tableau Tag Archives - General Assembly Blog

A Beginner’s Guide To Tableau

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Featuring Insights From Iun Chen & Vish Srivastava

Read: 2 Minutes

Tableau is a powerful data analysis and data visualization tool that anyone can use. It can be used by beginners to create simple charts and by advanced practitioners to solve complex business problems. It is user-friendly, easy to learn quickly, and includes a portfolio of business intelligence tools with the potential to give a wide range of roles the advantage of professionally analyzing data.

Simply put, if you can present data in a clear, compelling format, you gain a competitive advantage in today’s data-driven marketplace.

“Tableau enables you to quickly connect disparate data sources and utilize a drag-and-drop interface to analyze data and create dashboards,” says Vish Srivastava, who leads our Data Visualization & Intro to Tableau workshop. As a product leader at Evidation Health, he relies on Tableau to turn around fast data analysis. “For example, product teams use it to analyze user growth and analytics, BizOps teams use it to analyze operational data, and sales teams use it to analyze customer and revenue data.”

Businesses survive and thrive on data. The amount of data available to businesses today is impressive. To keep organizations on a successful path, analysts need to provide the key insights needed to make important decisions.

Here’s where Tableau comes in.

Tableau takes business intelligence to the next level, making it fast and efficient to analyze large amounts of data and create beautiful, presentation-ready visualizations that generate insights.

Data is the lifeblood of modern teams. Being able to quickly answer ad hoc questions and integrate data analysis into your day-to-day decision-making will make you an MVP. Though not all data analysts use Tableau, they do need some way to quickly create data visualizations.

Tableau is the data viz tool of choice.

Tableau is so popular in part because it is easy and fast to learn. In Iun Chen’s Intro to Data Analytics course, students learn the life-changing basics of Tableau in an afternoon. Aspiring analysts come to understand the power of data and the impact their numbers can have. As more data becomes available, there are more opportunities for data to be misused, a risk that every data scientist soon realizes. To quote the Nobel laureate and economist Ronald Coase, “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess.”

The ethics of data form the foundation of Chen’s syllabus so pitfalls are avoided from the start. “Overanalyzing and manipulating data too deeply can always give you the information you want,” says Chen. “Unfortunately, this is all too common in professional settings, though it’s usually unintentional.”

Tableau is a powerful tool.

Business insights are only as good as the data behind them, and the best data analysts understand that the human choices they make matter.

“Data is the perfect example of garbage in, garbage out,” says Srivastava, who defines good data as data that is ethically collected, complete, objective, and thoroughly analyzed. ”The double-edged sword of using powerful data analysis and visualization tools is that beautiful charts can create a false precision and obfuscate data integrity issues.”

To delve deeper into this topic, Chen recommends How Charts Lie, by Alberto Cairo, an exploration of how data can be altered:

“This book details how the use of data and data visualizations in journalism can be distorted and misleading, without the audience even realizing it, due to the urgency to present findings in a timely manner to the public.”

Want to learn more about Iun?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/iunchen 

Want to learn more about Vish? https://www.linkedin.com/in/vishrutps

7 Tips to Learn Tableau Fast

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Featuring Insights From Iun Chen & Vish Srivastava

Read: 2 Minutes

Let’s get it straight: How difficult is it to learn Tableau for a complete beginner? Are there shortcuts to learning Tableau? Any tips, tricks, or time-saving work-arounds? Thankfully, the answer is yes. Try these top tips, approved by our expert instructors, and start data viz now.

“It’s a little overwhelming at first but as soon as you understand the basics, like what are dimensions and measures, everything falls into place pretty quickly,” says Vish Srivastava, product leader at Evidation Health and GA instructor.

“In essence, you need to understand two things: The basics on how data works — for example, what are common formats of data and what is a primary key? And a basic understanding of data visualization in a business setting. Can you answer the question: When is a time series vs. a pie chart valuable for decision making?”

But can you really learn the basics of Tableau in an afternoon?

“The best way to learn is to download a sample dataset and dive right in and start creating data visualizations. To keep going from there, check out various portfolios online to get inspiration, and try to build those.”

According to Iun Chen, who conducts internal Tableau training at LinkedIn, Tableau is easy to learn, but hard to master.

“The basic concepts of charting and color theory are easy to pick up and can take just a few weeks. However, if you are looking to be a subject matter expert, this can take years to perfect,” she says. 

Chen preps students in her Intro to Data Analytics course to achieve close-to-mastery in these key areas.

  1. Can they quickly prep and analyze large volumes of data?
  2. Identify key information and determine the best visual method to present them?
  3. Take business questions and determine which visualizations to use?
  4. Translate raw datasets to storylines with a beginning, middle, and end? 
  5. Format charts, graphs, titles, text, and images for a polished deliverable? 
  6. Articulate best practices on design and visualization techniques?
  7. Provide feedback on ineffective visualizations and how to improve them?

    This checklist is the closest thing to a Tableau cheat sheet you’ll find. Prioritize these skills, and you’ll waste no time learning Tableau. Now that you know what you need to succeed, you can choose whether to take our Data Analytics course fast or slow. Learn Tableau — along with data analytics tools SQL and Excel — in a 1-week accelerated format, or over 10 weeks in the evening.

Chen sums it up perfectly: “As long as you are actively learning, applying your learnings, and ensuring innovation of your work, you will be a data visualization expert in no time.”

Want to learn more about Iun?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/iunchen 

Want to learn more about Vish? https://www.linkedin.com/in/vishrutps

Top 3 Reasons to Learn Tableau

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Featuring Insights From GA instructor Candace Pereira-Roberts

Read: 2 Minutes

Do you communicate data? Do you want to create more effective visualizations? Tableau is the data analytics tool you’re looking for. Here are the top three reasons why you should learn how to use Tableau, the popular data viz software focused on business intelligence.

#1 Tableau Is Easy

Data can be complicated. Tableau makes it easy. Tableau is a visualization tool that takes data and presents it in a user-friendly format of charts and graphs. And here’s the rub: There is no code writing required. You’ll easily master the end-to-end cycle of data analytics.


Need to showcase trends or surface findings? Tableau will make you an expert. Proficiency in business intelligence is a transferable skill that is quickly becoming the lifeblood of organizations. 

“I see students who are new to analytics learn Tableau desktop and be able to develop Tableau worksheets, dashboards, and story points in a couple of weeks — essentially a complete analysis project,” says Candace Pereira-Roberts, FinServ data engineer and one of our Data Analytics course instructors. She adds, “I like to share knowledge and watch people grow. I learn from my students as well.” 

 #2 Tableau Is Tremendously Useful

Would you rather tell visual stories with data? Or present the same old boring reports and tables? Is that even a question?

“Anyone who works in data should learn tools that help tell data stories with quality visualizations.” Full stop.

Data analysts and data engineers were quick to adopt and use Tableau, and it has given those roles a key competitive advantage in the recent data-related hiring frenzy. But their secret is out. And the advantages go beyond the usual tech roles. Having a working knowledge of data, and specifically knowing how to use Tableau, can help many more tech professionals become more attractive to recruiters and hiring managers.

Plus, it has a built-in career boost. Tableau’s visualizations are so elegant, you’ll be confident presenting the business intelligence and actionable insights to key stakeholders. Improving your presentation skills is par for the course.

#3 Tableau Data Analysts Are in Demand

As more and more businesses discover the value of data, the demand for analysts is growing. One advantage of Tableau is that it is so visually pleasing and easy for busy executives — and even the tech-averse — to use and understand. Tableau presents complicated and sophisticated data in a simple visualization format. In other words, CEOs love it.

Think of Tableau as your secret weapon. Once you learn it, you can easily surface critical information to stakeholders in a visually compelling format. That will make you a rockstar in any organization. 

“Tableau helps organizations leverage business intelligence to become more data-driven in their decision-making process.” Pereira-Roberts recommends participating in Makeover Monday to take your skills to an even higher level. 

Take Our Free 2-Hour Data Visualization Class

Want to learn more about Candace? Check out her thoughts on how to become a business intelligence analyst or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Tableau vs. Power BI

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Featuring Insights From Matt Brems

Read: 2 Minutes

Tableau and Power BI are powerful tools for business intelligence, with capabilities to take loads of big data and create elegant visualizations that convey key insights to stakeholders in easily digestible presentations. Both help organizations leverage business intelligence to become more data-driven in their decision-making process. So which tool is better? We asked a few industry experts their thoughts on the data analysis tools Tableau and Power BI. Here’s what they had to say.

Candace Pereira-Roberts, Data Engineer & GA Data Analytics Instructor

“Anyone who works in data should learn tools that help tell data stories with quality visualizations. Tableau is a wonderful tool for the technical and nontechnical to build these visualizations. I love how we teach the Tableau unit in the Data Analytics bootcamp. I see students who are new to analytics learn Tableau desktop and be able to develop Tableau worksheets, dashboards, and story points in a couple of weeks to do a complete analysis project.”

Iun Chen, GA Instructor & Data Analyst at LinkedIn 

“In my professional capacity, I lead data visualization workshops to share best practices on charting and design theory, with a focus on Tableau. But with the growth of big data analytics, there are more players in the data viz space. Looker. Qlik, Domo, and Microstrategy are a few with out-of-the-box solutions. Check out other marketplace BI and analytics leaders and their reviews at Gartner.

Alternatively, if you are up for the challenge you can start from scratch and build out completely customized solutions through coding packages, such as with Python plotting libraries Matplotlib, Pandas, and Seaborn.”

Matt Brems, GA Instructor & Data Consultant at BetaVector 

“Most data analyst roles will expect some experience with data visualization. They may prefer your visualization experience be tied to a certain tool like Tableau or Power BI or simply want you to have experience designing graphics or dashboards. As with any platform, the human element is key. A good data analyst is curious and detail-oriented. Diving into the data and spotting anomalies or identifying patterns requires curiosity. Looking at large datasets for long periods of time can invite mistakes, so being detail-oriented ensures you’re interpreting the data correctly.” 

Vish Srivastava, GA Instructor & Product Leader at Evidation Health

 “Most teams I’ve seen are not comparing Tableau and Power BI. Instead, it’s more about whether to adopt a business intelligence tool at all, or whether to use Tableau or Power BI in place of Excel. Tableau is a great option when you need to quickly create data visualizations.Tableau is incredibly powerful because it’s designed for nontechnical users, meaning business users can set up and tweak dashboards and charts without the support of engineering or data science teams.”

When it comes to research, the most common data analytics tool is SQL — no surprise there. But once you get into more niche industries, that can vary, says Brems.

“In academia, R is probably the most prevalent data analysis tool, though Python is quickly gaining popularity. SAS and Stata are often used in specific industries, though their popularity is diminishing. (R and Python are open source tools, which means, among other things, that they are free.)”

Want to learn more about Candace?
https://www.coursereport.com/blog/how-to-become-a-business-intelligence-analyst
https://generalassemb.ly/instructors/candace-roberts/13840
www.linkedin.com/in/candaceproberts

Want to learn more about Iun?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/iunchen 

Want to learn more about Matt?
https://betavector.com/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewbrems

Want to learn more about Vish?
 https://www.linkedin.com/in/vishrutps

Designing a Dashboard in Tableau for Business Intelligence

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Tableau is a data visualization platform that focuses on business intelligence. It has become very popular in recent years because of its flexibility and beauty. Clients love the way Tableau presents data and how easy it makes performing analyses. It is one of my favorite analytical tools to work with.

A simple way to define a Tableau dashboard is as a glance view of a company’s key performance indicators, or KPIs. There are different kinds of dashboards available — it all depends on the business questions being asked and the end-user. Is this for an operational team (like one at a distribution center) that needs to see the number of orders by hour and if sales goals are achieved? Or, is this for a CEO who would like to measure the productivity of different departments and products against forecast? The first case will require the data to be updated every 10 minutes, almost in real-time. The second doesn’t require the same cadence, and once a day will be enough to track the company performance.

Over the past few years, I’ve built many dashboards for different types of users, including department heads, business analysts, and directors, and helped many mid-level managers with data analysis. If you are looking for Tableau dashboard examples, you have come to the right place. Here are some best practices for creating Tableau dashboards I’ve learned throughout my career.

First Things First: Why Use a Data Visualization?

A data visualizations tool is one of the most effective ways to analyze data from any business process (sales, returns, purchase orders, warehouse operation, customer shopping behavior, etc.).

Below we have a grid report and bar chart that contain the same data source information. Which is easier to interpret?

Grid report

Bar Chart
Grid report vs. bar chart.

That’s right — it’s quicker to identify the category with the lowest sales, Tops, using the chart.

Many companies previously used grid reports to operate and make decisions, and many departments still do today, especially in retail. I once went to a trading meeting on a Monday morning where team members printed pages of Excel reports with rows and rows of sales and stock data by product and took them to a meeting room with a ruler and a highlighter to analyze sales trends. Some of these reports took at least two hours to prepare and required combining data from different data sources with VLOOKUPs — a function that allows users to search through columns in Excel. After the meeting, they threw the papers away (a waste of paper and ink), and then the following Monday it all started again.

Wouldn’t it be better to have an effective dashboard and reporting tool in which the company’s KPIs were updated daily and presented in an interactive dashboard that could be viewed on tablets/laptops and digitally sliced and diced? That’s where tools like Tableau server dashboards come in. You can drill down into details and answer questions raised in the meeting in real-time when creating a Tableau project – something you couldn’t do with paper copies.

How to Design a Dashboard in Tableau SERVER

Step 1: Identify who will use the dashboard and with what frequency.

Tableau dashboards can be used for many different purposes, such as measuring different KPIs, and therefore will be designed differently for each circumstance. This means that, before you can begin designing a new dashboard, you need to know who is going to use it and how often.

Step 2: Define your topic.

The stakeholder (i.e., director, sales manager, CEO, business analyst, buyer) should be able to tell you what kind of business questions need to be answered and the decisions that will be made based on the dashboard.

Here, I am going to use the dataset for my Tableau dashboard example from a fictional retail company to report on monthly sales.

The commercial director would like to know 1) the countries to which the company’s products have been shipped, 2) which categories are performing well, and 3) sales by product. The option of browsing products is a plus, so the tableau dashboard should include as much detail as possible.

Step 3: Initially, make sure you have all of the necessary data available to answer the questions specified in your new dashboard.

Clarify how often you will get the data, the format in which you will receive the data (inside a database or in loose files), the cleanliness of the data, and if there are any data quality issues. You need to evaluate all of this before you promise a delivery date.

Step 4: Create your dashboard.

When it comes to dashboard design, it’s best-practice to present data from top to bottom when in presentation mode. The story should go from left to right, like a comic book, where you start at the top left and finish at the bottom right.

Let’s start by adding the data set to Tableau. For this demo, the data is contained in an Excel file generated by software I developed myself. It’s all dummy data.

To connect to an Excel file from Tableau, select “Excel” from the Connect menu. The tables are on separate Excel sheets, so we’re going to use Tableau to join them, as shown in the image below. Once the tables are joined, go to the bottom and select Sheet 1 to create your first visualization.

Excel Sheet in Tableau
Joining Excel sheet in Tableau.

We have two columns in the Order Details table: Quantity and Unit Price. The sales amount is Quantity x Unit Price, so we’re going to create the new metric, “Sales Amount.” Right-click on the measures and select Create > Calculated Field.

Creating a Map in Tableau

We can use maps to visualize data with a geographical component and compare values across geographical regions. To answer our first question — “Which countries the company’s products have been shipped to?” — we’ll create a map view of sales by country.

1. Add Ship Country to the rows and Sales Amount to the columns.

2. Change the view to a map.

Map
Visualizing data across geographical regions.

3. Add Sales Amount to the color pane. Darker colors mean higher sales amounts aggregated by country.

4. You can choose to make the size of the bubbles proportional to the Sales Amount. To do this, drag the Sales Amount measure to the Size area.

5. Finally, rename the sheet “Sales by Country.”

Creating a Bar Chart in Tableau

Now, let’s visualize the second request, “Which categories are performing well?” We’ll need to create a second sheet. The best way to analyze this data is with bar charts, as they are to compare data across categories. Pie charts work in a similar way, but in this case we have too many categories (more than four) so they wouldn’t be effective.

1. To create a bar chart, add Category Name to the rows and Sales Amount to the columns.

2. Change the visualization to a bar chart.

3. Switch columns and rows, sort it by descending order, and show the values so users can see the exact value that the size of the rectangle represents.

4. Drag the category name to “Color.”

5. Now, rename the sheet to “Sales by Category.”

Sales category bar chart
Our Sales by Category breakdown.

Assembling a Dashboard in Tableau

Finally, the commercial director would like to see the details of the products sold by each category.

Our last page will be the product detail page. Add Product Name and Image to the rows and Sales Amount to the columns. Rename the sheet as “Products.”

We are now ready to create our first dashboard! Rearrange the chart on the dashboard so that it appears similar to the example below. To display the images, drag the Web Page object next to the Products grid.

Dashboard Assembly
Assembling our dashboard.

Additional Actions in Tableau

Now, we’re going to add some actions on the dashboard such that when we click on a country, we’ll see both the categories of products and a list of individual products sold.

1. Go to Dashboard > Actions.

2. Add Action > Filter.

3. Our “Sales by Country” chart is going to filter Sales by Category and Products.

4. Add a second action: Sales by Category will filter Products.

5. Add a third action, this time selecting URL.

6. Select Products, <Image> on URL, and click on the Test Link to test the image’s URL.

What we have now is an interactive dashboard with a worldwide sales view. To analyze a specific country, we click on the corresponding bubble on the map and Sales by Category will be filtered to what was sold in that country.

When we select a category, we can see the list of products sold for that category. And, when we hover on a product, we can see an image of it.

In just a few steps, we have created a simple dashboard from which any department head would benefit.

Dashboard
The final product.

Dashboards in Tableau at General Assembly

In GA’s Data Analytics course, students get hands-on training with the versatile Tableau platform. Students will learn the ins and outs of the data visualization tool and create dashboards to solve real-world problems in 1-week, accelerated or 10-week, part-time course formats — on campus and online. You can also get a taste in our interactive tableau training with these classes and workshops.

Ask a Question About Our Data Programs

Meet Our Expert

Samanta Dal Pont is a business intelligence and data analytics expert in retail, eCommerce, and online media. With an educational background in software engineer and statistics, her great passion is transforming businesses to make the most of their data. Responsible for the analytics, reporting, and visualization in a global organization, Samanta has been an instructor for Data Analytics courses and SQL bootcamps at General Assembly London since 2016.

Samanta Dal Pont, Data Analytics Instructor, General Assembly London