There is an unimaginable amount of data that is generated by people and organizations as it has never been seen in history. This data comes from the registration of the interactions that we have with websites, online shopping, social media, everything that people do in the digital world. The challenge is how to convert this massive amount of data into useful information to support business decision making. To address this hurdle, it is possible to provide a visual representation of the data using interactive software tools. The primary purpose of data visualization is to analyze statistical data sets, display information in high-impact visual images, charts, maps or graphs and provide better communication with our stakeholders. Also, It allows uncovering trends and patterns quickly and efficiently that it is impossible to understand without a visualization.
In the past few years, a software tool called Tableau emerged as one of the leading providers of data visualization. It is possible to download the public version of Tableau for free from their website and start producing data visualizations very smoothly, no expert knowledge in programming or databases are required. It provides several sources from where the tool could perform data analysis including Microsoft Excel, Text files and connections to database servers. Once the data is loaded into Tableau, you can use drag and drop functionality to build the report, selecting different types of graphs, maps, and colors to reveal trends or patterns. After creating worksheets (charts), the tool provides functionality to create dynamic, interactive dashboards to relate different graphs in real-time, publish it to the internet and share it using social media or even embed it within your website. Also, it provides mobile support so that reports can be accessible from phones or tablets.
One excellent example of the use of Tableau for data visualization is how Indiana University (IU) and Santa Barbara City College help students succeed using dashboards. Indiana University has more than 100k enrollments, within two campuses and online programs, offering more than 500 academic programs. The Office of Enrollment is analyzing the data coming from recruitment, registration, and retention to propose new projects that allow students to succeed in their education. It usually may take hours and a considerable effort to generate reports, but now with the implementation of Tableau, it takes seconds to create interactive dashboards that uncover trends and identify gaps in course offering to report them to leadership for better decision making that has a direct impact on student careers. Also, the use of Tableau helps them to create predictive models to drive strategies for admission and provide more effective scholarship offerings. Overall, having this tool and be able to generate these reports easily is helping the University to have a better understanding of how the become a more efficient place to study. Similar case with the Santa Barbara City College, that uses Tableau to produce dashboards that empowers them to understand how student courses and schedules impact grade performance. Using interactive dashboards, they could advise students in how to register to the right classes and in the right time becoming more efficient and smarter helping them succeed in their careers.
Another exceptional example is how MillerCoors, that produces beer including brands like Miller, Coors and Blue Moon, discovers sales opportunities using the online version of Tableau. They implemented a cloud-based version of Tableau in the entire company within 90 days. It allowed the sales department to sell more products to retailers having better information available within moments before negotiating with them. Also, sharing sales dashboards with their customers over mobile phone or tablet enabled them to improve communication and help to succeed in their business. Another improvement was the generation of internal reports to provide visibility about new opportunities to sell more products. These kinds of reports were taking the sales department an immense amount of effort to produce them, instead of using the time to analyze information and have better decisions that affect the production performance of the company generating more revenue.
To conclude, the use of a visualization data tool, like Tableau, could help radically improve an organization decision-making process by using interactive dashboards that analyze a vast amount of data and produce useful information to spot different patterns or trends. Generating real-time reports and be able to have a visual understanding of data provides companies to take advantages over competitors in a highly complex and fast-changing environment. It is essential to implement Tableau or any other tool available at a low cost to enable organizations to spend their time analyzing new products, investments, selling trends to become better and smarter, and also providing reporting standards across all the departments of the entire organizations.
Datig, I and Whiting, P (2018) Telling your library story: tableau public for data visualization, Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 35 Issue: 4, pp.6-8, https://doi.org/10.1108/LHTN-02-2018-0008
S. Acharya and S. Chellappan (2017) Pro Tableau: A Step-by-step Guide. Pune, Maharashtra, India: Apress. DOI 10.1007/978-1-4842-2352-9
Ted-Ed (2012) The beauty of data visualization by David McCandless. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zg-C8AAIGg (Accessed: October 2018)
Tableau (no date) Indiana University and Santa Barbara City College help student succeed with course-level dashboard. Available at: https://www.tableau.com/solutions/customer/tale-two-universities-tableau-higher-education (Accessed: October 2018)
Tableau (no date) MillerCoors discovers sales opportunities, selling more product to retailers with Tableau Online. Available at: https://www.tableau.com/solutions/customer/millercoors-satisfies-their-thirst-better-data-tableau-online (Accessed: October 2018)