Tableau: The Total Gym of Data Visualization


Tableau: The Total Gym of Data Visualization

We’ve all seen an infomercial, and if you haven’t, you might as well take this as a cue to jump onto YouTube and ask for some of the best Infomercials ever made. For some inspiration, you can try looking up OxiClean, George Foreman Grills, The Snuggie or even The Clapper. These are all great ones, but my personal favorite is the Total Gym. This is a piece of fitness equipment that allows for more than 80 targeted exercises. Honestly, creativity knows no bounds with coming up with your own way to shape and tone muscle using this transformative home gym.

What does any of this have to do with Tableau?


A Brief Rundown of Tableau

Tableau is the premiere data visualization tool. It’s used everywhere. The application makes it very quick to answer questions about your data with dozens of common graphs and charts that help bring answers to visual displays that show your data in action.

Working with data traditionally using flat files is not an easy job for any one person, especially when working with lots of data in a short amount of time. It would be tough to exhibit data performance in Excel or Google Sheets without a lot of custom work, and even then, it might not be dynamic enough to support multiple use cases or data journey scenarios in a single view.

How about calculations? If you are needing to do just a quick math calculation, then you are good with your built-in desktop or phone calculator. But, for many businesses, government agencies and schools, the questions being asked are much more complex with dependency on lots of moving variables. As a result, answers often get piled or layered into Excel sheets loaded with crosstabs, offering little-to-no visual aids. Studies show that humans are more likely to understand something quickly through our natural pre-attentive cognition, especially via the use of visual displays.

Spoiler alert: I am new to Tableau. I do have a few weeks of practice and basic exercises under my belt, but I’m still wrapping my head around the tool. I thought it would be nice to share a metaphor that helps portray my current understanding of Tableau here in the real world. And since I am fairly active with my personal fitness, going to the gym at least a few times a week (and now with Tableau endlessly on my mind during sets… ) this is how my parallel with the Total Gym came to be.

Follow me.

Above: The Singapore Tableau User Group reunites for a post-covid meeting. Or, perhaps, new Total Gym users?

The Total Gym Connection

When someone receives their new Total Gym, it comes with a set of instructions. The instructions share the ways of putting your gym together, offers best uses of the equipment, provides safety warnings and legal disclaimers – essentially giving a blueprint to get the most out of your new hardware.

If I don’t have a lot of time, I might pay someone who is an expert at constructing machinery to build my Total Gym for me, or at least someone young with lots of time and energy at their disposal. In all honestly, my personal life represents this concept quite well. From oil changes to online shopping, I can rely on others to help make my life easier.

Tableau is very similar, in that you can use a trusted partner like InterWorks to get your software activated and made ready-for-use, so that you can hit the ground running from day one (after purchasing the tool through us, getting permissions set and ultimately gaining access).

Also, I’d like to imagine the data for a user as being the muscle they want to build, flex, shape or tone. This data can be in various locations and formats, so a company like InterWorks will help to bridge the gap in order to have all sources of data secured, connected and ready to come to life.

Beyond a built-in set of instructions, a new Total Gym user might want to have someone help to train them on how use the equipment safely and optimally.

As you may already know, Tableau works with partners like InterWorks, who was Tableau’s very first Gold Partner, so its users can get professional training, expert support services and enablement consulting to ensure a more efficient and effective use of Tableau. It’s critical that the end-user can accomplish their data visualization goals with the Tableau framework (Desktop, Server, Cloud, Prep, etc.). Companies have very specific data strategies, sometimes even with different units or agencies under an organization, each with their own unique goals for defining success. Thus, the best resource for any data visualization tool should be one that can meet the end-user right where they are.

Tableau does just that. From a novice user like my current self to someone who has used Tableau for a decade or longer, there is always a space for creativity, inspiration and learning. Turning data into visuals that answer questions, offer insight and help lead organizational change, are only a few points and clicks away. You too can be flexing and shaping your data digitally, saving you plenty of time to hit the gym and get healthy, or at the very least, watching more informercials on YouTube.

More About the Author

Robby White

Enablement Consultant
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