Thank you for your support in 2018. This time of year is always a time of reflection for me, and one consistent theme I’m grateful for - and which I’ve come to realize is the single biggest-driving force behind my career - is you: the community. Your support has not only inspired me, it has made it possible for me to grow personally. You have forced me to sharpen my skills by teaching and challenged me to provide better solutions. So Thank You. Each year, I ask how could the next possibly be better, but 2018 included more huge updates: (1) I rebranded my analytics consulting agency, Ryan Sleeper LLC, to Playfair Data, (2) we launched Playfair Data TV, a premium online Tableau video training resource, (3) my book Practical Tableau was published, and (4) I had the opportunity to speak at 8 Tableau user groups across the US, Canada, and England. And, of course, I released more content! 41 blog posts and 50 videos to be exact. As a small token of my appreciation, I’m sharing my top ten posts and some statistics from my blog. My hope is that this content helps you in your Tableau journey, and that my observations provide some insight into the current state of the Tableau / analytics community. I’ll close the post by previewing even more announcements coming in 2019.
This is the third in a five-part series about my go-to elements of Tableau dashboards. For future updates, subscribe to my mailing list. As discussed in the triple crown framework, the practice of data visualization is very much a psychological exercise. If you can get in the head of your audience and understand their needs and what will resonate with them, you will maximize the chance of your visualization causing action. I also mentioned in my who is the audience post that two of the four audience types rely on establishing trust with the data and/or the analyst themselves before taking action. For this reason, I often like to close my dashboards with a ‘signature line’ that usually includes (1) the name of the author and how to contact them, (2) a list of data sources the dashboard is created with, and (3) a notification that tells the user whether the data is up-to-date. This post will share an example of a signature line on a Tableau dashboard and show you how to create a data status alert so your stakeholders will always know if the data source is current.
My second of two “vital questions” is more practical than understanding your audience, but I’m surprised how often it is overlooked: What is the measurement of success? If you don’t know the objective of the strategy at hand, how do you know what to look for in your analyses? How do you know which insights to share with your stakeholders? If you find your end users asking the dreaded, “So what?”, it is likely that you are not aligned on the objectives of the business. When this is the case, they do not know how to apply your insights in an actionable way to help the business improve. Understanding how success is measured will lead you to relevant business questions that should become the focus of your dashboards. Knowing the answer to this question will help you in all phases of your analytics and should be considered before opening Tableau. This post will discuss the OST model, provide some examples of measurements of success, and show how I translate these into core aspects of my dashboards.
I’ve always believed that it is not enough to master the tactics of Tableau and data visualization if you neglect to put some strategic thought into your process. There are several strategic frameworks I follow to get to an effective result as efficiently as possible, but they all share a common thread: a focus on the audience. That’s why I start every engagement with my first of two “vital questions”: Who is the audience? The answer to this question largely informs what my Tableau product will eventually look like and getting the answer right tremendously improves the chances of my visualization being adopted and causing action. This post discusses the different types of internal and external audiences, tactics for handling audiences at different points on the visualization maturity spectrum, and the four personality types that you may find yourself ‘selling’ your dashboards to.
My favorite question to ask when I present on Tableau and data visualization is: Why do you visualize data? This question has produced so many insightful answers that I’ve made it a standard discussion whenever I visit new places. The conversation provides an opportunity to learn what’s important to different industries and how they’re leveraging visualization to meet their objectives. I’ve seen firsthand that the answer to this question is not as simple as: Visualization helps you understand data. It’s been fascinating to witness the evolution – revolution, perhaps – of static, crosstab outputs to interactive, self-serve analytics that have been made possible through tools like Tableau. But we aren’t done growing yet. While the practice of data visualization is more than two centuries old, many have yet to buy in. This means we, as data visualization practitioners, have a huge opportunity (and I believe responsibility) to add value by proving the worth of visualization and driving adoption. This post provides my answer to the question: Why do you visualize data? In addition, I share my personal exercise for getting stakeholders to buy in to the value of data visualization.