10 Questions is an ongoing blog series in which Tableau Zen Master Dan Murray interviews some of the brightest folks in the world of data.
I met Mike via Twitter several years ago. I thought he was a deranged stalker because he retweeted just about everything I put out. Then we were engaged by his company to do some training/consulting work.
After meeting Mike, I realized he was just very passionate about data visualization and a really nice guy. After spending three days in Omaha with Mike and about a dozen other team members, I encouraged him to start a Tableau User Group and told him I would speak at his first meeting.
Roll forward to today, Mike has been the driving force building one of the best user groups in the country. If you ever have a chance to drop in on one of their meetings, you should go. There are some excellent data people in Omaha.
Q: How did you first discover Tableau?
Moore: I was the manager of an analytics team that was relying on Microsoft Access and Excel to do the balance of our work. There was a lot of data, but it was difficult to get and hard to work with. One of our sales engineers had heard about Tableau from a presentation Christian Chabot gave at The Gallup Organization in Omaha a few years earlier. We looked at it, and we liked it. So, we bought five desktops licenses. It was Tableau Version 5 if I recall.
Q: How did you first use Tableau in your previous job at West?
Moore: Initially, we used Tableau to bring data together for analysis and to create visualizations which were used mostly in static reports. It was much faster than trying to munge data together in Access and then build charts in Excel. Then, we had a client that wanted us to bring data together that included both on-premise and cloud data sources. So, we got a little bit of budget, bought a 20-seat Tableau Server license and were able to give them interactive dashboards in less than a month.
Q: As the founder/leader of the Greater Omaha Tableau User Group (GOTUG), what has been the most fun and most challenging aspects of running the group?
Moore: The most fun part of being involved with GOTUG is the opportunity to maintain an ongoing relationship with the Tableau user community in Omaha. We now know each other for the most part, and there are people we can reach out to outside of our own office buildings. Watching this community grow has been very rewarding.
The biggest challenge I had after three years of running the group was making sure we had compelling content. Stories about how different companies use Tableau worked for a while, but over time, we realized our stories were all the same. We all had the same story, and it seemed we all used Tableau for the same reasons. And the users in Omaha were getting more skilled and sophisticated in how they used Tableau.
So, as our user community evolved, our content had to evolve. If we were going to ask employers to let their folks take an afternoon off work, we had to give them something they could take back to their jobs. Part of that meant that I had to get out of my comfort zone and learn things about Tableau that I didn’t use in my day-to-day work.
Q: You left West and joined Kiewit over a year ago. Why leave? What are you doing with Tableau at Kiewit that you couldn’t do at West?
Moore: Leaving a job that I had been at for 13 years was another case of me getting out of my comfort zone. My experience with Tableau changed my career path. The opportunity to be part of a BI team and to teach others how to use Tableau for a company that was just beginning their Tableau journey was exciting.
We have monthly internal user group meetings with membership that rivals GOTUG. We have a standard Tableau reporting site, but the site that gets the most activity is our self-service site where business users post their work. Adoption of self-service BI using Tableau has exploded and shows no signs of slowing down.
Q: You seem to know just about everyone in Omaha that works with Tableau and data? How?
Moore: I know some folks from past working relationships, but the network that has grown out of the user group is really how that happened. You may recall that when you suggested I start a user group, it was really because I just wanted to find out who else in Omaha was using Tableau. Quite a few are as it turns out!
Q: What fun visualizations (not work related) have you built?
Moore: I’m almost embarrassed to answer that question after seeing the entries from the latest Tableau Viz Contest, but there are some I still like. I discovered Stephen Few about the same time I found Tableau, and I was excited to place an entry in the Perceptual Edge dashboard contest. It didn’t win, but I still like it.
I have a baseball viz that I’m actually working on updating now that takes daily baseball stats and tries to show which hitters are adding the most offensive punch for their team. I also really like Mike Bostock’s D3 blocks, and there was a brushing example that he did that I really liked. So, I decided to see if I could get the same look and feel of the D3 example in Tableau – not quite but close.
Q: What do you like most about Tableau V9.0?
Moore: I’m very excited to dig into the level of detail expressions feature. I like the idea of ad hoc calculations, but it may take a bit to get used to. I also like the new look and feel of the server environment, but I think the thing I like best is the improved responsiveness. We had V9.0 on a little desktop, and it was far more responsive than our production server running 8.3.
Q: What do you hope to see Tableau add to the next release (I know … V9.0 has only been out for a couple of days)?
Moore: Three things that probably goes against Tableau’s mission:
- I know Tableau is an interactive visualization tool. But if Tableau had the ability to create a pixel perfect report that could be emailed as a PDF without having to use TABCMD, it could be my only reporting tool.
- If I had the ability to create a text table report with conditional formatting out of the box (as opposed to some of the workarounds out there), it could be my only reporting tool.
- I’d also like to have some type of web-like responsive framework that adjusts to the user’s device, be it an iPad in portrait versus a 21” monitor versus, dare I say, an iPhone.
Q: Who inspires you in the Tableau space?
Moore: You mean aside from Dan Murray, the Godfather of GOTUG? Seriously though, you were the first person I ran across, both through our contact in social media and then your training classes that gave insight into what companies can do with Tableau and how to build a community around it.
There are also a lot of Zen Masters and bloggers out there that inspire me. The list that comes to the top of my head includes Kelly Martin, Jonathan Drummey, Anya A’Hearn, Ben Jones, Ryan Sleeper, Tim Costello and everybody else who blogs at InterWorks and The Information Lab.
But the one guy that stands out for me, other than yourself, is Andy Kriebel. I started reading his blog way back in something like 2010, and he spoke at two GOTUG meetings. His journey from Coke to Facebook and now The Information Lab and the fact that he generously shares with the Tableau community is incredibly inspiring.
Even more inspiring is the way he consistently delivers useful content. If I need to figure out how to do something, Andy has either done it or shares someone else’s tip.
Q: What advice do you have for someone thinking of starting a Tableau User Group?
Moore: The most important thing that I want to share is never underestimate the willingness of other people to help you. We never had trouble finding a meeting location, we never had trouble finding people willing to share their story and we never spent a dime. You will find that the Tableau community is deep, wide and generous.
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