Tableau and the advent of artful analytics
In the wake of Tableau Conference 2015, 3 tips for creating artful analytics.
Jillion Crawford | October 27, 2015
At the Tableau Conference in Vegas last week, we were wowed by beautiful visualizations and the promise of artful new features. But it’s not just about creating pretty pictures—it’s also about value creation. Because, as Aristotle once said: "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."
So, how do we develop truly artful analytics? By using our data and the subsequent visualizations to make better decisions, solve problems, and identify actionable insights.
Don’t just use Tableau’s new features to make your dashboards artful—make them actionable.
Step 1: Focus on behaviors
Work with the business to ensure you’re getting at the right questions, and that your visualizations have relevance to day-to-day decisions.
What actions will the data inform? What decisions will be made because of this information? Don’t start with requirements gathering and just asking users what information they want. The answer often tends to be “everything!” But that’s only because users are afraid of not having the data they need at the moment they need it.
Moving people away from their crosstabs to something more artful and actionable happens when you make their lives easier.
Step 2: Gain user adoption by solving current problems
Building a visual analytics culture requires dashboards to be useful tools, not museum pieces. You have to know and understand what’s going on in the business.
Avoid creating an unused gallery of pretty pictures by targeting specific user problems, starting with real life examples. What questions are difficult to answer today? What decisions take too long to make? Who are the hold outs and what are they having a hard time with?
Get to know and engage users to remove dependence on old excel reports. Visualizations should make relevant insights leap off the screen. This eliminates the opportunity cost of hunting through spreadsheets, improving operational efficiency, and making it too costly to not use the new tools.
Step 3: Streamline the reporting process
Once you know what behaviors to inform and which problems to solve, make it easy for users to access the information.
Create a secure portal with an ecosystem of reports that all link back to your executive dashboards. Then adjust portal views so users only see what they need. Make sure that when users get a call to explain a high level number, they have what they need at their fingertips.
The new security features released at the conference will make it easier than ever to ensure people only see what’s relevant based on their level of access. Customizing views also helps to further reduce the level of hunting necessary, incrementally improving speed to insight.
Ultimately , purpose-driven reporting and analytics are the key to success with Tableau. Don’t just use Tableau’s new features to make your dashboards artful—make them actionable. Provide users with a deeper understanding of the data than they ever could have had with just spreadsheets.
Jillion Crawford is a data and analytics consultant in Slalom Silicon Valley. With a background in sales, marketing, and operational analytics, it's clear that Jillion loves analysis; and her masters in predictive analytics is just the icing on the cake. Aside from long walks on the beach, she loves helping clients with data use it more effectively to make better decisions.