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Tableau and Data Visualization

Introduction

Data is the current hot topic. With the digitization era, data went from scarce, expensive, difficult to find, collect and store to abundant and cheap yet very difficult to process and understand providing us incredible amount of information, so vast, that it was challenging to capture, store, understand and analyse the traditional way. 

We rely on data to gauge whether something is true or false, but we rarely see this data in its raw form. All the available data is only as good as what we can make out of it as individuals and businesses. You can imagine how rows and rows of data can be very difficult to interpret. Terabytes of data sitting in a data center, unused or incorrectly used is a burden. If correctly processed, it can become digital gold. This is where data visualization comes into the picture. Data Visualization is the process of taking raw data, transforming it into graphs, charts, images, and even videos and animations that explain the numbers, its relation and allows us to gain insights from it. It changes the way we make sense of the information to create value out of it, discover new patterns, and spot trends. The Tableau Desktop Specialist and Desktop Certified Associate exam are aimed at recognizing your expertise in this field of data analytics. 

Imagine you have a data which looks like this:

29475098378496789437689347592922222998002578578345687456932850908365892762391343894763946023859327658746894376098879058768437593486903486094893859275847684937609848789346798459023859028598437683576893459080232909999999999911111112222222221289457222293840924029385947589475980932409322943029859047509888888233333333338999

Can you find how many times the sequence 09 occurs in the above series of numbers?

You will probably use your fingers and trace along the lines and keep a counter in your mind to tick any 09 that you come across. Some might even use the Find / Search option available in the text reader. 

29475098378496789437689347592922222998002578578345687456932850908365892762391343894763946023859327658746894376098879058768437593486903486094893859275847684937609848789346798459023859028598437683576893459080232909999999999911111112222222221289457222293840924029385947589475980932409322943029859047509888888233333333338999

Now what if you need to find how many times 3 appeared after the 09 sequence and how many times 8 appeared? SIMPLE! Since the 09 series is highlighted, it becomes easy for you to go back to the data and only look for the highlighted text and check if it has a following 3 or 8.

The answer is: 3 was seen twice after 09 and 8 also came twice after 09. It is SIMPLER when the series is further highlighted to show us the desired results.

29475098378496789437689347592922222998002578578345687456932850908365892762391343894763946023859327658746894376098879058768437593486903486094893859275847684937609848789346798459023859028598437683576893459080232909999999999911111112222222221289457222293840924029385947589475980932409322943029859047509888888233333333338999

A visual cue makes it easy to spot the answers that we are looking for.

Let us look at a more common business problem. We need to analyse the profit per category, if it has increased since last year or not and which product was the most profitable in year 2020.

Figure 1: Table showing Product Name, Category, Year and Profit per Product and Year

How will you create a story of 1000s of rows of data using a spreadsheet? Obviously, by creating charts like pie chart, bar chart, line chart of the same data. 

The above table can be converted into a line chart to show year over year profit for each category.

Figure 2: YoY Profit by Category

From this figure we can see that Office Supplies is a leading profit-making category followed by Technology. However, profit for Furniture in 2020 is the same as in the year 2019.

Likewise, a bar chart can be used to show which product gave maximum gains in 2020.

Figure 3: 2020 Profit by Products

A visual representation of data can help you start analyzing and integrating it into your business, giving meaning and purpose to the original raw data.

Data visualization truly empowers managers and reporting users by providing clear and actionable insights into their business programs. A data-driven program brings value to all stakeholders, it allows better control and prediction of key metrics and increases the accuracy of decision making. Imagine if you could get a visual representation of your past, current and future costs to show to your CFO? Or if you could visualize the impacts of each change you make to your budgeting and negotiated rates? What about where you can see areas where you spend above average and what would be the better alternatives? The possibilities are endless and data visualization can keep you ahead. The Tableau Desktop Specialist Certification Exam requires you to score 70% from 30 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes to get the certificate, and it never expires.

There are various tools using which you can visualize your data successfully. Specialized data visualization tools such as Tableau, Qlik Sense, Power BI, etc. provide you with an easier way to represent large data sets. When dealing with data sets that includes hundreds of thousands of millions of data points, automating the process of creating the visualization at least in parts makes the task of data-driven insights creation significantly easier. When talking of visualization tools, there are certain things one looks out for:

  1. Ease of use: Data is used by data analysts as well as business heads. Incredibly complicated apps and non-intuitive tools restrict the adoption of these tools. In our above example of profit by category and products, the regional head would have asked a data analyst to generate this annual report.

  1. Ability to handle huge sets of data: In this digital world, data is collected and stored abundantly. For instance, while the product and category data may not change that often, but the sales transactions keep happening which adds to more data volumes.
  1. Multiple sets of data: From regular reporting to ad-hoc analysis, data comes from multiple sources. In the same example, Products and Category data is usually stored in the form of a master table whereas the sales and profit come from the transaction tables. This was integrated into a single source of truth.
  1. Various chart types: A good tool will support creation of many visuals. Each chart is used for a specific reason which depicts the data accurately and makes it more comprehensible. The line graph in the above example shows the trend of profit over the years while bar chart is comparing the categorical data of products.
  1. Interactivity: A user would love to have the opportunity to slice and dice the data or filter the data to answer the business questions and to quickly solve ad-hoc business problems. In our example, one can drill down from category to sub-category to see the yearly trend. 
  1. Self – Service Analysis: With the growing need of data-driven analysis, business professionals feel the need to be empowered using the data so they can explore data themselves and reduce the dependency on IT / Data teams. Now imagine, you have created above report on profitability, but now your line of business head has asked for profitability for each category by region. In the absence of self-service feature, traditionally it would have gone to the IT team to get the desired report. This incurs cost as well as time spent to get the answer. 

Contemporary data visualization tools are characterized by easy-to-use functionality that supports a full analytic workflow — from data preparation to visual exploration and insight generation — with an emphasis on self-service analytics. In 2020, Gartner ranked Tableau as a Leader in its Magic Quadrant as it offers a visual-based exploration experience enabling business users to access, prepare, analyze, and present their findings. Tableau delivers fast analytics, visualization, and rapid-fire business intelligence on data of any size, format, or subject. The result? Anyone can get answers from data quickly. From executive dashboards to ad-hoc reports, Tableau lets everyone in the organization analyze and understand the data faster than any other solution and at a fraction of their costs and resources. The Tableau Desktop Certified Associate Certification Exam helps portray your expertise and establish your profile in this field effectively. Score 75% from 36 multiple-choice questions in 120 minutes to get this coveted certificate.

Figure 4: Tableau’s Product Platform

Tableau suite has the following products: 

Tableau Desktop

Tableau Desktop is a data visualization and analysis tool built on breakthrough technology that enables user to connect to any data source, explore data through an intuitive user interface and see patterns, identify trends and discover visual insights in seconds. Tableau powers insights with the help of complex calculation and advanced analytics. No wizards, no scripting is required to begin gaining value from your data.

Tableau Server 

Tableau Server is a browser-based insight anyone can use. Dashboards are published on Tableau Server using Tableau Desktop and can be shared with others. It’s easy to set up and run and empowers business to seamlessly and securely share and collaborate insights with each other.

Tableau Online 

Tableau Online is a hosted, SaaS version of Tableau Server. Publish dashboards on Tableau Online using Tableau Desktop and share them with colleagues, partners or customers. With cloud BI you can find answers in minutes – whenever and wherever you are. It is secure, scalable and removes the burden of managing server infrastructure.

Tableau Prep 

Tableau Prep allows you to connect to virtually any data source and prepare the data of any type, shape and size present on-prem, in cloud or in flat files. It provides a visual way to shape, clean and transform data and also helps to automate data pre flows.

Tableau Mobile 

With Tableau Mobile, your data is always within your reach. Tableau Mobile app for iOS and Android, allows one to access and monitor the most important dashboards and KPIs on the go.

Tableau Reader

Tableau Reader is a free desktop application that can be used to open, and view visualizations built using Tableau Desktop. With Tableau Reader you’ll be able to interact with visualizations, filter, drill-down and view details of the data as far as possible, data included.

Tableau Public

Tableau Public is for users who wants to share interactive data stories on the web. You’ll be able to connect to data, create interactive data visualizations and publish them directly to your website and guide readers through a narrative of data insights you’ve discovered. 

This exhaustive product line of Tableau supports an individual or a business in its full-cycle of analytics workflow – from preparation to analysis – to sharing, coupled with governance and data management at every step of the way.

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