Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Evolution of Business Intelligence Event

Last Thursday Tableau Software held an event in downtown Milwaukee that brought together business intelligence leaders and practitioners for a series of presentations. Tableau's events in the past have been fairly basic and failed to inspire me personally - instead they seemed to be geared towards newcomers. The event last week was different. The content was phenomenal, the presentations by the selected customers were super cool, and they had liquid chocolate at the happy hour. How could I not love it?!

The first person to speak was a man named Josh Rauh from Tableau who spoke about the trends we can expect to see in 2017. Next was Steve Konkol of CUNA Mutual who discussed his Tableau story followed by Jim Webb of MillerCoors who shed light on a particular process. Below are my notes from the event as well as my thoughts.

Top 10 Business Intelligence Trends for 2017

  1. Modern BI becomes the new normal
    IT publishing (traditional) versus IT self-enabling (modern)
    We were an early adopter of this model and it has worked out well for us. We can put the data and Tableau in the hands of the people who best understand the data.

  2. Collaborative analytics goes from the fringe to the core
    Interact on the fly with your data
    When you're in a meeting you should be able to interact with the data and drill in to answer whatever question has come up.
    Much of this depends on leadership and welcoming an interactive dashboard. If an executive still prefers a printed PDF there isn't much that can be done to interact with your data. We have a pretty amazing setup and acceptance among our leadership, if I do say so.

  3. All data becomes equal
    Not just Warehouse data is important, access to all data
    Our analytics practice treats all data equally and typically most of the projects we work on do not use our governed Warehouse data.

  4. Self-service analytics extends to data prep
    Less reliance on other to prepare your data
    We've got a project planned to rollout Alteryx to some advanced business users beginning in the second quarter.

  5. Analytics are everywhere, thanks to embedded BI
    Putting dashboards into Salesforce or other places users live
    Again, we're ahead of the curve. We have Tableau embedded into our intranet, wiki, SharePoint, as well as a test Salesforce environment.

  6. IT becomes the data hero
    You don't get into IT to manage a queue, you get into it to be on the cutting edge of technology, so IT becomes a partner and enabler of getting users access to data
    So many of these trends resonate with me! One of my goals this year is to push the envelope of what we can do with data, but also create an Analytics Center of Excellence to enable an even greater use of data. That said, you can't really be on the cutting edge if you're busy with the mundane. So it's extremely important to get to the point where business users are mostly self-service.

  7. People start to work with data in more natural ways
    Interaction with data using voice (NLP)
    I am looking forward to seeing how Tableau might build this into future releases. I know of Narrative Science and their Chrome extension that works with Tableau, but it doesn't allow a user to speak commands. Instead it summarizes your data in paragraph or bullet form.

  8. The transition to the cloud accelerates
    You used to need software on premise because that's where your data lives but data is moving to the cloud
    Tableau has data connectors to your standard cloud providers and offers a product called Tableau Online which is their hosted server option.

  9. Advanced analytics become more accessible
    Understanding concepts without the need to know R or Python
    There are many tools available that make advanced analysis of your data easier to execute and without the need to know certain programming languages. I question how far those tools could get you, though, as many data science programs still use R and/or Python for good reason. You should be able to understand what is happening to your data if you are going to need to explain the results of your analysis.

  10. Data literacy becomes a fundamental skill of the future
    Bloomberg Technology article about the 20 Fastest Growing Skills

Steve Konkol, CUNA Mutual

  • Compared themselves to the Hulk. They wanted to change due to insatiable demand for data, current tools were not scalable, and lack of agility. It was taking too long to produce reports and then the reports were stale. Not sustainable.
  • Transformed organization with daily Tableau dashboard that have been automated and no longer have a need for reconciliation. Standard and simplified reporting with self-service capabilities that are scalable and agile.
  • Lessons Learned
    • executive leadership
    • skinny data (narrow versus wide, Tableau can create the joins and hierarchies)
    • kick start with help (consultants)
    • security and profiles (permissions)
    • visualizations versus spreadsheets (think differently)
    • drive adoption
      • communication plan
      • education
      • turn off old sources
      • white glove service
      • track usage

    Jim Webb, MillerCoors

    • On premise consumption (bar/restaurant) versus off premise consumption (grocery store) purchase points. Focusing their efforts on bars or restaurants because that's where consumers find brands and fall in love with brands.
    • Before: variety of reports that each focus on a single metric across the entire universe that is a large spreadsheet.
    • Goal: each sales rep has an iPad and are empowered to use data. Make data mobile and distribute it quickly. Easily determine what brand is at risk while adding value to the outlet by presenting market data.
    • After: speaking the same language and measuring the same goals, addressing the right priorities, more engagement.
    • New hires expect the same level of integration and access to information as they do in their personal life

    Each presenter tied their presentation back to the BI Trends discussion as well as provide some sort of personal impact story. I appreciate the thoughtfulness that connected each presentation together and allowed for a natural flow to the event.

    Were you at the event? Do you have anything to add that I might have missed? Comment below!

    I will leave you with this fantastic joke/quote that Jim Webb said during his presentation:

    If you asked a Milwaukee bar owner what they know about Tableau they would say
    "Tableau is a company that measures beer sales."

    Wednesday, March 1, 2017

    Ryan Sleeper Visits Milwaukee

    Ryan Sleeper is a celebrity in the Tableau universe. He is a Tableau Zen Master, Iron Viz Champion, and author of the Tableau Public 2015 Visualization of the Year. Add to that author of a new book called Practical Tableau (O'Reilly 2016). The release of his book brought Ryan by the Milwaukee Tableau User Group two weeks ago for the kickoff of his book tour and we were not disappointed.

    We received a preview of the type of information laid out in his book. For example, he spoke about his Triple Crown Framework:
    1. Audience
      You should know who your audience is, what they are looking for, and their perspective. Are you presenting to clients, the CEO, or the public? Either way, your mom is a good litmus test, as every visualization should easy to understand without much explanation. It is worth understanding certain psychological concepts when attempting to display your data and Ryan lays it out in this post.

    2. Data
      Prepare your data before it gets to Tableau. Think about the format your data should be in for the type of visualization you want. For example, instead of having your dates going across the top of your file, in individual columns, have them in a single column. Ryan suggests using context filters when you're developing your visualizations, which contradicts what I've heard in the past. I suppose it might depend on the size of your data as a context filter creates a temporary table of a subset of your data.

      While Tableau currently has some data preparation abilities (with more coming in their Maestro product), they are extremely lightweight. I use Alteryx frequently to prep my data before it gets to Tableau and will be writing up a post soon about how it fits into our suite of tools as well as how my wonderful colleague has developed a system that allows us to automate our workflows using our enterprise scheduling system.

    3. Design
      This step is to find and communicate actionable insights. Ryan suggests (and I've already started to implement) reducing the saturation of color or making your visualization a little transparent as it's less harsh on the viewers eyes. Another big rule is less is more - keep it simple. The following gif explains Edward Tufte's rule of avoiding "chart junk". I tell the individuals I advise that unless a visual element adds to the understanding of your data, you don't need it.

    Ryan went on to demonstrate to the group how to create a dumbbell chart. Essentially you have a dual axis of the same measure. The mark card for the first measure should have the mark type be a circle with the dimension field on the color shelf, while the mark card for the other measure should have the mark type be a line.

    The visualization he used as an example is below. There is a toggle to normalize the data or have each game in the data set represented with the same starting point. There is a second toggle which allows the user to sort the chart in either chronological order or margin of victory. You can play with the dashboard live on Ryan's website.

    I will leave you with this random thought - whether you look at Ryan's website, Twitter, or dashboards he is consistently using the same color scheme. I appreciate that immensely and have yet another project to add to my list for the year. What do you think of this?

    The #MKETUG has three other meetings currently scheduled for the year, which I wrote about in this blog post and which you can register for on the right side of my website. Hope to see you there!

    Thursday, February 9, 2017

    2017 Milwaukee Events

    Since planning our meetings at the start of the year worked so well last year we decided to take the same approach to planning our Tableau User Group meetings this year. Additionally, we expanded our leadership team in order to offer more events and better content. You'll have to attend our next meeting to find out who are your new #MKETUG leaders!

    When planning our meetings for 2017 we took into account the feedback we received from our survey, which is still open, as well as polling from our most recent meeting.

    We have many ideas in the works and a few we have decided on already! While I would love to have an event each month, that might be too much for me to handle along with my full time gig, so we are committing to an event each quarter with many extras thrown in!

    For example, last month Jim Donahue organized another Analytics After Dark event, which is typically a happy hour event to discuss the variety of business intelligence solutions being created in the city of Milwaukee, but I put Jim in touch with Jacob Fink who works closely with a company called DatavizVR. Together they provided attendees with a live demonstration of the virtual reality software!

    As in past years I anticipate a July Virtual User Group to announce a new release of Tableau software. I'm also hoping for another War of TUGS (a visualization competition across user groups). I've learned from this year's event about how much time is needed and will plan for a Saturday "hackathon" to create a stunning contribution from the Milwaukee Tableau User Group. Thank you to all who attended the event last December - you're rock stars!

    Moving on to future events, we are hoping to have at least one Women+Data event (perhaps golf lessons?!), a Girls+Data event (surprise!), and maybe even a holiday party! Additionally, there are many other events taking place in the area. AE Business Solutions is having their annual symposium at the Harley-Davidson Museum on April 20th. I hear there is going to be an event at MillerCoors sponsored by Continuus Technologies. And there are multiple events being hosted by our friends in Madison. I hope you are excited as I am about all this great stuff.

    So, without further ado, here are the 2017 #MKETUG meetings!

    Q1 - Wednesday, February 15th (in less than a week!)
    Not only will we have Tableau Zen Master (2016/17), Iron Viz Champion (2013), author of the Tableau Public Visualization of the Year (2015), and author of Practical Tableau (O'Reilly 2016) Ryan Sleeper joining us for his Tablueprints presentation but we will have small group discussions too.

    While the presenter is unknown at this time we plan on offering a hands-on makeover session. Leave a comment below regarding what you think we should focus on!

    There is currently an open slot for a member presentation but you can count on a panel discussion. Who would you like to see from the local Tableau community on that panel?

    Fresh from the Tableau Conference you can expect a wrap-up presentation and hopefully some equally amazing photos as this one.

    If you're interested in how we organize our group, I've written about it here and you're more than welcome to join our LinkedIn group where we post a bit more frequently.

    Of course, I would love to hear your thoughts on what we have planned, what else you would like to see us do, and if you would be interested in hosting our group in your space or presenting at a future meeting.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016

    Starting a Tableau User Group (TUG)

    Recently I was discussing the success of the Milwaukee Tableau User Group with Rob Wellen of SWC. He was on his way to a planning meeting with the Indianapolis TUG and wanted my thoughts on running or starting up a TUG. I jumped at the chance to share my thoughts and knowledge. It goes without saying that some things have worked for us and some things have not, some things that have worked for us will not work for others, and we are constantly learning.

    I've been the co-lead of the Milwaukee Tableau User Group for over a year now alongside Patrick Dlugosch. When we first took over leading the group we had at least five planning meeting just to organize our first meeting. Now we maybe meet once prior to each quarterly meeting. That's because we have developed our agenda, contacts, and checklists. Much of our planning can be done over LinkedIn or email.

    Agenda Template/Checklist
    Having a template or checklist is extremely helpful both as a leader in planning the meeting, but also for members so they know what to expect. That said, this is just a template and should change based on the needs for the meeting. For example, when Dan Murray presented at our last meeting he required more time so we cut other segments.
    1:00-1:20   Welcome (preferably by the host with their Tableau story)
    1:20-1:45   Introductions (name, company, question-of-the-day)
    1:45-2:00   Message from the Leaders (go through PowerPoint slides)
    2:00-2:20   Member Presentation 1
    2:20-2:30   Break and Networking (bathroom breaks, setup next presenter)
    2:30-3:00   Member Presentation 2 (if no second presentation, do breakout sessions)
    3:00-3:15   SWAG Giveaway
    3:15-3:30   3-Minute Win (new Tableau tip or trick)
    3:30-4:00   Tableau Doctor (users answer each other’s questions)
    4:00-6:00   Happy Hour (hopefully sponsored by a Tableau partner)
    Member Presentation Guidelines
    I have been attempting to line up presenters in advance for all of our meetings this year. It has been extremely helpful as I've found getting members to present to be the most difficult part of planning a meeting. When needed, I reach out to the Tableau Partners in the area to give a presentation. When I touch base with our presenters I set these basic requirements.
    • You should plan on a 15-20 minute presentation with questions after
    • Include screenshots or give a live demonstration of your visualizations/dashboards
    • Show the group any behind-the-scenes magic that was particularly difficult
    • You can even use “fake” data if you are concerned with sharing sensitive information
    • Answer the question “How has Tableau changed the business?”
    Questions for the Host
    Arranging a space for our meeting to be held has been a bit easier than finding presenters usually because it doesn't involve preparing a presentation. For new hosts I make sure to discuss the following topics.
    • Confirm location, address, and that a room has been booked
    • Where should members park
    • Do members need to sign in
    • Are there any other instructions for our members
    • What is the capacity of the room
    • Is Wi-Fi available for everyone or at least the presenters
    • What type of AV connection is available (HDMI, VGA, etc)
    • Would they be interested in giving a welcome introduction and brief presentation
    • Would it be possible to make a tour part of the meeting (if applicable)
    Day-of Checklist
    To make sure my day goes smoothly, as well as the meeting, I make sure I grab the following materials. I usually spend the week of the meeting updating my slide deck in preparation for the meeting. The slide deck evolves from the prior meeting so I don't spend too much precious time on it.
    • Name tags, sign-in sheet, sharpies
    • Sign-up sheets (for hosting, presenting, and 3-minute win)
    • Signage
    • Swag
    • Slideshow (this is on a timer prior to the meeting)

    That's it! Hopefully it doesn't seem too overwhelming, though I know it was for me at first. Once I developed these checklists it made planning our meetings much easier. As always, once you have the basics down you can begin to think about the next steps or new ways to make your group more engaged and excited to attend.

    Things we're currently doing
    • Create a list of different topic ideas
    • Develop a list of people to reach out to
    • Survey to continuously gather feedback
    • Personalized icon/image
    • Sign Up documents (for hosts, presenters, and 3-minute win)
    • Planning out our year in advance
    • Network with Tableau Partners in the area
    Things we'd like to do soon
    • Encourage the use of a hashtag through meetings, LinkedIn, and registration
    • Include a link to the LinkedIn group and Tableau community page
    • Develop a mission statement or mantra
    • Provide a more detailed description of presentations and presenters
    • Make our registration page more visually interesting
    Spin offs
    The Milwaukee Tableau User Group is extremely lucky in that we have members who attend each meeting and are extremely involved. Some of our members have created their own groups with different objectives but similar interests.
    If you have any questions, comments, or are interested in presenting, hosting, or sponsoring a meeting please comment below!

    Friday, April 1, 2016

    1st Alteryx User Group Meeting

    Last Thursday evening the first Milwaukee Alteryx User Group (MAUG) meeting was held at the Baird offices. Starting with pizza and soda at 4:45pm provided by AE Business Solutions the meeting transitioned to a welcome and introductions. The group is being lead by Robert Farley of Health Payment Systems, John Heisler of Health Payment Systems, Matt Christen of Baird, Mark Hohensee of Baird, Alex Christensen of AE Business Solutions, Tessa Jahnke of AE Business Solutions, and Sam Lachterman of AE Business Solutions. Outside of those individuals there was representation from Northwestern Mutual and Johnson Controls who aren’t currently using Alteryx, IMS Health who is using the tool for its geocoding capabilities, and Artisan Partners among others.

    John Heisler began the presentations with an overview of HPS’s implementation and use of Alteryx which was over my head as they are using it as a replacement to a data warehouse. It is certainly an interesting use case and I’m sure pushes the boundaries of the purpose of the tool. 

    Matt Christen did a quick-fire demo showing us how he used Alteryx to find cabins within a certain range of a vacation spot. From the Minocqua website he manually copied cabin locations into Excel, then used the public Alteryx gallery tool to geocoding them. His next step was to put the data into Alteryx to essentially only show locations within a 6 mile radius of the center of town. It was a very interesting demonstration and something I would definitely consider doing as well. My pain point would be manually copying the data into Excel. I would much prefer to automate that process using some sort of web scraping ability.

    Alex Christensen provided another example using the in-database tools which puts the processing power on the database and not the machine that runs the Alteryx workflow.

    Next up was John Fomby of Alteryx who showed the group the road map for the next year. Some cool things are definitely on their way in Q2, but I’m more excited about the second half of the year. 

    Overall it was a great first meeting. The presentations provided wonderful examples of what is possible. I liked the breakout discussions at the end and I might use that same idea in a Tableau User Group meeting but I would assigned high-level topics so members could get the most out of the discussion.

    Thursday, March 31, 2016

    1st Data+Women Meeting

    On Wednesday, March 23rd I held the first Milwaukee Data+Women Meetup at Anodyne Coffee. Seven people attended (including myself) and we discussed a variety of things. I began the conversation explaining why I wanted to start the group but that I was struggling with the group’s purpose. I posed a question to the group to get an idea of why they chose to attend.

    Most people wanted to network with like-minded individuals and learn about what others are doing with data and the tools they use. Additionally, having a place where women felt comfortable speaking up was an important attribute. Reflecting on the meeting, I believe we accomplished the objective.

    Our conversation began with mentoring. It was a topic that stuck with me when I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Starting with an anecdote about a human resource intern who approached me to get involved with analytics, we discussed how we can support other women or get younger women interested in data science. A good point was made about keeping women in the field of data as some of the participants had experienced women leaving their departments.

    The idea of the meeting came from a Tableau leaders webinar. At the last Tableau Conference a Data+Women panel was held and more recently the San Francisco TUG held their own meeting. So obviously when I began organizing the meeting I shared the information with the Milwaukee Tableau User Group. While Tableau brought us together, the conversation was applicable to all. Actually two of the attendees aren't Tableau users (yet).

    We discussed some of the data science tools available, one of which was Tableau. Since most of us were familiar with Tableau we spent more time discussing Alteryx, R, and Hadoop. Alteryx is a data preparation tool and one other user had experience with it. R is a statistical programming language and Hadoop is a database for unstructured data.

    This topic lead us to talking about how to learn new things. It can be difficult to know what you need to learn, but even more difficult to take the initiative to learn it. You have to make time, focus on the subject, and then try to translate what you learn into actual implementation. We discussed the best websites to facilitate learning and how we each learn on the job.

    I found an interesting image the other day that I shared with the group. It's called the Imposter Syndrome and it seemed to apply to other participants.

    Friday, March 25, 2016

    Tableau 9.3 Has Been Released

    Like everyone else, I received an email notifying me of the release of the newest release of Tableau (9.3). As always I took a look at the new features and there is some pretty cool stuff!

    Self-Service at Scale

    • SEARCH – Like it sounds, similar to the filter search bar
    • CONTENT ANALYTICS – Sorting by most popular workbooks, trend chart in tooltip for interactors to find dashboards they might not typically look at
    • VERSIONING – This is one of the most exciting additions for me as I’ve been tasked to put our workbooks into SVN, rolling back changes made easy!
    • CONTENT MANAGEMENT – Now more users can refresh data extracts, which will help me out since we have many data sources that I want to give our users access to run as needed
    • TABLEAU SERVER MANAGEMENT – While there are many fun things here, my favorite is disk-space monitoring so we can avoid any issues


    • PUBLISH DATA SOURCE – The interface has changed, the biggest impact here is the swapping the local data source with the published one
    • MOBILE SIGN-IN – Stay signed in to the mobile app
    • ALWAYS CONNECTED – Desktop will remember your connection, the downside here is for admins who may frequently switch sites
    • TABLEAU ONLINE SYNC – Notifications if your data source needs additional information, love this!


    • UNION – I’ve been using this for a while now from the beta directly to our Tableau 9.2 server because it’s a frequent request, no more writing weird queries using the “legacy connection”
    • SNOWFLAKE – I don’t know much (or anything) about Snowflake other than they were at the Gartner BI & Analytics Summit
    • DATA GRID – Additional preview abilities
    • GROUPS AND BINS – More data prep capabilities in the data source window
    • JOIN – The ability to pivot your data and then join, this just takes even more of those basic data prep needs and embeds them directly in the tool
    • DATA CONNECTIONS – Row level security capabilities among many other items regarding Teradata, PostgreSQL, Oracle, Pivotal Greenplum, Microsoft SQL Server, and Salesforce
    • PERFORMANCE – Better caching and only connecting to necessary data sources to create the selected view

    Fast and Easy

    • MAPS – Even more geographic detail for Europe and India, more demographic information for the United States, and updates to postal codes
    • FORECASTING – Automatic seasonal selection to help with odd patterns
    • HIGH DPI – This speaks for itself
    • TOTALS – You can now exclude totals from coloring, which will help many of our users significantly
    • SHEET COLORS – Color in the sheet sorter and filmstrip views
    • PERFORMANCE – Various performance enhancements, I’ll have to test this on some of our more complex workbooks

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the newest Tableau features so please comment below! If you want to check out the details yourself, you can find them here: