Building a culture of trust

We talk a great deal about results, delivery and giving our best in the workplace. But what makes that possible? What are the most important factors in achieving results? Well there are several, obviously, but one of the most important in that of trust. Without trust, we don’t get results.

So I got thinking – and when I get thinking I get researching. And when I get researching I get writing!

Seems to me there are 2 key aspects of trust –being able to trust people yourself and also being trusted by others. Obviously we’d love to have both of them nailed. And some people just inherently seem to be trustworthy. But what are they doing that allows them to be trusted?

Three Elements of Trust

In a recent article [HBR], Jack Zenger & Joseph Folkman outlined their “Three elements of trust”. I’ll describe them here .

  • Positive relationships

Seems obvious but we have more trust in people we have enjoyable interactions with. That might be someone who acts as a catalyst for getting things done, someone that is great at resolving conflicts or someone that provides great feedback. Or perhaps it’s someone who’s empathetic nature makes us feel comfortable. Whatever the reason, they make us feel positive, and that leads us to trust them.

  • Good judgement and expertise

It’s much easier to trust someone who comes with a proven track record of expertise and achievements. If you can clearly demonstrate that you know your subject area and how to do your job well then it’s easier for others to trust you. At highly-skilled organisations the base level of job excellence is kinda assumed, but make sure you add value to the calls you’re invited to and that your opinions and ideas make a tangible difference to others. Speed can also be important here. Trustworthy people often act fast to resolve issues, and many times anticipate problems before they happen.

  • Consistency

These are people that you can rely on. You know they’ll go the extra mile if they can, and that they back up their words with action. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was that of “Deliver, Deliver, Deliver”, i.e. carve out a reputation as someone that always delivers and you’ll become an indispensable go-to person for others. True consistency is hard to achieve, we all make mistakes, but if you can build that reliability factor then people will trust in your capabilities. Giving yourself that chance to succeed is key here. Set expectations; keep your commitments and Deliver, Deliver, Deliver. [QA]

While these make a lot of sense, there’s a bit more to it IMHO. So I have some of my own.

  • Don’t be a jerk

We all have a bit of jerk in us. We know when we’ve been unfair to someone. The key is to detect the behaviour coming and squash it at source. Developing emotional intelligence and self-awareness is the key here. Don’t take your bad day out on someone else. If you’re a jerk, then people will give you a wide berth.

  • Equanimity

Rather like the best poker players, you’ll find that key leaders respond in the same way when things are going badly and when they’re going well. You don’t see overreactions or huge displays of emotion. This can come across a little robotic, but really helps when the s hits the f. If you know someone is going to respond to problems with a cool head then they rapidly build your trust.

So those are some factors that you can employ to be seen as trustworthy. But how can you develop your own team or colleagues to be people you can trust? How can you help them?

How to build a trustworthy team culture

  • Autonomy

You have to let people get on with their tasks and resist any urge to micromanage. Give your team the freedom for them to say “hey I got this”, for them to let you detach from the nuts and bolts and trust in their delivery. Just like if you’ve ever tried to do something for a 3 year old child that they can do themselves – they’ll soon tell you “I’ll do it myself!” Maybe an adult won’t be so honest so it’s up to us to provide our teams with the autonomy to be able to take action and deliver [WNEXT]. Obviously then they need to deliver of course! J

  • Freedom to fail

I have no problem with my team failing. As long as they’re trying new things, developing new ideas and fixing problems. Creating an environment where we can all safely try out new methods is key to being trusted. I know the team doesn’t want to fail, and for the vast majority of cases, wont fail – but when they do it’s cool with me. I’ve worked in teams where the slightest error is ruthlessly punished, and it stifles innovation completely. See this post for some other thoughts on this topic. [BIZLIB]. Obviously we have to ensure failure doesn’t become a habit or a default outcome, but a good team will self-police this.

Trust vs Control – do big organisations get it right?

These days, many firms are super-highly regulated. The price for misdemeanors from non-trustworthy people is high [RTRAD], for the individuals and the firm. So you’ll probably have a LOT of governance. Mandatory training, compliance checks, risk reviews, market conduct – the list goes on. And sometimes it seems we spend too much time on governance, and not enough actually getting things done. I’ve heard it referred to as a source of frustration at a number of places that I’ve worked.

I’ve got a mixed view on this. The key risk and governance items are absolutely required, and often mandated by regulators. So we just need to get on with them. Automate where possible and seek to optimizeJFDI. However there are times when restrictions do seem influenced by a lack of trust. E.g. rejection of conference presentations because someone, once upon a time, did a bad job. Or blocking social media sites by default meaning we can’t access handy training resources e.g. SlideShare, YouTube etc.  Or excessive scrutiny of expense claims in case someone hasn’t followed policy. Even dressing appropriately for the workplace. All of those are not a problem with the right person. A trustworthy professional knows not to display client information in their presentation. They know not to be updating their Facebook page whilst on a conference call. They know the guidelines regarding expenses, and they certainly know not to wear their favourite Metallica t-shirt in a client meeting. 🙂 If they don’t, then they’re not the calibre of person your organisation needs.

So should we be concentrating more on hiring the right attitudes, rather than tarring everyone with the same brush? For sure it would be cheaper to have genuine trust in people rather than implementing complex controls [FORBES]. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Ok that’s it. Thanks for reading.

Supporting references

[HBR] https://hbr.org/2019/02/the-3-elements-of-trust

[QA] http://qaspire.com/2010/07/21/5-ways-to-build-trust-lessons-from-a-conversation/

[WNEXT] https://whatsnextpodcast.libsyn.com/rising-up-against-the-diminisher-with-liz-wiseman

[BIZLIB] https://www.bizlibrary.com/article/bizlibrary-values-freedom-to-fail/

[RTRAD] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trading_losses

[FORBES] https://www.forbes.com/sites/keldjensen/2014/12/08/control-is-good-trust-is-cheaper/#518fc721322f

Thank you! The power of appreciation & gratitude

Well done! Great job! Thanks!

It has been said that Sorry seems to be the hardest word [1], but for many people it’s “thanks”.

At my organisation we are encouraged to give regular, constructive feedback to allow us all to improve the areas that we may be weaker at. That’s very valuable, but maybe we don’t spend enough time simply praising or giving thanks to each other?

I’ve always wondered why people don’t seem to find it easy to give praise or express gratitude. It seems to me that people are much more inclined to criticise. Even that “constructive feedback” has an implied criticism and while useful, won’t give the recipient that warm feeling.

In fact a recent survey [2] of almost 8000 managers found that 40% never give praise of any kind, whereas another study [3] showed that high performing teams get on average six times more positive messaging than lower performing teams. And it’s not just in the workplace. It’s long been known that successful marriages and relationships feature a positive:negative feedback ratio of at least 5:1. If that ratio is much lower then it’s a significant predictor of divorce [4].

Seems to me saying thanks is most definitely a good thing. So I’ve done a bit of research.

What are the benefits of saying thanks?

  • Mutual happiness
    • It makes you feel good, it makes them feel good. Everyone’s a winner.

 

  • Bridge building
    • Gratitude is a great tool to turn around a bad relationship. If an interaction isn’t going well, then finding a reason to show appreciation can be that starting point for resolving issues and mending your relationship with someone.

 

But it’s not easy. Many people find it very difficult to express gratitude. Why?

  • Cringe factor
    • I know some people that find a praise-giving session tough to deliver. They find it slightly embarrassing. And sometimes the recipients can also [5]. That can be a barrier and mean that praise gets as far as someone’s mind, but no further as no-one wants an emotionally uncomfortable situation. I find that the more you get into the habit if giving praise, the more comfortable you get and you also learn to recognise the reaction of the recipient and tailor your approach accordingly.

 

  • We expect “out of the ordinary”
    • At work we expect excellence from our colleagues. So often, extra praise isn’t given unless someone demonstrates out of the ordinary performance. Like someone who doesn’t tip because the “server is just doing their job”. I try to think more about trust, reliability & attitude rather than going the extra mile. There are plenty of colleagues that I’ve thanked or praised simply because they make my life easier in any number of ways. In cases like these it’s important to be specific and constructive. Praising a particular behaviour gives the recipient more to work with than generic thanks. It also appears more genuine [6].

 

  • We don’t want people to get one up on us
    • Rare, but I’ve seen it happen. “Why should I praise that person, they’ll get better at their job and then they’ll make more progress than me?” Yes this is the wrong attitude in a collaborative firm, but it’s out there, fortunately in small doses. For those that may think that way, I’d suggest reading about the power of givers and takers – something I’ll be blogging about in future.

 

Ok that’s cool – I want to be more grateful, but how? There are plenty of tips for giving effective gratitude.

 

How to express generosity

  • A weekly gratitude note
    • I like this one. I end my week by sending a weekly note to someone that I appreciate. I find it gives me (and hopefully them) a nice warm feeling at the end of a week. Behavioural psychologist Adam Grant recommends “chunking” gestures of gratitude for maximum effect. [7]

 

  • Make it public
    • Showing gratitude in public is also powerful. My team has a bi-weekly project update and in it we have a section called “Agile BI Appreciates“, where the team calls out anyone they feel like. See here for an example.

 

  • Keep a thanks diary
    • People easily forget when you’ve either done something well or when they have done something well. Recording experiences boosts the positive feeling. Create an Outlook “Quick Step” to file mails that fall into the “thanks” category for later use.

 

  • Mental exercises
    • Yes you can train your brain to be more of a thankful and appreciative person [8].

 

Ok that’s it. Thanks for reading. Comments invited.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorry_Seems_to_Be_the_Hardest_Word

[2] https://qz.com/work/1010784/good-managers-give-constructive-criticism-but-truly-masterful-leaders-give-constructive-praise/

[3] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0002764203260208

[4] https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201308/why-some-people-hate-receiving-compliments

[6] https://www.inc.com/gordon-tredgold/the-thing-that-many-people-get-wrong-about-giving-praise.html

[7] https://hurryslowly.co/adam-grant/

[8] https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/

On Tableau Extensions

Hello folks – I hope you’ve all recovered from TC18 in New Orleans? What a great gig that was!

Anyway, this post is about one of the most talked about new Tableau features – extensions. This is a new API that allows users to build their own plug-ins to Tableau Desktop, and do pretty much anything, and it hasn’t taken long for the extensions gallery to grow.

ext2

There’s already a ton of great stuff in the extensions gallery!

In the 6 or so years I’ve been working with Tableau, I’ve not seen any feature generate this much chat, debate and passion – certainly among my people, the server admin / COE community.

So here’s what I think about this topic;

 

What I like about extensions

Game changing functionality

There’s no doubt that extensions will lead to a great boost in Tableau functionality. We’ve already seen some excellent arrivals into the extensions gallery such as Show Me More, Write-Back, DataRobot Insights and Wordsmith. I have no doubt that will continue, and fully expect the brilliant Tableau community to build functionality that we haven’t even realised we want yet.

 

Fills gaps in the tool

We’re all pushing Tableau for more features, right? Well extensions must feel like a get out of jail free card for *some* Tableau dev teams. We kinda saw that with Interworks Powertools, which filled a number of gaps, albeit at a cost. I’m sure some extensions will emerge that take the heat off certain Tableau devs, maybe allowing those teams to switch focus to something else, safe in the knowledge that the extension has saved them a job. And that might ultimately lead to more innovation and a faster evolution of the tool.

 

Empowers the community

Placing such power in the hands of the super-enthusiastic and skilled Tableau community is exciting. For Tableau to create a conduit for us users to be able to feel like part of the Tableau dev world is powerful, not just with what we can create, but it’s also like we’ve been welcomed into Tableau’s world with a big embrace, knowing that any of us can contribute directly to the capabilities of the product, knowing that hey – I made that!

It’s a mark of respect for the Tableau community and a statement of trust from the vendor. Nice.

 

What I don’t like about extensions

Potential data leakage

This is obviously the big one. I’ve downloaded an extension, how do I know it’s doing what it says on the tin? Or at least not doing some extra stuff I don’t want?

At the Tableau Conference Server Admin meetup, our friend Tamas Foldi gave the audience a demo of a fictional extension he’d built. It went something like this. He downloaded the .trex file, installed it, then clicked OK to accept the terms and conditions (which displayed almost no info). The extension actually displayed cat pictures in a dashboard (Ann Jackson would have approved).

All fine or so it seemed. Until Tamas fired up a terminal and showed us that the extension was actually extracting all of the data from the workbook and sending it to some obscure URL. Grim.

evil-demo-01

Tamas Foldi’s demo of an extension stealing data

The above is hard to read so please click here for the higher resolution version 

This is the reality of extensions. Once you click that OK to accept the terms, you’re at the mercy of the code. And who knows what might happen then?

 

I can’t (reliably) turn it off on desktop

Given the security concerns I would wager that most admins would like to disable extensions on Tableau Desktop. This is possible with a registry edit, fiddly but achievable and easily done in the packaging process. Same as many of us did with the annoying auto-update feature. So that covers the vast majority of people in any enterprise, which will no doubt have their desktops locked down to prevent unauthorised software installs.

However, as in Jurassic Park, life finds a way. And some users will manage to install software. Not many, but some. And that’s a risk.

 

Vetting

As far as I’m aware, and confirmed by my chats with the extensions team, Tableau don’t check or scrutinize any of the extensions. It’s a public gallery and anyone can upload. Tableau don’t have to approve.

 

The Tableau UX

So there’s a reason that Tableau doesn’t have speedometers, egg-timers, traffic lights and

Will extensions turn Tableau into this?

other chart junk like other tools. It’s because at the heart of the tool is a dedicated research team that applies science to everything Tableau does. If it’s going into the tool then it better be best practice and have some theory behind it. It’s the same reason we don’t have 3D, despite the massive demand on the forums – it’s just not right.

That may not  be the case with extensions. It won’t be long before we get the first extension that produces chart junk, and then many of our Tableau dashboards will look like shit. It won’t matter how much research Tableau do.

 

Technical dependencies

As stated earlier, some of these extensions are pretty good. So in time I’m sure many of my users will come to love one or more extensions, and get great value from them.

But how can I, as an admin, guarantee that the extension will support that next version of Tableau? What if it doesn’t? I can’t hold back an upgrade just because one third-party component doesn’t work. What if the extension vendor decides to sunset their creation, either deliberately or just by getting bored of it? It’s us admins that will get shouted at.

 

Support dependencies

Some of these extensions will be popular. REALLY popular. And many will also be homebrew creations made by one person and their dog. Are they going to be able to handle the influx of emails and support requests that they’ll get after thousands of downloads? How do we even know that the vendor of an extension is legit? Do Tableau keep the pressure on extension vendors to provide decent support or keep the product up-to-date? I don’t think they’d have the cycles to do that.

 

More vendors to get to know

I’m already the vendor relationship manager for a bunch of companies here. Last thing I need is a whole lot more to worry about.

 

Server defaults are on

Now extensions can be disabled on server. And restricted to a whitelist. What I don’t like here is the fact that the default setting for server extensions is ON. Not cool.

Go vote up Mark Kernke’s forum idea to change that default setting.

 

Paid for extensions a huge potential headache

So here’s a conversation I’ve already had here.

User: Hey I wanna buy this extension, it's great. 
Me: Okay - well we need to evaluate it first.
User: Sure, and if you okay it I need you to put it on the server
Me: Who's paying for that then?
User: Well you are, aren't you?
Me: Baaahahahaha

I’ve caught this one at source, but I’m sure there will be a time when someone has already bought an extension (yes I know they shouldn’t, but…) and then they try to pressure me to pay for it on server.

 

Implementing extensions will take a long time in enterprises

Even for the extensions that we do decide to bring in, there’s gonna be a ton of work for my team.

Off the top of my head

  • Evaluate and test the extension on desktop
  • Evaluate and test on server
  • Penetration test and risk evaluation
  • Add to internal software catalogue
  • Establish vendor relationship
  • Work out commercials and support with vendor
  • Get vendor added to our approved supplier list and internally vetted
  • Package extensions
  • Train team in basic support of extension
  • Organise deployment
  • Ongoing support, upgrades & maintenance

I’m sure there’s more. And that would be needed for each one.

 

What I think might help

Now the server admins have been bantering about this for a while. It was seriously the talk of the town at the TC18 server admin meetup.

admins

A beautiful cluster of server admins at TC18

We’ve not been able to come up with many solutions to these problems as of yet but here are some that we did talk about.

Make them easy to disable on desktop

Not an issue for the packaged deployments, more for the rogue installs. We talked about this a lot. No-one could come up with a solution other than somehow tying it back to the licence key. Open to ideas.

 

Set default to off on server

There’s an easy one. And I hear Tableau are already on the case.

 

Digital signatures

Make this a requirement. Packaged, digitally signed extensions that can be easily hosted internally and therefore blocked from accessing the internet.

 

Tableau approved extensions

I’d like to see an upper-class of extension that has been approved by Tableau. Vendor checked out, support checked, code reviewed etc. Give them a special badge and pride of place in the gallery. If Tableau approve then I’m confident it’s not some amateur outfit.

 

So that’s the deal with extensions. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this feature. It’s very exciting and will undoubtedly lead to lots of innovation and some cool stuff that we haven’t even imagined yet. But we do need to be careful. The problems for the admin community are clear. I’m looking forward to working with Tableau devs, product managers and the wider community to solve them.

Comments invited, as always.

Regards, Paul

 

A Nod to Diversity

Hello all.

COAUxlAWsAAKkefNothing about Server in this post. This one’s all about people. My people and your people – the Tableau Community. And one of the greatest aspects of this community is the sheer diversity. There are people of all ages, all backgrounds, across the whole globe. People from science and tech, others from healthcare, some from charitable orgs, others from big multinationals. It’s great, and makes for a rich and vibrant community.

 

Women in Data

IMG_3195

It’s the #dcdatawomen

But one of the most compelling groups (for me anyway) is that of Women in Data – aka Data Plus Women, which has been championed passionately by many (but in particular Emily Kund) in the Tableau community, and also has support from other areas such as the folks at Datatech Analytics and Precision Sourcing in Sydney.

There are all sorts of initiatives, all focused on celebrating the achievements of women in a traditionally male-dominated field.

From local meet-ups, to Womens Empowerment Visualisations this community is growing and growing. And it’s now getting some real traction with high-quality events like the #dcdatawomen club.

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 17.20.03

Women in Data Sydney #WIDSyd

And just this week it was great to see our friends from Down Under getting in on the act with the Women in Data Sydney meetup (#WIDSyd). This has been expertly championed by the folks at Precision Sourcing as well as Fiona Gordon of Optus & Eva Murray.

 

 

 

 

There’s also a much wider focus on Women in IT in general, as demonstrated by the recent Information Age Magazine Women in IT awards in London.

 

Women in the Tableau Community

There are ton of women doing great stuff in the Tableau community. To name just a few – Kelly Martin, Anya A’Hearn, Jewel Loree, Emily Kund, Donna Coles, Jen Vaughan, Sarah Nell, Fiona Gordon, Emma Hicks, Jen Underwood, Cole Nussbaumer, Jen Stirrup, Emma Whyte, Tiffany Spaulding, Brit Cava, Bridget Cogley, Eva Murray, Lauren Rodgers, Michelle Wallace, Brittany Fong & Alex Duke.

I’m bound to have missed some, but these are people doing great things every day that make my life richer and more fun. So thanks to you all.

 

Here come the girls – and guys..

One thing to remember, these events are not just for women. If you’ve got a Y chromosome then you can also attend. It’s all about celebrating female achievement, not a closed club for women.

So if you get a chance to attend one of these events then do so. For example the Data + Women Meetup at Tableau Conference 2015 had plenty of male representation and support.

 

So there you are. A small nod to diversity, and one of the many things that makes the Tableau community so rich.

Cheers, Paul

10 Thoughts from Tableau Conference 2015

Howdy y’all,

What a setting..

What a setting..

Yeah it’s 2am and I’m wide awake. Coming down from a great week at Tableau Conference 2015 in Las Vegas. So I thought I’d knock up a post about how the week was for me.

 

 

Thought #1 – “WTF?!”

Er...

Er…

Turning up for registration on the Sunday, the last thing I expected to see was an 8 foot high poster of my ugly mug grinning out at me. I saw some younger children at the event and they would surely have nightmares at such an image. Then there’s the question of my image rights… Tableau we need to talk about that…

Although it did allow people to get their #picwiththepauls

Francois gets his #picwiththepauls

Francois gets his #picwiththepauls

 

Thought #2 – “Wow it’s so great to meet you at last / again”

TC is all about the people. It was great to meet people that I’ve been interacting with all year. Some of these were existing relationships, and others were meeting for the first time. Too many to name but I was really pleased to finally meet George Gorczynski, Steve Fenn, Mat Hughes, Jen Vaughan, Fiona Gordon, Jon Boeckenstedt, Ken Black ( & Jett) & Mike Moore.

It’s great when I meet someone that deals with Server rather than all you Desktop jockeys. See us Server folk have a secret handshake and knowing look in our eyes. We know what really matters in Tableau!

It was also great to see the new Zen Masters. Especially the British contingent – my pals Chris Love & Rob Radburn. Awesome stuff.

 

Thought #3 – “The devs smashed it”

I was delighted at the product enhancements announced this year. Functionality that is really going to make a difference to the ~4000 users I support.

It will be interesting to see which features really capture the imagination of my user base, but I can anticipate cross DB joining, union &  global filters being very popular, as well as the user home page on server.

We're not worthy..

We’re not worthy..

But I kinda gave my position away as to what made my day in terms of new functionality – yes that pic does show me bowing down in homage to Version Control. In front of 11000 people. Hey I’m not embarrassed, it took all of my self-control to prevent myself from storming the stage and giving the guy a hug.

 

Thought #4 – “Isn’t technology great”

My conference experience was massively enhanced by a couple of tech items.

Firstly the hugely useful Tableau Conference app. I love the way the organisers monitor the number of favourites a session gets in order to determine of the room allocation is suitable for thee demand.

Secondly, WhatsApp. Despite having a crappy name, this app was great for keeping in touch with colleagues and friends. My pals at The Information Lab are always super-concerned with the social aspect of events and set up a WhatsApp group to allow us to sync. Before we knew it there were 50 members and it became the prime method of determining what bar everyone was in or what session people were at. Great stuff.

 

Thought #5 – “Las Vegas – oh dear me”

download

Fabulous? Erm…

I’ve been to Las Vegas once before. Just for a couple of days passing through. I recall not being too impressed back then, and this visit just confirmed my earlier thoughts. While I’m undoubtedly amazed at the imagination and brilliance of the designers that constructed some of the buildings, I’m still left with a feeling of disgust and depression at the underlying tone of seediness and corruption. It offends pretty much everything that I stand for.

I hope some of you managed to take a virtual shower by getting out to the Grand Canyon or surrounding areas like Bryce Canyon which are stunning. That’s Las Vegas for me. You can keep your Casinos.

 

Thought #6 – “Why can’t we just have one big global time zone?”

Jet lag sucks. I propose we have one mega time zone (GMT of course) and stick to that. The rest of the world would have to work in perpetual darkness but you’d soon get used to it. Change your goddam date format while you’re at it.

 

Thought #7 – “That’s the best session I’ve ever seen at a Tableau Conference”

I hope some of you went to the talk by Jeffrey Shaffer & Andy Kriebel entitled “Dear Data Two“. Read the abstract if you want to know what it was about but suffice to say I found this talk incredibly engaging. It covered a huge variety of data viz examples, all done with fun and humour. It was also technical enough as the vizzes were also constructed in Tableau. I loved it. Original, brilliant and emotional at times, this was everything a TC session should be. And told by two natural presenters on stage.

Another stand-out session was “The New Tableau Web Data Connector: APIs, JSON & Javascript for Dummies” by Craig Bloodworth. This was a perfectly pitched run-through of the WDC and gave me real confidence that I could go and build one myself.

 

Thought #8 – “Nice one @cheeky_chappie”

Safety first at Paul's talk

Safety first at Paul’s talk

I tend to hang around a lot with Paul Chapman. No I don’t know why either, but it happens. And it was great to see him absolutely smash it with his presentation “A Single Shade of Orange“. He’s a #futurezenmaster for sure.

He has been ably coached by an expert road crew (myself & Tom Barber) so we take some (most) of the credit for his success.

 

Thought #9 – “I wish I was on that stage”

I’ve spoken at the last 3 Tableau Conferences (2 in London & also Seattle). My application was rejected this year to rightly give someone else a chance. That’s cool.

But I was super-jealous of those that did get the opportunity. Speaking at a Tableau event isn’t like other events (of which I do a few). At TC you’re presenting in front of friends, and people that share your mission. They want you to do well. No-one is watching you and judging, or hoping you don’t do well. They all want to learn from you and want you to rock.

It’s a mega buzz to be up on stage and I’d recommend anyone to do it, even if you feel you’re not a natural presenter.

 

Thought #10 – “This whole thing isn’t the norm”

Code. That’s all Tableau is. Computer code. So why has it changed my entire working life in less than 3 years? I think I know the answer. You see in order to achieve this perfect storm an organization needs to nail each of the 3 pillars

  • Application – the tool has to rock. It needs to be easy to use and needs to be able to make your job easier, not harder.
  • Company – The company needs to be solid. Progressive, innovative and approachable
  • Community – You need a great set of users, with a true sense of collaboration and friendship.

In my career I’ve seen many tools, companies and communities. Most organisations nail 1 out of the 3, occasionally you’ll get a really good one that hits 2/3 – but in 15 years of IT, Tableau is the only one I’ve seen that nails each of these pillars and then some.

It sounds almost cheesy to say it but this isn’t the norm. If you’re a 20-something graduate in your first job using Tableau and you think that all tools and organisations are like this then you’d better wake right up now. This is NOT the normal experience. I’m just grateful I found it at all, mid-way through my career. If you’re lucky enough to have discovered Tableau in your youth then WELL DONE! Enjoy it! You’ve hit the jackpot!

So those are my thoughts on another stellar event. See you in Texas everyone!

Paul

Talkin’ bout a Revolution…

Hello, I trust you’re all ok,

There’s something stressing me about Tableau. It might not be the most obvious but I’ll have a go at describing it anyway.

See I demo Tableau Server all the time. Like daily. To some pretty senior people that I really want to impress. These demos often involve clicking around the server views to show some of the user content. Trouble is some of my user content isn’t that great. It can be badly designed and slow to load – that’s a separate issue that my team is working on.

So I click on the view and then, there it is…..

30x30REV

Spin, spin, spin. Will it be 2 seconds or 20? Will it even load at all? The room falls quiet as all eyes settle on the spinning circle. The audience is almost hypnotised. The tension grows, until the view pops into life (or occasionally doesn’t). It’s the moment I dread as I know everyone is staring at the circle, waiting. Seems like it makes 5 seconds feel like 50.

So here are my issues with this.

  • Positioning – The spinner is bang in the middle of the screen, you can’t avoid it. It grabs your attention and also the attention of the room. Everyone starts watching it whether they want to or not.
  • Information – The spinner doesn’t give any indication of the progress of the operation. I’m not sure how it can, given the nature of the underlying queries but it’s still a problem.
  • Inconsistency – Often the spin rate slows slightly just prior to completion. But sometimes it speeds up again. So I think it’s about to complete, then it carries on. I know it’s just an animated gif but it still seems to occur occasionally.
  • Errors – I’ve had occasions when the connection is lost with the server for whatever reason, but the circle keeps going. That’s very misleading.

I think everyone accepts that applications which perform loading operations will generally have some sort of indicator. But I think the spinning circle can be improved.

facebook_standard_loading_animation

Users blamed the system

facebook_custom_loading_animation

Users blamed the app

The psychology of waiting is certainly an interesting subject. This post refers to a study conducted by Facebook that seems to suggest the type of indicator used can affect how the user perceives the problem. Admittedly the post doesn’t provide an accurate source for this but I thought it interesting nonetheless.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 22.57.05

There are many recommendations to making the waiting game feel less of a drag

There’s plenty of chat on how to make that waiting game feel less of a drag to users. This post from UXMovement.com has a number of suggestions such as

  • Use backwards moving ribbings
  • Increase number of pulsations
  • Accelerate progress, avoid pauses

Also take a look at this article by Chris Harrison. The associated video shows the theory in action and there’s a detailed study of the theories available.

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I wonder how much thought Tableau have given the format and positioning of the spinning circle as well as the science of perceived performance as opposed to actual performance. I think the consensus is that a progress bar is the best option but I know that won’t happen as Tableau can’t easily know the duration of a query. However, there are plenty of recommendations out there that may be worth considering. Why not make use of every trick in the book to make users feel they’re getting a faster experience?

There has been some chat on the Tableau forums about this (thanks @johncmunoz). It seems such an insignificant component but why not add as much polish to the tool as possible? Anyway, I’m no expert on this so maybe someone who knows the subject can supply more info.

Until then I’ll just think of appropriate 90’s synth-pop as the circle spins.

Regards, Paul

Welcome to the new bloggers!

Hi

Short post this. Just to say how ace it is to see new bloggers appearing on the scene since data14. There were a number of sessions in the schedule designed to encourage people to engage with the community in terms of blogging, twitter etc. And it’s great to see that even in the short time since the conference a number of new bloggers have emerged, as well as some established community members finally starting to record their thoughts.

So keep an eye on these guys. I’m sure their blogs will become must-reads. Apologies if I’ve missed anyone.

Bloggers

 

I’m sure there will be more. Keep an eye out.

Cheers, Paul