How to initiate IM / Skype / Chat / LastFM session from a Tableau dashboard

Top Tips

Hello everyone. Before I start this I have to admit I nicked the idea completely from Dave Hart of Interworks, who came up with it when he was working with us. But he doesn’t blog or tweet so that leaves me to claim all the glory… Actually I’m just passing on his superior knowledge..

Many of you probably use mailto: actions in your Tableau dashboards, to kick off a mail to someone that might be highlighted in a viz etc. And you might also have some sort of internal IM system like MS Lync or something like that.

Well you can just as easily initiate a chat session to one or multiple recipients using Tableau.

This uses the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) to open the session in whatever IM client is in use. You just need to open Tableau Server like this

tabadmin set vizqlserver.url_scheme_whitelist sip
tabadmin set vizqlserver.url_scheme_whitelist im
tabadmin restart

sip: allows Lync to lookup people using their email address
im: tells Lync to open it as a group chat

This is an example of an URI Scheme. There are dozens of others, such as callto: which tells mobile phones to call as well as facetime: and of course mailto:. 

Once you’ve opened the server up you can then create a Tableau action to fire off the command. Note that if you try and IM yourself it will usually default to email.

im:<sip:kelly.smith@company.com>
im:<sip:kelly.smith@company.com><sip:james.anderson@company.com>
im:<sip:kelly.smith@company.com><sip:james.anderson@company.com><sip:rob.jones@company.com>

When it comes to the action Tableau won’t let you use multiple items without specifying a delimiter so what you do is use “><” as the delimiter and then put [url encoded] “<” and “>” around the data field.

Anyway I posted this on the Tableau Forum and there’s a workbook attached to that post so you should be able to download it and see how you get on. I reckon there’s some potentially way cool stuff possible using URI schemes. There’s also lastfm:, spotify: and skype: amongst them – so much fun to be had here I think.

Forum post: http://community.tableausoftware.com/thread/155429

Regards, 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.

.

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

2 minutes with… Dan Montgomery of Slalom Consulting

2 mins with title2

Hello everyone.

Really pleased to have Dan on this month’s show. Without further ado…

VN: Thrilled to speak to you, how are you doing?

259065_10100567987350728_5848874_oThank you very much! I’m doing well. It’s a sunny day in San Francisco, California. So after this interview and some additional Tableau presentation prep-work for Slalom and the San Francisco Bay Area Tableau User Group, I’ll probably go for a run.

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

I am Dan Montgomery, aka @danrmonty, an Information Management & Analytics Consultant for Slalom Consulting, Tableau’s North American Partner of the Year for 2013. I’m part of Slalom’s group that works to help organizations leverage the power of data to provide insight and awareness to problems they are experiencing or don’t even know are problems yet. Any time I get to use Tableau on those projects, I get really excited because it is probably my favorite data analysis tool, but my work history comes from an SAP BW and Microsoft BI stack background, so I’m pretty proficient in those tools as well.

VN: How did you start using Tableau? And how are you using it now?

A few years ago, I don’t remember how long, my boss told me to look into this tool he had heard about called Tableau. I didn’t have any training or preparation, so it was a very slow pickup initially, but pretty soon I was showing off different ways to look at and ‘play’ with data that tools we currently had on our team couldn’t do.

When I joined Slalom in 2012 in Chicago, where I’m originally from, I was only one of a handful of people that used Tableau and started to evangelize its use in that office, while also connecting with our other office that were using Tableau more prominently.

These days, I am using Tableau in my client work and my personal work. I’ll create PoC’s using Tableau to show clients the potential of Tableau on their own data, as well as lead server architecture and dashboard development for clients. Tableau is a great partnership for Slalom; clients really appreciate the quick turnaround time from design to execution, access their information from multiple devices, and being able to quickly share findings with anyone else.

VN: What has the impact been on your business?

Slalom’s business model offers both technology and business consulting, one of the big reasons I wanted to work there. This means that we can start working with a client to help a specific need, but as time goes on and needs change, Slalom usually has a service that can support the changing environment. Tableau plays an integral role on both sides of that equation. Sometimes our IM&A group is brought in to do data analysis in Tableau, which results in the need for business process improvements or more organizational effectiveness, which are services we offer.

Other times, it happens in reverse: we can be doing program management work or infrastructure analysis and then Tableau can help take the results and present it fun and interactive way to our clients, which may lead to more IM&A work or selling Tableau software to the client. Tableau not only makes a great tool to have in our IM&A arsenal, but also becomes a way to compliment and transition the services we sell.

VN: How have you seen Tableau make an impact on businesses?

Tableau has a way of making people excited or engaged in data in ways that were never possible before. Hands off mangers can have content delivered to them in a number of flexible ways (email, mobile, web) and the dashboards can be designed to highlight a couple of key metrics or run the gambit of KPI’s. Hands on managers who used to have a series of analysts produce a series of reports and spreadsheets are now able to connect and drive the analysis themselves. Lastly, developers have a means to quickly respond to requests from said managers, while also share data sources they create with other developers to help manage a single source of truth.

We’re currently living in a data revolution and tools like Tableau are allowing people to stay up to speed.

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

Oh my, so much. I really was living in a bubble for years when it came to Tableau development. Because I was one of the few people in my work circles that knew it, I was essentially a big fish in a small pond. Nelson Davis, an incredible Tableau developer and friend of mine, basically schooled me one day last fall, and from that moment on I’ve opened my eyes to the Tableau community and what people are able to do with the software.

There are too many to list, but these are my favorite developers to follow

  • Anya A’hern – Put simply, she makes Tableau art.
  • Kelly Martin – Never a lesson in simplicity that I can’t learn from Kelly.
  • Ramon Martinez – He takes incredibly complicated ideas and makes them digestible.
  • Mark Jackson – He is always pushing the boundaries of what you can do with Tableau and data visualization
  • Ben Jones, Matt Francis, Ryan Sleeper, Allen Walker, Paul Banoub, Jewel Loree,
  • Andy Kriebel – Continuing to put great content into the community and actively supporting others on twitter
  • John Mathis, Peter Gilks, Nelson Davis, Steven Carter – My Slalom partners in crime who regularly challenge and inspire me.
  • Karunaker Molugu – On the rise, just got his first VOTD and represents Chicago, my home town.

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

Respect for data and governance of data is the area I see as being a huge area that will be impactful in the near future. For years, data was ‘guarded’ simply by the fact that if it was in a database, only SQL developers knew how to access to it. Reporting tools like Tableau make data easier to access and interact with, and data storage platforms are making data available closer and closer to real time while also storing larger and larger datasets. ‘Turning everyone loose’ on data will not lead to more insight, and in fact may drive everyone further away from the truth.

Data isn’t just the numbers and text, it also includes data standards for how to represent information. This includes color schemes (what colors indicates good vs bad, progress vs decline, is this a gradient or is it stepped color), images (what are the accepted logos for different business units or vendors), fonts, and so many more areas that, as Tableau developers know, really become the measure of consistency and usability. Managing proper data definitions, hierarchies, calculated measures, etc. becomes more difficult and demands more attention, but the result is an empowered workforce that removes single points of failure and ensures consistent messages, regardless of the audience.

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

1175648_10102743701092948_1357087646_nI never understood running when I lived in Chicago. Even though Chicago has an incredible running community, there’s only about 3-4 months out of the year where the weather isn’t trying to freeze you to death or melt you into a puddle. Now that I’m in California, where it’s between 50 and 65 F every day, I find I’ve really enjoyed getting into running. I’m actually running in a 191 mile relay the weekend of my birthday (May 2nd Slalom teams running to support organ donation. You can learn more and donate here if you would like. On top of that, I play competitive flag football to live a piece of my dream to play for the Chicago Bears.

VN: Thanks for your time Dan, see you soon.

Thank you for having me, Paul. I appreciate the support you’ve given me since becoming a part of the Tableau community and this was a great honor. Take care.

Awesome stuff. Tune in next time for more insight into the minds of the great and the good of data viz.

Cheers, Paul

2 minutes with… Ryan Sleeper of Evolytics

2 mins with title2

Greetings Viz fans!

Now this is an exciting one for me. Been trying to get Ryan on board for ages. Anyway, after weeks of ever-increasing bribes he has finally cracked and gets the 2 minutes with treatment.. Enjoy.

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

profile-picRS: Hi Paul – it was so great to meet you in person in Seattle! Thank you for having me on.I’m Ryan Sleeper, Director of Data Visualization & Analysis at Evolytics.

VN: Tell me about your org

RS: Evolytics is a full-service digital analytics consultancy in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Our team does anything and everything related to digital analytics including measurement planning, web analytics implementation, testing, and optimization. I come in at the end and help the team and clients understand the data, primarily by using Tableau to help illustrate the stories in the data.

VN: How do you personally use Tableau?

RS: At work, a typical project begins with me using Tableau to do ‘discovery’ analytics. This is the phase where I don’t necessarily know what I am looking for and I am just digging in the data looking for insights related to a client’s business question. Most of this will not be seen by anybody but me. Once I have found the insights / indicators that can be used to measure the success of a client’s objective, the project moves to more of a ‘descriptive’ analytics task, where I create dashboards that help monitor our progress to goals. Occasionally, I also get the opportunity to create self-serve reporting for clients. These are essentially apps that end users can interact with to find their own stories in the data. This is more in-depth than a dashboard, but does not require the client to build anything themselves. I enjoy the challenge of designing these interactive reports with user experience in mind.

In my personal life, I enjoy trying to answer sports questions that I am curious about and sharing the results using Tableau Public.

VN: What has the impact been on your business?

RS: As a full-service analytics company, we’ve always offered reporting and analysis services, but before Tableau, they were more of an included, ‘value-add’ service. Tableau adds so much value to our reporting and analysis to the point where we can now have engagements specifically for Tableau, whether it be training or reporting via Tableau Server.

Tableau has also helped us provide better insights for our clients by reducing the time it takes us to find them.

VN: You have been an outspoken proponent of Tableau Public – what do you like most about it?

RS: I simply would not be as far along as I am without Tableau Public. Much fewer community connections, no Iron Viz, no guest posts at Tableau, probably no Kansas City Tableau User Group, and the list goes on. Tableau Public is my sandbox for developing new Tableau skills that I may not necessarily have the time to risk trying at work. Tableau Public also has a built in community that is there to provide feedback, help answer questions, and encourage you to keep working at it.

VN: What does the Tableau community mean to you and who do you learn from?

RS: I am constantly amazed by the Tableau community’s willingness to help each other. The Tableau community has played a huge role in my personal Tableau development, and not only have they taught me a great deal, but they’ve inspired me to pay it forward whenever I have the chance.

There are too many in the community to name, but I am inspired every single day by the effort, art, and selflessness that the community puts out. I look at nearly every single Viz of the Day and keep up with several blogs, including this one. Chances are if you’ve had a Viz of the Day or been on 2 Minutes, I have learned something from you.

If I had to pick one viz ‘mentor’, it would be Ben Jones of Tableau and dataremixed.com. Ben really pushed me to share my content and keep innovating when I was just getting started on Tableau Public. I also feel like I grew up in my Tableau life with Anya A’Hearn, Kelly Martin, and Ramon Martinez, all of whom I co-presented with during my first Tableau Conference presentation in 2013 and whose work I have studied for a long time.

VN: You’re a fellow TUG leader. Have you got any tips for running a successful TUG?

RS: The KC TUG is relatively new, just now closing in our one-year anniversary, but I have learned a few things so far. My biggest tip is to keep the content non-intimidating for beginners. I have found that at least half of our attendees are just getting started with Tableau and even just evaluating whether or not they want to use Tableau. I recommend including at least one lesson at each of your meetings that your entire audience can feel like they can begin using on their own as soon as they get back to the office.

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

RS: My wife and I really prioritize travel / experiencing different cultures in our lives, and while I am mainly an American football / basketball / baseball guy, I collect soccer (football) scarves from each country I visit. So this year’s Tableau Conference speaker gift, a #Data14 scarf in Seattle’s trademark navy and green, literally could not have been better for me. Some of my favorite scarves include FC Barcelona, Wellington Phoenix, and Morocco’s national team – who I saw at the 1994 World Cup as a boy in 1994. I’ll also be in your neck of the woods in May to pick up my first Premier League scarf.

Awesome stuff thanks a lot Ryan. Don’t forget to give me a shout when you’re over in May – I’ll round up some London data folks and we can show you around.

Until next time… Cheers, Paul

2 minutes with… Matt Lutton of Goodwill Education Initiatives

2 mins with title2

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

mattName is Matt Lutton – I am located in Indianapolis, IN, and am working as a BI Analyst with Goodwill Education Initiatives and INIschools. I use Tableau in some shape or form, on a daily basis.

VN: Tell me about your organization

ML: Goodwill Education Initiatives is a not-for-profit organization formed by Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, Inc. The Indiana Network of Independent Schools is a service that operates under the nonprofit designation of Goodwill Education Initiatives. The purpose of INIschools is to offer its partner or network schools a host of high-quality services that enable school administrators to improve cost efficiency and student achievement. This, in turn, helps its network schools achieve sustainability and improve academic performance.

I build and publish Tableau Desktop dashboards for a number of K-12 schools, utilizing Tableau Server for distribution.

VN: How did you start using Tableau? And how are you using it now?

ML: I was a Computer/Technology teacher in the Indianapolis area, and also worked in IT support in my previous positions as an educator. GEI had an opportunity for a BI Analyst utilizing Tableau Software, and I applied, interviewed, got the job and BAM — I needed to learn a new tool, very quickly. That is how I got started.

Today, I am using Tableau Desktop to generate more complex dashboards, often using multiple data sources, to tell stories, discover interesting finds in the data I work with, and offer dashboards that communicate data clearly to our users. The type of data we are working with includes many of the things you’d find in a typical SIS (Student Information System): Attendance Records, Gradebooks, Credits Earned, Graduates, Enrollments, Demographics, Term Reviews, Weekly Student and Teacher Productivity, etc. Our work focuses on three main levels of dashboard access: Teachers, Guidance Counselors, and Administrators.

In my spare time, I use Tableau to help others learn about the tool, by participating heavily on the Tableau Forums. I hope to spend more time over the next year creating more interesting visualizations to share with the Tableau community at large.

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

ML: Everyone and anyone who participates! I’ve learned a great deal by following the work (and blog posts) of awesome folks like Jonathan Drummey, Noah Salvaterra, Joe Mako, Andy Kriebel, Joshua Milligan, and I love your IT take on things as well.

hansI learn regularly from many other folks on the Tableau Forums, as well, including (but not limited to) Shawn Wallwork, Ville Tyrväinen, Jim Wahl, Toby Erkson, Patrick Van Der Hyde, Russell Christopher, and many, many more I am sure I am forgetting. I’d love to thank the entire generous community of Tableau users now: thank you all!

VN: You do tons of work on the Tableau forums. What makes you so keen to help others?

ML: I guess this goes back to what I set out to do when I was a undergrad – teach. Regardless of what I am doing, I want teaching and learning to be a large part of my life. But to be completely honest, the Forums really have helped fulfill two main purposes for me: helping others is one; but learning from others is equally important to me. The other part of using the Forums is it can be a lot of fun, and it allows you to get outside of yourself and put yourself in someone else’s shoes – I like that, and I have often said that it is a welcome distraction for me, at times.

VN: You’ve only recently entrenched yourself Tableau community, particularly outside the Forums. What are your early impressions?

ML: Looking back, I joined the Tableau Forums on May 21, 2013 – and have been active within that small subset of the Tableau Community ever since. I quickly found that there were VERY knowledgeable members that were not only extremely bright and adept with Tableau, but also extremely generous and gracious with their time and expertise. My early impressions have been solidified as I have continued to learn and grow – the Tableau Community is amazing, and I have never experienced a user-community quite like it.

TC14 really opened my eyes to the larger community around Tableau. I hope to connect with more users, and share what I can – and continue to learn from folks inside and outside the Forums.

VN: You got the honour of being named a Zen Master this year. What does that mean to you?

ML: It means a lot to me, personally, and it has helped push me toward continuing to learn and teach others in the community. Tableau says a Zen Master must demonstrate three competencies: Master, Teacher, and Collaborator. I believe my involvement on the Tableau Community Forums was likely the most important factor in being part of this year’s group

I certainly feel I have a lot to learn before I can really call myself a “master” of Tableau. The title has pushed me to try and live up to the example set by others. I am looking for more opportunities to collaborate with other users in the community, and certainly hope to continue learning new ways to teach concepts within Tableau to others.

Aside from all that, being named a Zen Master means that Tableau sees value in what I have done with their products, and their confidence in me has helped boost my own confidence in myself. Thank you, Tableau!

The one thing being a ZM does NOT signify is expertise across the entire product line. No one ZM knows everything about Tableau, although there are several who I feel are pretty close… but I think we all agree as a group that the largest myth around being a ZM is that you are suddenly an expert on everything Tableau. We all have various skill sets, and utilize them in different ways. Some of us use Tableau Server, and some do not. Some of us write SQL daily, and others do not. So, if you’re reading this, just be aware that we do not know everything – and I certainly feel as if I have a lot of catching up to do, particularly in terms of choosing a proper path to a solution in Tableau.

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

guitarML: I love guitars. I have a small, but interesting, repertoire of gear.

 

 

 

That’s awesome, thanks Matt. Took way longer than 2 minutes but that’s a good thing!

See you soon for more 2 (ish) minutes with…

Paul

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

2 minutes with… Chris Love of The Information Lab

2 mins with title2

Good day Tablites! I trust I find you well this morning? And if I don’t then go and play with 8.1’s DATEPARSE function, for it will bring you great joy.

It’s that time again, where we open the brown envelopes and decide, based on size and quality of bribe, who will be the next subject of the internet’s premier interview show. And this month’s deep pockets belong to..

Chris Love (@ChrisLuv) of The Information Lab

Chris-Love-300x300Chris has appeared on the blogging and social scene relatively recently but has already made a name for himself with some great analysis and comment. He’s also a big help to us here at ninja towers. Plus he bought the beers the last time we met up. He’s recently joined the fine folks at The Information Lab as an Alteryx expert, giving this 2 minutes with a more Alteryx flavour. As a side note we also love Chris’s photography and hope to pick up some tips.

VizNinja (VN): Good morning, how are you?

CL: I’m doing good, my first few days in my new role at The Information Lab have been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest so it’s nice to take a break and chat to you.

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

CL: I’m Chris Love, an Alteryx\Tableau Consultant at The Information Lab, Tableau EMEA Partner of the Year. I’m also the current Alteryx Grand Prix Champion.

VN: People may not have heard of Alteryx, can you quickly explain what it is? and what does being the Grand Prix Champion mean?

CL: It’s hard to pigeon-hole Alteryx, it’s essentially a visual BI tool that can be used for everything quick data processes, e.g. data reshaping, through to geospatial processing like “Find Nearest” and “Point in Polygon”; it’s also got a fantastic reputation as an Analytics tool. I’ve been using it for 8 years now and I’m looking forward to showing what it can do to a wider audience through The Information Lab.

59As far as the Grand Prix goes, every year Alteryx hold an event at their conference where ten of the best Alteryx users in the world compete with each other over a series of business problems. Each problem is a timed “lap” and this year the three laps took in an end to end process which involved taking raw data, reshaping it and then doing some K-means clustering before presenting a final report via pdf.

champI can’t remember my exact time but it took under half an hour in total to do the entire process and I was lucky enough to gain enough points from my laps to come top  of the leader board. It’s a unique experience, with a few hundred people cheering you on and watching your progress on big screens, and the added pressure of being in direct competition with others, it’s hard not to go to pieces and forget everything you know. I must say though that the prize of a weekend in Las Vegas and a drive in a Lamborghini at the Las Vegas Speedway made it all worth it.

VN: How have you seen Alteryx make an impact on businesses?

CL: Alteryx empowers people. Ordinary business users are often hamstrung because the data they need either isn’t accessible to them because it needs specialists to extract it, or the data is available in Excel or online but is in the wrong format. Even solutions like Tableau, which are so easy to use, still require data to be formatted in a certain way before it can be used. Alteryx changes that by providing a simple drag and drop interface which allows users to use a plethora of tools to import, transform and analyse data, and the ability to share the results locally in any format or via the cloud.  I once presented to a team who wanted to automate a handful of reports – I was able to build out their solution in just two hours in the course of a demo – which sold it to them; the next time I met them they were batching over 10,000 reports daily.  I was blown away.

VN: How did you first become exposed to Tableau?

CL: I must admit I had heard of Tableau but it wasn’t until Alteryx added the capability to write to .tde format that I became fully aware of it. As soon downloaded a trial then I knew I had something that complimented Alteryx perfectly, so I made it my mission to get myself a copy, which I managed, and I started learning it in my spare time using resources like the Tableau community, Blogs and Tableau Public. With Alteryx to help me format data I found I was able to build Tableau dashboards quickly and easily because I didn’t need to worry about blending and formatting in Tableau itself, and the spatial elements I was able to add through Alteryx received fantastic feedback from even seasoned Tableau professionals – which only encouraged me further.

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

CL: As Spiderman was warned “With great power comes great responsibility”. BI is changing, business users are being empowered but with that comes a sense of responsibility otherwise there will be a backlash from IT. As more users get the tools to build data and analytical processes then users, and software vendors themselves, have a responsibility to ensure that the answers that come out of those processes are still meaningful and useful. If I can build a regression model without any code then does it mean I should? It depends, for example, on whether I understand what overfitting is.

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

65254_452448238166366_1734509599_nCL: I’m a keen photographer, I don’t get out as often as I should but when I do I have achieved some pleasing results – I even had some luck displaying my photos in exhibitions and have even sold photographs to America. Have a look at my site.

VN: Thanks for your time, see you soon.

CL: No problem, anytime.

That’s it for this episode. Tune in next time for more adventures in BI. Ping me @paulbanoub if you fancy participating in a future episode.

Regards, Paul