Expert Opinion

Translating data into success

  • #business intelligence
  • #Tableau

By Craig Andrew, Senior Consultant and Tableau specialist, Keyrus

Choosing the right tool to enable users across the company to perform analytics, publish dashboards and share discoveries is essential for businesses of all sizes to drive success through leveraging data.

The idea of information as an asset has been around for some time, but it is only recently that organisations have begun to recognise it as a potential competitive differentiator. Additionally, as they begin to focus on digital transformation, so data and analytics evolve into strategic priorities. This is because both of these are key to accelerating an enterprise’s digitisation efforts.

It is for this reason that Business Intelligence (BI) is viewed as vital factor for success. Existence of Business Intelligence means the business has access to the cleanest and clearest data, at the correct time and is able to get it to the right people, thus enabling them to make the best decisions. Naturally, there are a multitude of BI tools available, and making the right choice can be complex. This is where Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for BI can prove extremely useful, as it enables businesses to narrow down the field and choose the right tool for the job.

Leaders in this quadrant, like Tableau, which has been recognised as one for seven consecutive years, should obviously be high on an organisation’s radar. After all, Tableau’s stated mission is to help people see and understand data, and it has achieved this goal through relentless customer focus and products designed to put people first. At the same time, it is continuously innovating with a view to solving real business challenges.

As part of Tableau's platform, Tableau Online and Tableau Server feature functionality created to provide embedded analytics enabling customers near real-time reports into a web-based application. Those are designed to function in both cloud and on-premise environments therefore allow organisations to choose the environment they feel offers them the best benefits.

On the one hand, cloud offers enormous flexibility, saving companies time and money and improving their agility and scalability. Furthermore, they only need to pay for the resources that they use, with none of the maintenance and upkeep costs related to on-premise equipment. On the other hand, the question of ownership of data is one that many organisations still struggle with, as the data resides with the third-party provider. This means that if the unlikely event happens and there is downtime, the business may find it more difficult to access its data.

The same can be said for on-premise, where resources are deployed in-house and within the enterprise’s IT infrastructure. While this adds to the costs and increases the maintenance, power consumption and space required, it also means that enterprises retain all their data and are fully in control of what happens to it. This is critical for those organisations that feel the need to remain in total control of their own security.

From a cloud perspective, Tableau Online is ideal, in that you can get your analytics platform up and running within minutes – as opposed to weeks or months – and can seamlessly add users as the business needs grow. The tool allows users to publish dashboards and share discoveries with anyone, as users can invite colleagues or customers to explore hidden opportunities with interactive visualisations and accurate data.

All of this is easily accessible from a browser or on the go via the mobile app, and it thus allows external teams, partners and clients to easily and securely access the analytics they require, and it makes it simple to embed interactive dashboards, either on the web or within other apps, like Salesforce, in just a few clicks.

This was one of the reasons a major logistics company recently chose Keyrus to implement Tableau Online – it was tired of the exorbitant annual license fees being paid for existing ‘off-the-shelf’ software that still did not meet all its needs, while also requiring people to manually prepare reports. By eliminating human interventions, it is designed to reduce the risk of reporting incorrect figures that could ultimately lead to penalties having to be paid.

In addition, as a logistics enterprise, the cloud approach allowed the company to focus on its core business, without having to concern itself with the infrastructure. Additionally, it found its costs were reduced, while flexibility, scalability and reliability were all increased significantly.

Thanks to integrating machine sensor data into a cloud their data warehouse now has access to vast amounts of relevant information. This provides accurate visibility into the supply chain, delivering live embedded reports and dashboards to users.

Analytics-ready data consolidation

Of course, consolidating and preparing data for analytics and dashboards usually takes a lot of effort. This potential downside is newly addressed in the introduction of Tableau Prep that enables visual preparation and manipulation of data sets.

What makes this special is that it negates the need for engineers and data analyst with specialised skills to prepare the data for business users. Instead, it gives users across the board the tools they need to confidently combine, shape and clean their data, thus delivering insights faster and ultimately leading to better business decisions.

Comprised of two tools, Tableau Prep offers the Builder solution for creating data flows, while Conductor enables users to share flows and manage them across the enterprise. Tableau Prep saves users the many hours of work usually required to ensure that analyses are accurate and effective, by dramatically shortening the time between data collection and actionable insights.

Dialogue with your data

Tableau Platform also offers a new feature called Tableau Ask Data, which is designed to allow users to ask questions in natural language, building a bridge for non-technical users to engage and perform much deeper and complex analytics than was previously possible without coding or development.

And not only are the answers delivered in the form of rich data visualisations, Ask Data also interprets the intent behind ambiguous and vague questions, in order to still give accurate results. The feature works with all existing data sources – both live connections and extracts – in Tableau Server and Tableau Online, with no additional set-up required.

Thanks to its provision of a single version of the truth as far as data is concerned, the delivery of automated, live operational reports and the ability to deliver executive insights into the supply chain at a granular level, Tableau has had a positive impact on the enterprise’s ability to meet and exceed customer expectations, while significantly reducing its costs.

It should be clear that in today's information-driven world, successful businesses will be the ones with the power of data at their fingertips, allowing them to turn opportunities into reality. Tableau has proven its ability to transform the way people use data to solve problems, by ensuring analyses are fast, easy and useful. In the end, by making data visualisation, data analytics and reporting as easy as possible, the tool has revolutionised how customers see, interpret and understand data.