Hey Tableau Analyst. What does the Data Say?

I like a lot of charts.  I have nothing against any particular chart and have probably used and abused all of them at one time or other.  I'm not a stickler for rules and I don't demand best practices of myself or my charts.

I try to find the best possible way to SEE the results. That's in the context of the dashboard as a whole and mostly, most importantly, the chart chosen depends on the data's distribution.

Before I begin to analyze and investigate the data, I can't tell you what chart(s) I'll settle on for the dashboard.  And halfway through building a dashboard, many charts will get discarded or radically changed [I don't draw my dashboards out first either].

The example below shows how sometimes the chart you think would be perfect, may not be the best chart possible.  Fortunately, you're a Tableau analyst.  You have the tool that allows you to explore your data FAST. You don't have to decide on a chart and then put your data in it. It's ok to not know which chart will be right at the beginning of the process - it's a discovery process.


Top 10 Dashboard Don'ts

10.  Don't build to committee  If a bunch of people sat around a room and drew out the dashboard on a whiteboard before you've even analyzed the data.... run screaming from the room.  This dashboard will end up being an '18 months to deployment product' and I promise you will want to slit your wrists with a spoon at some point, so pretend your hair's on fire and get out now.


Unbend Your Mind for Visual Analysis

Visual discovery with Tableau
Blank stares, then... Huh?

That's what I get when I say 'Visual analysis'.  People tend to think I'm talking about making a chart.  I am, but more than that, I'm talking about doing your data discovery visually with Tableau.

Chris Stolte gave a great talk on this a few years ago and I put it at the bottom of this blog as a Lunch n Learn.  I highly recommend you watch to see his brilliance in action.


How Deep is Your LAN?

If yours' is like most organizations, the LAN filing system is in a constant state of chaos threatening imminent collapse.

The structure starts out ok at the upper levels - where rules exist, but gets more and more bogged down as you dive closer to your department or team's shared folders.

Sometimes, there's absolutely no logic within your department/team folder - it's based on each person's internal logic.

Sometimes, there's too much logic - too many folders to keep going down until you reach the final folder which only houses one document.

This problem of categorical organization isn't limited to business LAN structures, it occurs everywhere humans need to create structure or taxonomies.  (That's because there's two types of humans: Groupers and Lumpers. Groupers like to give everything a group whereas Lumpers like to lump everything together into one group.)

Why does this matter and what does it have to do with Tableau?


Building Dashboards for the Smartphone

Mobile Dashboards

This post was originally shared on Tableau's blog.

I rarely get requests for Tableau dashboards on smartphones, probably because they are usually a secondary concern. That is, most business dashboards don’t automatically translate well to the phone format, so they are not high on the priority list. Here are a few things I’ve learned when making these wee dashboards that might be of help to you. 


Dashboard Kitsch

Kitsch (/ˈkɪtʃ/; loanword from German) is a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using popular or cultural icons. Kitsch generally includes unsubstantial or gaudy works or decoration, or works that are calculated to have popular appeal.

A gnome or two in your garden can be cute, even enchanting. But when you have a whole herd of zombie gnomes on your lawn, you have gone to the dark side, my friend. I'm suggesting that you are dangerously close to becoming a 'Collector'.


Global Human Development and Debt

The United Nations Development Program held a visualization contest last month. The objective was to visualize the Human Development data in infographic or interactive form; displaying country snapshot as well as an overview through time of all countries.  They provided quick access to a plethora of data including the Human Development Index and sub-indices.  I chose to incorporate country debt into the analysis to view the impact of efforts to reduce heavily indebted countries' debt load since 2005.  http://hdr.undp.org/en/dataviz-competition


Drill Down

Have you noticed how rarely you hear the term Data Mining these days? That's because a lot of people now know that it is a complex thing, and not just filtering a pivot table in Excel.

The funny thing is that 'Drill Down' is just the opposite. People ask for it - make a big deal of it - in dashboard building, not realizing that this is a simple thing in Tableau. There's a few ways to provide the 'Drill Down', but it's important to first ask what exactly do they mean by 'Drill Down'. Usually, it's one of three things:


The Elusive Executive Dashboard

Some things you should never, ever, EVER google.

Assless chaps is one and the other is Executive Dashboards.

Both searches may start out innocent enough, but will make you want to tear your eyes out. An Assless chaps search will at least give you a giggle, if not haunt your nightmares for years.

But an Executive Dashboard search will leave you exhausted and diminish your will to live. If you're analyst anyway.

You'll realize that in 2015, at least 20 years into the BI movement, and there's still little in the way of good dashboarding out there and that is the reason why you are always being asked to replicate the crap. Pardon my language, but it's sooooo frustrating. <big whine there>

Since I love to share my misery, let's play Where's Waldo with this search. How many crap dashboards do you have to search through until you find a good one?