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."

    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!

    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.