Big data is increasingly playing a role within companies to support operational processes. But how can employees visualize this complex mess of data in a clear and simple way in order to draw conclusions from it? Tableau provides a tool that makes this possible. All the more reason to enter into a conversation with the company.

Companies and organizations are becoming more and more ‘data-driven’ and are collecting more and more data that play a role in their daily operational business. Big data enters companies from different angles, such as CRM systems or nowadays even the Internet of Things, may or may not be stored in the cloud and must be processed into usable information. So, data has a lot of value for businesses, and it reaches them in great amounts nowadays.

Yet it becomes complex for companies after this. They acquire the (big) data and somehow store it, but then the processing comes into play. How can they transform all these raw data into useful pieces for analyzing, interacting and interpreting information? And above all, how can analysts be provided with this information without having to go to great lengths to distil clear pictures from these huge amounts of data?

‘Talking’ to data

Enter Tableau, the specialist in the field of visual analytics. The solutions of this company make it possible for people to see and understand certain data, says Diederick Beels, sales director Benelux at Tableau.

With the applications, employees can enter into a ‘conversation with the data’ from within the company. This is, of course, useful because employees are often the experts on the use of the underlying data for their work. That is why they can ‘ask’ directly on these data and find out so much more.

This is in contrast to when they have to get the interpretation of data from elsewhere, for example from the IT department, whose expertise is of course elsewhere. In general, they can get ‘deeper’ data from these departments, but according to Beels, these often do not give the whole picture.

Individual employees can, therefore, use Tableau to ask questions to their data in a visual way, based on their thinking process. The answers to these data are then also visually designed. The tool is a kind of interface for entering into a conversation with the data and displaying the answers from it. Employees can, therefore, ‘get answers’ in more and more detail by asking them through questions.

In the end, an almost real-time extremely detailed overview is possible in which the answers to these questions are presented in a visually attractive and clear manner. According to Tableau, this is fully in line with the ‘data-driven’ way of working by companies, which, as indicated above, is increasingly becoming the norm these days.

Preparing data

In order to get the most specific answers out of large amounts of data, Tableau has several tools that actually execute the process from A to Z. In the first place, there is a tool to make big data suitable for the ‘question and answer game’. According to Beels, ‘raw’ big data is not yet suitable for direct analysis. Data must first be ‘cleaned’ or ‘prepared’ before being used. This is also called data prep. The Tableau Prep tool takes care of this and automatically optimizes raw data without any scripts or formulas.

In addition, Tableau Prep has functionality in the form of algorithms that ensure that complex tasks are automated and integrated with Tableau’s analytical workflow for faster insights. For example, repetitive tasks such as grouping by pronunciation or punctuation-based cleaning are automated into operations that can be handled with a single click of the mouse.

Tableau tool

In Tableau-Creator, users can then run this pre-prepared data and use modern dashboards that perform operations. This is actually asking the questions, which in turn lead to new beautiful overviews in the form of graphs, tables, percentages or other figures and provide other insights.

The data required for the Tableau Prep and Tableau Creator tools can come from anywhere. They can come from Excel or Word files, on-premise servers, private data centers, hybrid environments and even the public cloud environments of hyperscalers. In the latter case, this applies especially to the usual suspects such as AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, but the data can also come from an ERP system from SAP, for example. The tool is also very suitable for use in virtualized environments such as VMware, Citrix, Hyper-V and Parallels.

In total, there are more than 40 special connectors available from or to which users can import and export their data. There is also a special web connector so that users can retrieve data from websites that provide data in HTML, XML or JSON format.

Different tastes

Tableau is available in a number of applications. There is the Creator version for both business users and non-professionals, Server, the SaaS solution Online, the Reader application that allows everyone within companies to view the information presented and finally the Public version that allows the whole world to view certain information created via Tableau Public. Of course, a free mobile app is also available. With the Tableau Public tool, users can share their designed datasets publicly via the Internet and make them available to anyone who shows an interest in them.

Subscription and updates

Users can subscribe to the service. The software also receives a new release about four times a year with the latest updates and other added functionality. According to Beels, the tool has an active user community, since about 50 percent of the improved functionalities come from end-users.

With all these solutions, Beels concludes, users can really be interactive with their data and not just look at a visualization.

Real communication with data

When we see several demonstrations of the tool, we can only conclude that Tableau is a handy and very nice tool to analyze data visually. Whether it’s data about the sales results of a retail organization anywhere in the world, the crime data of municipalities in detail or the performance of a hockey team, it doesn’t matter at all. Tableau gives you the chance to do this ‘by asking’ and to present the answers in a very clear way.

This makes it easier for companies to ‘engage in conversation’ with their data, instead of just looking at graphs and tables. Of course, this also leads to a faster time-to-market of insights like these so that users can adjust their processes in a timely and very effective manner.

In short, Tableau is a tool with many possibilities to visualize data and to analyze it in real-time, in order to acquire new insights. We are curious to see what features the company will add in the coming years.