Tag Archives: dataviz

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.

Virgin Atlantic Flight VS43 landing gear problems – updated

In December 2014, Virgin flight VS43 from London Gatwick to Las Vegas encountered a hydraulic failure on take off.  I built a viz to show the path that the aircraft took, its holding pattern and impact on Gatwick operations specifically for easyJet.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch have just published their findings into the incident AAIB VS43 investigation and as quite a few of the UK Tableau community, including a large chunk of the Information Lab are about to fly out to the Tableau Conference #data15 in Vegas on this very flight, I thought it was a good time to revisit and improve the viz based on some feedback I got at the time, specifically from Andy Kriebel and Ben Jones.

Enhancements I have made include –

  • Using the storypoints formatting tools in 9 to change the story colours to match the corporate colours of Virgin Atlantic (the colour picker tool is fantastic for this)
  • Included some photographs of the aircraft, as well as the landing gear problem it had
  • Made the maps consistent which I used across the whole viz
  • Condensed the story points descriptions
  • Fixed a colour issue which was bugging me for the easyJet paths
  • Updated the annotations with the details from the actual AAIB investigation
  • Included a link to the final AAIB report
  • Utilised the increased number of rows in Tableau Public to 10m rows to allow me to include every Gatwick flight for the day to be followed
  • Tidied up the last storypoint where you can follow the aircraft on its journey, making the pages slider more applicable – this is still best viewed on Desktop with the full pages functionality.

Hopefully we will have a great and uneventful flight out this weekend.

Looking forward to seeing a lot of you at conference and don’t forget to come and see my presentation on Wednesday at 10:15am #easyjetdata

Click the image below to take you to the full visualisation on Tableau Public

VS43 image

Virgin Atlantic VS43 Landing gear problems and the subsequent effect on Gatwick airport

On Monday 29th September at 11:44am, a Virgin 747 took off from London Gatwick for Las Vegas.  Shortly after departure the crew discovered a problem with the landing gear, and spend several hours dumping fuel, flying past the tower for visual checks, talking to engineering and trying to troubleshoot the problem.

At 15:45 after four hours in the air, the aircraft landed successfully back on the runway at Gatwick after discovering that one of the landing gear bogey’s had not deployed.

The passengers were disembarked on the runway and the aircraft was eventually towed away, however the incident had resulted in the closure of the worlds busiest single runway for almost three and a half hours.

This viz attempts to show that story, what happened to the VS43 and also the impact on Gatwick and easyJet, the airports biggest airline.

I could not have created this visualisation without the data from the chaps at www.planefinder.net and the help and support of www.theinformationlab.co.uk and in particular Matthew Reeve, who created a similar viz recently when the UK ATC systems went down, so I have used his base as a template for this *doffs cap*.

Here is a link to the interactive viz:

VS43 screen