2 minutes with… Anya A’Hearn of Datablick

2 mins with title2

Hello!

Man I’m busy. Got 2 presentations to prepare for the Tableau Conference in Seattle, another couple later in the year and a ton of eager Tableau users to satisfy at work. Oh and I’m trying to move house as well. All a bit chaotic at the moment. Probably explains my lack of Tableau public vizzes recently..

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 22.18.47At least I’ve had the pleasure of a chat with the one and only Anya A’Hearn of Datablick. Most of you probably know her stuff, cos she’s flippin ace. That’s all there is to it.

On with the show…

VN: So who are you then and what do you do?

AA: Anya A’Hearn, Data Viz Consultant @DataBlick.

VN: Tell me about your org

AA:   DataBlick is a boutique Tableau consulting firm in San Francisco with clients including a leading global payments technology company, as well as clients focusing on marketing attribution, education, and mobile communication.  

VN: How do you use Tableau?

AA:  How do I not use Tableau?… I think I am a certified junkie at this point :-).  I have been in the BI space for over 20 years and have enjoyed watching the space and tools evolve.  I have a background in Economics and Product Design, so when I first saw Tableau, it just magically clicked.  Tableau allows me rapidly prototype, build, and deploy data products that people delight in using and interacting with.  Watching a user be able to see data that is useful to them, and light up instantly with an “ah ha!” is amazingly rewarding.  While it is not always the right tool, when it is – the impact is phenomenal.

VN: What has the impact been on your business?

AA:  At this point, doing Tableau work pretty much is my business.  There is currently a such a huge demand for developing Tableau dashboards and reports, that has become the main tool I use.

VN: Who do you learn from in the Tableau community?

AA:  I don’t know many other BI tools that have such an amazing community, especially the folks who respond to forum questions and post amazing how to’s like Joe Mako, Jonathan Drummey and Noah Salvaterra.   I also am inspired by the very talented folks who post to Tableau Public and constantly come up with new ways to use Tableau like Allan Walker and his mapping work.  I am lucky to live in the Bay Area and our user group meetings are like a Who’s Who of Tableau.  I have reached out to so many folks with questions, and the response was always helpful, mindful, and supportive.   If you love the work of someone in that you see, reach out to them with well formulated questions and examples, and you are sure to get a response that will lead you on the right path.  I have been inspired by so many and continue to be inspired by all the ways that users bend Tableau to do what they need to do.  Not all of it may be data viz best practices, but the sheer will to push the boundaries of what is possible is the most inspiring.

VN: In your opinion what should we be mindful of in the BI space going forward?

AA:  I would love to see BI tools focus on more access to unstructured data, data via API’s, and live data feeds.  I talk to data scientists and data viz designers that are just starting out and they are like “Ewwww, SQL?  I have to actually learn that?”  I might as well be talking about learning to Waltz as far as they are concerned.

VN: Could you give me an interesting non-work fact about yourself?

156425_10151201203844518_598573279_nAA:  Well when I am not working, I am playing with Tableau (my Public Viz’s), enjoying my kids, baking really delicious cookies, cheering for my SF Giants, or volunteering by contributing data viz work to non-profit organizations.  You have a new Data Viz Super Power!  Go use it for good!

Awesome stuff, thanks to Anya for sparing the time to chat. I’m looking forward to our joint session at Data14. Should be fun.

Until next time, Paul

Advertisements

5 Ways to Create a BI Centre of Excellence in the Enterprise

Hello all – I hope I find you well,

dlI’m delighted to have been invited to speak at the Information Age Data Leadership 2014 event in October. In my session I’ll be sharing tips for building a BI Centre of Excellence (COE) in an enterprise environment, based upon my experience of constructing and managing IT services at big enterprises for the last 12 years.

I’m currently in the process of helping to construct a data visualisation COE based on Tableau Software at a Tier 1 Investment Bank in London.

To give a flavour of what I’ll be speaking about, I’ve identified five areas fundamental to creating a successful Centre of Excellence. But if you have any questions ahead of then ping me on Twitter @paulbanoub.

Choose the right tools

There are a ton of tools out there. And a lot of them aren’t that great. Enterprise users are time-poor, under constant pressure to deliver and generally impatient. For the long term success of any COE it is fundamental your applications are easy to use, agile, and feature rich.

I’ve been trying to achieve the holy grail of a great BI stack for years now, and finally it seems like tools are emerging that allow this vision to be a reality.

When evaluating applications, always look for agility and ease of use. Most of your users won’t have much time to learn the tool; they probably won’t read much of the documentation and also probably won’t have time to attend any training courses. They’ll want to fire-up the application and dive right in. As a result that experience needs to be great from the off. Then once they’re running with it, can they generate their content or achieve their desired results quickly? They’ll generally be happy to trade off some of the more advanced functionality for a tool that gives rapid results.

Choose the right partners

It’s not just about the application. Is the vendor able to support your vision? Ensure your tool choice is backed up by a company that is dynamic, proactive and truly values its user community.

How does the company conduct itself? Do you as a subject matter expert feel that your opinions matter? If you’ve got an issue can you get it to the people that matter quickly? And will they take notice of you? With truly great companies you’ll find yourself getting to know the top brass and support teams. You’ll be participating in industry events and being asked to share knowledge with other customers, you might even get an award or two from them.

With the best organisations, you’ll see enhancement requests from user forums making it into new releases regularly. You’ll see offers from them to come to your organisation and help with training, demos and Q&A sessions, and they’ll be constantly interested in how you’re using the tool and the value you’re getting. Bad companies will just sell you it and then go quiet.

Build your service for ease

Your service must deliver on two key fronts. Firstly, it must allow users to express themselves, without smothering them in red tape. Secondly, it must be as easy as possible to support. Making both central to your service construction will give the best possible chance for success.

Big enterprises generally feature a lot of bureaucracy.  Users will already be dealing with enough of that on a daily basis and won’t want your service adding to it. It’s critical to be able to deliver a service that gets users onboarded quickly and with little fuss. Then once they’re onboard it’s vital that your service allows them to use the functionality of the tool quickly, easily and with as much flexibility as possible. There’s no point implementing a cool, agile BI tool and then miring your users in process.

That service also needs to be supportable. Chances are your support team will be light on bodies and pretty much flat out the whole time. To be a true Centre of Excellence you’ll want your team to be focusing on the good stuff, helping users get the best out of the tool, training people in advanced functionality and focusing on the industry best practice of the subject area. To do that you’ll need to have chosen the right infrastructure and technologies and implemented them well, supported with solid but agile IT processes.

Don’t sit back and admire

So you’ve got a great service? Don’t sit back and think how great you are. Your power users will be wanting more and more. It’s vital to have an overall BI vision. How are you going to expand your offerings and deliver even more value to your users?

I’m creating a Tableau COE. That takes care of data visualisation. But what about data modelling & management? Data integration and mining? They all form part of the overall BI stack and your users will want that. Maybe not immediately, but they’ll eventually ask the questions and to remain in control you’ll need your master plan.

Focus on community

Really successful applications / companies are backed by an almost fanatical level of community support. Making the most of this aspect, both internally and externally can turn a good service into an amazing one.

Creating a great community takes a lot of dedication. Obviously having the right tool and implementing it well is fundamental. It’s a lot easy to foster a culture of appreciation with a tool that users love to work with than with a turkey that makes their lives harder than it should be.

But get it right and you’ll see the benefits. Users will be blogging and discussing the merits of your latest functionality releases as well as suggesting their own enhancement requests. Brilliant blogs will spring up, guiding newbies and experts alike on how to get the best out of the tool and much more. This can all be replicated internally as well as externally.

Hopefully I’ll see some familiar faces at the session in October.

Best wishes, Paul