Tag Archives: data

The British are coming! At least to #Data16

Otherwise known as the Viz which shows who is going out to the Tableau Conference 2016 #data16 on the British Airways flight BA191 on Saturday 5th November.

A few weeks ago I tweeted out to see who was on my flight –

ba191-tweet

I got quite a few replies and it looks like there are about 25 of us going and it got me thinking to how many of the community on the flight will know of each other but not actually met each other.  So what better place than a 10hr flight to meet someone new and discuss all things Tableau?

So I set up a Google Form, which populates a Google Sheet to capture the details of who is flying (You can complete the form which is embedded below if you are on our flight)

 

I then downloaded a seat map of the aircraft which flies the route – a BA 787-900 series with four classes, First, Club, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller.

boeing-787-9_seatmap

Finally I mapped the coordinates, something I first did at easyJet, blended with the Google data and I now have an interactive seat plan where you can see who you will be sitting next to or where that member of the community is that you always wanted to talk to but were too afraid to ask!

The great thing with the Tableau Public Google Sheet connector is that it refreshes daily, so it will update automatically, which is great for the dashboard which I also built using device designer for the first time as feel that the Mobile experience is the best for viewing this.

The final touch is that you can go back in and change your form, should you decide to move seats.

The dashboard can be viewed by clicking the image below

img_4463

Can Tableau really change your life?

Can Tableau really change your life?

Well, you hear a lot on Twitter and blogs about how Tableau has helped people to really see and understand their data, and changed people’s lives in moving from Excel treacle to worksheet and dashboards, fast iterations and rapid prototyping, all with claims around Tableau changing people’s lives, but actually, in those instances it really has enhanced them rather than changed them.

I want to share my journey below and explain how Tableau Software really has changed my life.

I am now 43 years of age and have been working for 26 of them (I know what you are thinking – he really doesn’t look that old), during which time I have had three pretty distinctive career fields –

  • Retail
  • Accountancy
  • Business Intelligence

Now little did I know, when I started out pushing trolleys at the weekend in my local supermarket where that would take me and how I have always been seen as ‘the data guy’ without realising it throughout my career.

As I progressed through the rank and file, I can remember becoming the Manager with the accountability for the figures and communicating this to the wider team.  No real tools were available then, so it was down to a 20ft long sheet of brown paper, segmented into each department and the key metrics, and using different coloured post it notes to indicate performance vs. plan with the figures annotated on the notes.

brown-paper
(a bit like this)

This eventually got me a position in head office as a Finance Analyst for our convenience stores.  My role was to help ‘show the numbers’ and put context on what was going on. Our systems back then were very basic and green screen based.  Text based data, hard to extract and do anything informative with.

I remember building a sales graph by department which took ages and I was really proud of , which would have looked like this

Year to date sales.png

But as my manager pointed out, how can they really read this as it is too busy.  This got me thinking about the way I visualise and how I can improve it – btw I also produced something like this and was extremely proud with myself that I found an online plug in that would let me label every element of the pie #puffschest

pie-data

I started to research graphing best practices and improved my offering to the business, but not before destroying the rules of the ink to non data ink ratio making everything bold and black on the screen which I could!

The visualisation which really got my work on the radar, was an excel plug in which allowed me to build a treemap.  I had seen one on a BBC science programme, and thought it was a great way to visualise a large amount of data on the screen – up until this point I had used bars and scrolled left to right !!!

Treemap.png
I produced something like this

Not earth shattering, but at the time quite forward thinking.

Fast forward a few years and I am an Accountant at easyJet looking after our Commercial and Network divisions.  We were a sea of Excel tables and poor visualisations.  I thought that it would be a good opportunity to bring back the treemap to visualise all 650 routes across 25 bases onto a single view.  This time though, I didn’t want to use Excel but thought that there would be a better way.

A quick Google introduced me to two things – The words ‘Business Intelligence’ and a product by a company called HIVE which natively built treemaps.  The definitions I read of Business intelligence resonated with what I had been trying to achieve throughout my career without realising it was a field in its own right.

The product by HIVE was interesting, it only built treemaps and was used by the US Army to look at inventory in the battlefield.  It also had Dr Ben Schneiderman on its board of advisors, the man who invented the treemap.

Although the treemap was useful, through my research I discovered some other tools and eventually settled on using ……… Omniscope.

Omniscope was UK based, provided treemaps as well as a number of other chart types including network graphs and also had built in ETL functionality (something else I had to Google!).

My CFO was impressed with the demo I built and I was allowed to purchase 5 licenses and training for the team.  The company we partnered with for this was called Atheon, run by Guy Cuthbert.  Following the initial work, we looked at doing a larger piece of analysis and gave Atheon two years worth of our bookings data as well as a number of other data sets which we had not blended on before and asked what they could come up with.

When Guy presented back, he used Omniscope and introduced another tool called Tableau.  Now I have to admit, when I first saw Tableau, I wasn’t impressed.  It was version 7.0.  It did not have treemaps.  It did not have ETL capability.  I needed a server to share the output?  Sounded like a con to me.

So I plugged away with Omniscope and was working on a new product that easyJet was about to launch and was exploring with the data generated.  The project was allocated seating.  I used a custom background map to build this

omni-flight-demo

And then used animation to show how the seat sales on the aircraft built up prior to departure.

We was introduced to a few new features coming in Tableau 8, primarily treemaps.  We got a trial desktop licence (actually two) and a trial of server, which we couldn’t get IT to help with or support so we installed it on a desktop tower PC under the desk, shhhh. 😎

A colleague and myself built a few visualisations and we purchased a few desktop licences. He brought in a contractor for a few days who was skilled in Tableau to build things faster. She worked for a company called The Information Lab.

I remember having a conversation with our Tableau sales representative at the time about potentially purchasing another 15 desktop licences and I asked if we could be put in touch with other customers / airlines to share experiences and help with our business case and being told in no uncertain terms that if I buy the licences they will put me in touch, otherwise I am wasting their time!

I really was not feeling enamored with these Tableau folks.

However over the next week or so, something strange happened.  I started to fall in love with Tableau.  Compared with Omniscope it felt modern.  It was fast.  I could iterate and try and fail and try again.  I had another conversation with Tom Brown, the founder of The Information Lab.  he came in and we agreed to run a two day training course for our new users and we purchased the additional licences.  I discovered his passion for Tableau and the Information Lab’s journey and was also impressed by his teams skill and ability to support us.

At the same time, easyJet was embarking on its BI journey.  My boss was in charge as it was deliberately a Finance led and not IT led initiative.  I was asked to be full time on it and manage the project.  We partnered with Deloitte to help us with this and I also spent time with Gartner, using their research to help up develop our Centre of Excellence, show us how to deliver self service BI and also to define what the Analyst of Tomorrow should look like.

Here is a Prezi which I presented at the internal Tableau Sales Kick Off in 2014.  The audience looked like this –

 

Click on the image below to go into the Prezi

tableau-easyjet-prezi

 

 

As you can see, we covered a lot more than just Tableau, developing a colour palette as well as visualisation standards and best practices, as well as what would be different for our analysts and how they will evolve in the future – all of which I will cover in a later blog post.

The team developed and we had nearly 80 desktop users, a 16 core server and thousands of users.  Our CoE was regarded by peers and people in the know as being one of the best in the world.

Another area which helped with this was leading the London Tableau User Group alongside Paul Banoub and Nick Bignell.  This increased my presence in the community as we often fill 150-200 seat venues with a similar number of people on our wait lists.  We have hosted two #datapluswomen sessions, had industry renowned speakers as well as senior employees of Tableau themselves presenting, including Elissa Fink and Francois Ajenstat.

I use Twitter as my primary tool to learn new things in Tableau as well as the data visualisation sphere.  This has also helped to increase my presence within the community.

At the turn of this year, the easyJet CoE was doing a great job and launching some fantastic new Tableau dashboards.  We had some changes though.  Our long term Head of BI had moved on and due to budget constraints was not directly replaced however our recently created Head of Data Science took over.

I had been thinking about a change of role around the same time.  My daily commute took four hours, I had a very energetic (who doesn’t) two year old daughter, and these combined didn’t really go well together.

My CV was old, like six years old as I had not changed it or Linkedin since I joined easyJet, so I subtly made adjustments to it and put the word out to a few influential people in the BI community that I might be available for the right role, should it come up.

When adjusting my CV, I wanted to change it from a standard text document to something more vibrant and creative which could demonstrate some of the work my team and I had achieved.

I looked on CV sites for guidance and settled on hloom and specifically their creative and portfolio templates.  Originally designed for photographers, I thought that would be perfect to showcase my Tableau work.

The next few months were a bit of a whirlwind to be honest.  During this process there was only one role which I spotted online and actually applied for – this was with a leading technology company and I had two interviews which went really well, before they decided to withdraw the role due to a change of direction.

Through word of mouth and introductions from the BI community I had several discussions with companies about potential roles they either had, or wanted to create following our discussions and a standard presentation I give on the work that my team had done and how every company could benefit from this BI focus.

I even had a discussion with the retailer where my career began!

In the end, I had four firm offers for roles on the table, all from meetings and general chats and discussions.  Not all of them had formal interviews.  It was a very surreal process.  One was from a prominent retailer, another from a property company, a third from an airline and a fourth from the Organisation I am now working for.

The roles were varied and at the time, newly created and unadvertised.  I found that my reputation and previous work had gone a long way to convincing companies of the need to improve their BI offering, which my presentations and discussions only further cemented.  The roles ranged from Centre of Excellent Manager, to Head of BI, to Head of Insights and Global Director of Business Intelligence.

During our conversations, I felt that even for the companies I turned down roles with, their BI journey’s would be enhanced as I offered suggestions and partnerships to help drive them forwards, which I know at least two have carried on with.

The role I took came about via a strange course, and originated with an email to Tableau from my predecessor, asking ‘can you put me in touch with someone in the London / UK market for sourcing a Tableau Rockstar that we could secure for a leadership position’

 

This found its way to Tom Brown with a little more detail and was forwarded to me.  At the time, I was a long way down the road in discussions with one of the other companies, but the location and a few conversations about the journey and team convinced me this was the right role for me.

I was leaving a role and company I loved and jumping into an exciting unknown, however the role was fantastic and everything I had done before had led to the perfect timing of this becoming available.

I have now been here four months.  Initially working hard creating a sense of teamwork as the team themselves are virtual, based across five Countries and six timezones.

The team is split across five distinct areas –

team-location

So can Tableau change your life?  Absolutely.  For me, it has been career changing, improved my salary and provided opportunities that I could only dream of when I started out pushing trolleys.  I have made some great lifelong friends and really enjoy getting out of bed and going to work in the morning.

If you want to grow into a larger role or spread your wings, now is the time.  Look at all the things you currently do in your role which you or your leadership sees as ‘business as usual’, and step back to think about how other companies would bite your arm off to implement them.  Think about your Tableau and BI journey and where you are compared to most other companies.

To help yourself, work on your public profile.  Write a blog.  Present at conferences.  Build a great supportive network.  Become involved in your local user groups.  Learn the tools. Articulate the best practices you are using without compromising proprietary information. Be innovative with your CV and confident in your abilities.

Over the next few years, more and more companies are going to be looking for people like you to build and delivery their BI propositions.  Take a look at the skills gap the Data School is current filling, then realise Tableau really can change your life too.

 

 

Vizable on the iPhone

For anyone that know’s me, they know that I am an advocate of Vizable, the app which Tableau and Dave Story launched in Vegas at the #data15 conference last year.

It was the fruit of their work on project elastic and really excited me.

I use Vizable almost every day.  Wherever I see a pivot table or an ‘Excel Database’, I introduce and usually convert the user to Vizable.

One thing I have been waiting for and tried numerous hacks to work has been to get it working on the iPhone, the product I have on my person and in my pocket ALL of the time.

I use an iPhone 6S Plus, which has a large screen real estate perfect for Vizable.

So when I had a call with Trina Chaisson, the Vizable product manager and co-founder of Infoactive and she said what was about to land in the App store I got very excited.

IMG_3833

In fact when it landed in the App store – I managed to tweet about it before even Tableau or Vizable were able to make the announcement – sorry guys!!

app store

Here is how in 90 seconds I  go from my home screen to having it installed and analysing data (Best watched in HD and fullscreen mode)

As you can see it is very simple to download and intuitive to use.

To get started, I thought I would explore one of the recommended data sets and download my Amazon shopping history.

Now if you use the US Amazon store, this is really easy to use by following these steps –

amazon recipe.png

However if like me, you are in the UK, it is not so simple as the order reports are not able to be downloaded.

Fortunately, if you use Chrome, there is a workaround which I found on the forum.

Amazon order history.png

Here is the app

chrome app

And what the data looks like

Amazon excel sheet.png

Now I can import into Vizable and start to explore my data.

First I explored my orders by year – I am definitely using Amazon more each year (2016 is only part year)IMG_3890

I have been an Amazon prime member for a few years, does it pay for itself?

IMG_3893

What are the products I repeat purchase the most?  Interesting that the Baby Wipe I have on a monthly delivery seem to change provider and description on a regular basis.  I would have to clean this up better to get the full picture.

IMG_3891

Are all of the items for me or do I send a lot of gifts?  It seams that I send a lot to @infolabUK ‘s own @_tombrown_  – or this may be skewed by a gift to say thank you 😀

IMG_3889

Finally I wanted to understand if my average postage costs had really come down through the use of Prime or was I still ordering products which were not eligable for the Prime service?  It certainly appears that I paid more high price delivery charges in 2015 with a maximum of £7.99 and have seen a 4.4% increase in the average shipping costs from when I started in 2010

IMG_3894

So very quickly I have been able to see, touch and understand my data and hopefully you will all try this as well.

How can you make Tableau server project folders more interesting?

With the introduction of Tableau 9, you had the ability to control the descriptions on the project folders and add some basic formatting.

Initially though, I was very disappointed with the feature as it seemed to make the folders look like large empty spaces.

Boring folders

You can see in the default folder, that the text has been changed, but who want’s to look at all of that white space and the grey image of a file?

I thought that there had to be a better way.

At first, we added text to explain what the folder was and looked at the basic editing functions available –

Commercial server format

We can see at the bottom the ability to use basic HTML formatting, but as with a few things in Tableau, it is the undocumented things which really add value.

For example, through adding the <img src/> code, we can add a picture, to make the folder more colourful, in the example below this is as simple as putting in a footer.

Commercial server preview

 

 

What about putting in a picture of a report in the project though, to show the end user an example of the content.  That works as well, brightening up the default folder.

Commercial server folder overview

 

But how about taking it a step further.  If <img src/> works for an image, can I make it work for a .gif to allow me to run a carousel of the content within the folder?

 

 

 

CommercialProjectImage

Well that looks a lot better and is more intuitive for the end user.

 

So what are the steps you need to follow to do this?

  1. You need to have admin access to the box where server is located
  2. Create a .gif (I use giphy.com) by using some screen shots of reports in the project
  3. On the server, go to this location and save the .gif                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Gif location                                                                                                                                                                               It doesn’t matter where your Tableau server files are saved, as long as it goes into the htdocs folder
  4. On the server web portal, edit the project description within the details tab                                                                                                                                                                                                       Commercial server preview
  5. Type in the following code – <img src=”filename.gif” width=”448″ align=”middle” /> Replace filename with the name you gave the .gif.  As long as it is stored in the htdocs folder you do not need to put the full path
  6. Click save and it should be working a treat

 

If after this, you only see a static image, your browser settings are probably restricting activeX controls.

 

 

The finished work should look like this

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction to Data visualisation

Internally at work, I run a monthly workshop introducing people to data visualisation and explaining why it is important and how we use Tableau as our tool of choice in this area.

The workshop was initially aimed at the analyst community, but as the months have gone on and the popularity of Tableau increases, I am seeing a wide variety of people attending, from our Board, to managers to people who just use Excel but want to do things better.

The workshop lasts about 90 minutes and is mostly in Prezi, before I move into showing some Tableau demonstrations and our Facebook at work pages, where people can download our colour palettes and understand some of the choices we have made.

So far, about 130 people at work have seen this and along with a few members of my team, I am writing a follow up session.

Obviously, I have not created all of this content from scratch.  A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend Stephen Few’s three day workshop in London, based around his books at the time.  It was at this event where I first met Tableau community legends Peter Gilks and Carl Allchin.

I took my leanings from that, and converted his three books and several hundred pages into a 30 page PDF that people could use as a reference.

Following this, I also attended Andy Kirk’s workshop and have several data visualisation books in our internal library including Alberto Cairo’s book the functional art, all of which I have tried to take examples from to improve our internal guidelines and best practices.

Data viz books

At the Tableau conference in Vegas #data15, I mentioned this workshop and touched on a small part of it.  A few people in the Twitter community sent me messages and asked if I would share it.  As it was internally branded, I didn’t want to do this on a wide scale level, so thought that I would create a ‘public’ version and publish it here.

The Prezi should allow you to follow through the journey, which is based around transforming information into insight.  It obviously works better when I am present to talk through it and the examples, but hopefully it gives enough of an introduction and I am happy to talk about it in more detail or come and present it.

Click on the image below to go into the Prezi.

data viz overview

I will follow this post up with some details on setting your colour palettes as well as how you can put standards in place for your Tableau dashboards.

Prelude to #data14: how the Tableau community enriched my conference experience

Welcome to my first ever blog post.

I have to pay thanks to @paulbanoub and @emily1852 for finally persuading me to put my thoughts down on paper and share them with you. I am going to start, with my thoughts and review of the Tableau customer conference #data14 which took place during September 2014 in Tableau’s hometown of Seattle.

Firstly though, who am I?

Well in a follow up blog, I will go into this in detail, but in my current role I lead a BI centre of excellence, focussing on our Tableau enterprise deployment whilst educating our business on visualisation rules, guidelines and providing best practices.

Now the reason for the prelude.

Before I talk about this year’s conference, I need to set the scene by going back 12 months, to #TCC13, which took place in Washington.  Now that conference also took place in September and my organisation had purchased our first Tableau licence in May 2013.  This mean’t that I firstly didn’t have a lot of time to explore the tool and even less time to persuade my senior management of the merits of attending a software conference on the other side of the Atlantic.  Because of the work we were able to achieve with Tableau in such a short space of time, they were very receptive to the benefits of trying to accelerate our learning as well as understand from the Customer stories what other users were able to do, especially those within the same field as my organisation. Now originally, we planned on sending four people to attend in 2013.  Upon reviewing the agenda, speakers and schedule, I realised what a tough job selecting sessions would be and in the end after the equivalent of two days solid, came up with a plan for all of us, which was a mix of technical, leadership and customer stories for us all to attend. Then, in August, the decision was made to just send me.  So again I had to revisit the agenda and try and cherry pick what I thought would be the best sessions to attend which would allow me to answer my organisations questions. So with ticket booked, I realised that I would be attending a conference (my first in any field) in which over 2,000 customers would be attending, 3,500 miles away from home where I knew nobody. As part of our BI programme, we work with one of the big four consulting firms.  Now they have their BI HIVE (Highly Immersive Visual Environment) in Washington and arranged for me to visit this, as well as put me in touch with a few of their guys who were running the stand in the expo hall.  So that was at least one contact I had.  Our BI data architect also used to work for a large Bank, and put me in touch with their crack Tableau team, whom I had briefly met at a Stephen Few data visualisation workshop earlier in the year (I will cover this in a follow up blog post).  So I emailed the guys and asked if we could perhaps meet for lunch or dinner to talk through our various experiences.  Finally, our Tableau sales rep was able to set up a meeting with a similar business from the States, who I could meet with at the conference and share experiences. So that was two definite meetings and a couple of guys with an email address! The other person who I knew was going was @_tombrown_, owner of theinformationlab, who were Tableau’s partner of the year in 2013.  We had one of his consultants in to support us with building initial dashboards and had also spoken about further licence purchases. Now how was I going to try and engage with the remaining 1,996 attendees?  Well, social media sprang to mind.  When I went on our honeymoon, I really engaged with our resort prior to going through Twitter, which helped me to meet some other couple who were there at the same time as us, as well as get some extras and freebies from the resort, which seemed like a win to me. Twitter wasn’t a platform I used much though.  I rarely posted and mainly followed celebrities to see what they were up to.  But through using tweet deck and and having a search for Tableau and the conference hashtag #tcc13, I was able to find a few people that seemed to be posting a lot and also going to the conference. So when I arrived, I was in this big town and decided to go for a burger in the hotel sports bar and thought I would see who was about by tweeting my view. IMG_0652

Within minutes, I had people responding on both twitter and walking up to the table, where minutes before it was empty, I soon had Andy Cotgreave, Tableau’s social media manager, Susan Baier owner of Audience Audit and the aforementioned Tom Brown and some of his team.  After a few beers and a few additions to the table (well tables as we started overflowing!) a young quiet chap came and sat next to me, Andy said have a chat as he was British as well, and this turned out to be the infamous Matt Francis who was also at his first US conference and told me he was a little star struck to be sitting at a table with so many Tableau Zens and legends.  I had no idea what he was going on about and to be honest thought he was a bit nuts, putting these ‘data geeks’ up on a level with celebrities (what would I know fast forwarding 12 months), but it turned out with had Michael Cristiani, Greg (the Lewandog) Lewandowski, Chuck Hooper and Craig Bloodworth to name but a few sitting around the table.  What we discussed and I learned that night, helped to shape the conference and also start to formulate an understanding of the Tableau community and how I wanted to become a part of it as well as discover how much these guys wanted to share – at absolutely no cost, just through the joys of giving stuff back. The conference turned out to be a personal triumph.  I learned a lot.  I watched how other customers used Tableau, especially those in my organisation’s field, and took that back to help develop our Tableau programme. I briefly got to meet the other two guys  – who also appeared bonkers, presenting on stage in High Viz jackets and Hard Hats!  I thought this was supposed to be a software conference? IMG_0699 These turned out to be Peter Gilks and Carl Allchin, a couple of guys I would end up interacting with a lot and taking influence from their blogs.

 Most of the week was spent with the people I mentioned above, I also used the twitter feed a lot, to see what was going on and also to feed the competitive nature in me to try and work my way up the leaderboard – although Matt Francis had the lead on that one.

 tcc

This was also my view for the keynote – something I had never experienced before, fast forward 12 months and my view was very different.  I live tweeted and gained a lot of followers and when I returned, I changed my twitter focus, deleting most of the people I followed and using it instead to help with my Tableau and data visualisation journey.  Do not underestimate how powerful this can be in making contacts and understanding what is hot – the challenging part can be finding the time to read all the updates from people you are following.

My next post will be all about this years conference and will be up within the next week.