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!

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.

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.

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:

AE's 3rd Annual BI & Advanced Analytics Symposium

AE Business Solutions's 3rd Annual Business Intelligence & Advanced Analytics Symposium is being held on Thursday April 21, 2016. Marshfield Clinic Information Services will be the Customer Keynote Presentation, sharing how they are ‘Modernizing’ their Enterprise Data Warehouse. The day will be filled with great information and the latest technologies in the advancement of Self Service Business Intelligence, Enterprise Data Warehousing, and Advanced Analytics. Please see the invite below.

AE Business Solutions always puts on wonderful events and you should definitely attend if you have the time!

Advanced Analytics and Self-Service BI: Modernizing Today’s Data Warehouse Environment
8:15-9:00 Registration & Breakfast
9:00-9:15 AE Business Solutions - Symposium Kick off
9:15-12:00 Customer Keynote Showcase & Partner Presentations
12:00 Lunch
1:00-2:00 Predictive Analytics in the Cloud – How it Works
2:00-3:00 High Performance EDW & Business Intelligence on Hadoop  - How it Works
3:00-4:30 Happy Hour & Networking

Dan Murray's MKE TUG Presentation

As promised, Dan provided me with his presentation and Tableau workbooks from the Milwaukee Tableau User Group's first quarter meeting. The presentation is embedded below. You can find Dan's post about his trip to Milwaukee and the workbooks he presented here:

In addition to Dan's wonderful presentation materials, he is also involved in Interworks' podcast called "Podcast Your Data". With two episodes out so far, you have plenty of time to get in at the beginning and not miss a thing! Find the latest episode here:

While Dan was in town he held a giveaway of his book the 2nd Edition of Tableau Your Data. Luckily I was one of the winners!

Milwaukee's First Data+Women Meeting

Inspired by the Data + Women Meetup held at the 2015 Tableau Conference, the Milwaukee Tableau User Group (TUG) is organizing a local Data+Women Meeting. While the location has yet to be determined (it will most likely be downtown), the date and time has been set: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at 6:00pm.

Come celebrate achievements and accomplishments by women in data. Discuss pressing topics generated by you, the community. Topics could include, but are not limited to, mentoring, advocacy, career, education, leadership, and impact.

Wondering if this session is for you? All are welcome to join. Are you a woman? Have a mother? A sister? A daughter? Work with women? Well, then you qualify. We hope to see you there, and that you'll participate in this open discussion on how to help advance women in data.

Please bring your own questions and topics you would like to discuss. Need ideas? Check out this great post: Data + Women Meetup Question Bank.