pt)

Figure 7: 10 created sheets/views.

Create the BMC dashboard.

The next step is to create the BMC dashboard to place your created views. To do this, click on the “New Dashboard” icon (custom size 1400 x 827) in your Tableau workbook. On this plain white dashboard, lay out the sections into different blocks as in the template (see Figure 1). This can be easily done using the “Horizontal” and “Vertical” containers visible in the “Objects” pane.

Once the layout is completed, it is time to add the header components to your canvas. To do this, drag & drop “Text” from the “Objects” pane on the dashboard and add the title “The Business Model Canvas”. Then, from the “Sheets” pane, drag & drop the earlier created “Version” sheet/view on the dashboard. Align these header components accordingly (see Figure 8).

Figure 8: Example of canvas header.

Now, you need to add the main component sheets to our remaining containers on the canvas dashboard. Simply drag & drop the respective sheets from the “Sheets” pane into these containers (see Figure 9).

Figure 9: Arranging sheets on the canvas.

After having dropped the sheets into the containers, add the relevant icons of your choice to each of the blocks. You can do so via “Button” from the “Objects” pane and then locate the image file for the icon respectively (for more information see Reference 4). These icons will help to navigate to the data analytics dashboards that you will create next (see Figure 10).

Figure 10: Button configuration for the block "Key Partners”.

Finally, you can complete your canvas design with arrows (for more information see Reference 4) via “Image” from the “Object” pane. Thanks to this, you can visualize the flow on the canvas. The final canvas dashboard will look something like what you can see in Figure 11:

Figure 11: Example of a Business Model Canvas in Tableau.

4. Create the data analytics dashboards.

In a last step, you need to create individual data analytics dashboards for each of the 9 main blocks on the canvas. They will depict the KPIs that are required to analyse the respective aspect of your business. For example, this dashboard provides deep-dive statistics and insights into the different key partners and how their impact can be measured in relation to the business (see Figure 12). The underlying data sources here can be anything from databases to Excel, etc.

Figure 12: Example of an illustrative dashboard for the block “Key Partners” (for more information see Reference 5).

Don't forget: On each of these individual dashboards, a uniform “Image Button” should be added, which can be used to navigate back to the main canvas (see Figure 13).

Figure 13: Configuration of the "Back Button".

After these last steps, the end-to-end flow for the here used example block "Key Partners" will look something like what you can see in Figure 14:

Figure 14: Example of an illustrative flow for the block "Key Partners".

To sum up: this hack demonstrates how you can use business intelligence (BI) tools to combine design thinking with data analytics, thus uncovering new business opportunities and paving the way for innovative solutions.

The final outcome here is a complete, intuitive, dynamic business plan which is linked to different data dashboards for in-depth analyses. This holistic overview of the most important business areas provides an ideal basis for a company’s strategic planning and management decisions.


  1. Media related to Business Model Canvas at Wikimedia Commons
  2. Live Connection to Excel
  3. BMC Color Coding
  4. Icons: licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY). (“link” icon by Luiz Carvalho from the Noun Project; “tick” icon by Prashanth Rapolu from the Noun Project; “Gift” icon by Vectorstall from the Noun Project; “Heart” icon by Gimzy7 from the Noun Project; “Customers” icon by shashank singh from the Noun Project; “resources” icon by dDara from the Noun Project; “Logistics” icon by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project; “tags” icon by Guilhem from the Noun Project; “revenue” icon by Ralf Schmitzer from the Noun Project; “Rounded Right Arrow” icon by Star and Anchor Design from the Noun Project; “Rounded Down Arrow” icon by Star and Anchor Design from the Noun Project; “Curved Down Arrow” icon by Star and Anchor Design from the Noun Project; “Curved Right Arrow” icon by Star and Anchor Design from the Noun Project; “Arrow” icon by Subur Imam Hidayat from the Noun Project)
  5. Key Partners Dashboard modified illustration

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