2 minutes with… Mark Jackson of Piedmont Healthcare

2 mins with title2

 

Ok we are back back back! And it has recently come to my attention that there is now a competing interview series. Well I guess imitation is the best form of flattery so I won’t send the elite Ninjas around just yet. Besides, it’s a great read so I’d recommend you check it out!

But we’ve got a blinding guest this month, none other than one of my absolute Tableau heroes – Mark Jackson. Without further ado…

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

100_0670

Nice hats!

My name is Mark Jackson. I go by @ugamarkj on Twitter and have a blog at http://ugamarkj.blogspot.com. I run the Tableau BI program at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, GA. My mission is to create an army of viz ninjas (Ahem! they all work for me actually – VN) and turn them loose to do awesome things with our data. So I spend most of my time educating others and modeling data sources for them to work with. I now have a team of two senior BI developers that I’m able to transition some of that work to. So I’m able to spend more time these days thinking strategically and exploring new technologies like NOSQL graph databases to help answer really complex relational or pattern based questions.

 

VN: Tell me about your org

Piedmont Healthcare is a five-hospital system. We have 400 employed medical staff members, and we have approximately 1,200 affiliate physicians with more than 100 physician practices across North Georgia. In total, we have around 10k FTEs that work for the heath system. Piedmont has some of the best medical providers in the world, and I wouldn’t go anywhere else for treatment. We had our second child at Piedmont and it was a great experience. So I’m honored to be a part of this organization and play my small part in improving the care we provide to our patients.

VN: How do you personally use Tableau?

These days I mainly use Tableau to evangelize Tableau and the science of data visualization. Tableau is the best tool on the market to help people rapidly see and understand their data. No other tool even comes close at the moment. Sure other tools can build beautiful interactive dashboards. But Tableau is leaps and bounds faster at doing it because it lets you iteratively paint with data until you arrive at an insightful view. And because you are painting with data using VizQL instead of plugging data into prescriptive dialog boxes to create specific visualizations, it is vastly more flexible and lets you be super creative. The fact that Joshua Milligan created tic-tac-toe and blackjack with artificial intelligence in Tableau proves that point. Try doing that in QlikView.

 

VN: You’ve always been one of the community interested in the IT / enterprise side of Tableau. How come?

It is because I run the BI program for large healthcare enterprise. My role exists within Financial Planning and Analysis where we have a shadow IT program. So we are responsible for a large portion of activities that would traditionally be within IT. This includes data governance, master data management, security, streamlining data movement, optimizing queries, transforming data, ensuring application up-time, troubleshooting software issues, functioning as a help desk…and the list goes on. If I don’t get the infrastructure right and instill confidence in the reliability of the system, I’m doomed. I started out at Piedmont as a customer of data analytics services in my role as Manager of Business Development and the Project Management Office for our Heart Institute. When I moved into my current role, my goal was to enable everyone to easily do the things I was able to do and bypass all the mistakes I’ve learned from along the way. To do that required setting up a sound architecture to remove a lot of the complexity required to do analytics work.

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

I echo what Steve Wexler recently wrote in a blog series about the Tableau community. This has to be the best software focused community on the planet. I’m tracking more than 80 blogs that post about Tableau at http://ugamarkj.tumblr.com. That is crazy and just shows how much excitement there is about this tool. The best thing about the community though is that it has managed to be dominated by people who are humble and super giving of their time. I’ve received so much help and inspiration from the community that it is impossible to name names without leaving important people out. Folks on the Tableau forum played a big role in my early development and more recently I’ve connected with a lot of people on Twitter. Many of these people I’ve met in the real world at the Tableau Conferences. They are all wonderful people that I feel privileged to know. I’m an active member of the community because the culture is amazing and I enjoying sharing what I learn with people that I consider to be my friends.

 

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

DSC_0013People that befriend me on Facebook or meet me in real life will learn that I love to talk about the things that they always tell you not to talk about: politics and religion. I love to think about things philosophically measure actions against principles. With these topics (and any topic really), it is important to stay humble and be willing to look at things from someone else’s perspective. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed my mind on things because someone else challenged my point of view. I’m incredibly grateful for those people. My wife Leigh is one of those people that helps me think though these things (God bless her for putting up with me). I’m also a father of two kids (Ansley-4 and David-2). They keep me on my toes and are always good for a laugh.

That’s great thanks a lot Mark. And thanks for all the support with the infra related aspects of Tableau.

Ok see you next time folks – VN

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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

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

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

Building a Tableau Centre of Excellence – Additional Resources

Hi

If you’re reading this then the chances are you attended my talk at Tableau Conference 2014. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say. I certainly enjoyed delivering it. As mentioned in the presentation, this blog post lists all the resources referred to in the talk.

Link to Presentation – on Prezi

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 01.08.07

 

In order of reference

Grab me anytime @paulbanoub if you’d like a chat about anything.

Cheers, Paul

How UBS Created a Tableau Centre of Excellence – Additional Resources

Hi

If you’re reading this then the chances are you’ve just watched my talk at the London Tableau on Tour Conference in July 2014. I hope you enjoyed what I had to say. I certainly enjoyed delivering it. As mentioned in the presentation, this blog post lists all the resources referred to in the talk.

Link to Presentation – on Prezi

prezi

In order of reference

Grab me anytime @paulbanoub if you’d like a chat about anything.

Cheers, Paul