Tips When Overwhelm Hits in Tableau
I was teaching an intermediate type of Tableau class recently and one participant seemed to be struggling. To be fair, she should have been in. an intro class, but she enrolled in this one, so there we were. Since I recently shared some of these tips with the student, I thought I would share them here, partially as a reminder for me and if you (or your students need it, then here you go).
Even though I think Tableau is a great tool, it can be overwhelming, especially when you're new. Here are a few tips I use and share with new users.
2. Look to see what data elements are in the question or the statement for what you're trying to analyze/visualize. As an example: What's the trend in sales over time? In an intro class, I normally break it down this way: What's the trend in sales over time? Bolding means it's a data item. The italicized words are those that I need to look at or do something with. I'm going to need a trend line and I'm going to need to find a date based data element (and I use over time as a cue to first think of continuous vs. compare for discrete). So, if I were looking at Superstore Sales data set for Tableau, I know that I'll need sales and order date.
3. When it's something more than a basic chart, try to see if there's a base visualization that you can create or that it looks like. I recently shared with someone how to create a quadrant chart. At the base, it's a scatterplot and then you add on reference lines. That doesn't sound so daunting when you think of it that way.
4. Are you trying to reverse engineer something? Be super observant. Where are the pills? What color are they? Notice those little details to help you re-create the visualization for yourself.
5. Google it. The Tableau community is so super knowledgable. Your question may have already been thought of and addressed, so see what the community says.
6. Find your person/people. I remember when I first started (and even now, sometimes), I was so frustrated and I would message Matt Francis... why can't I get this?!? Why can't it be easier? I'm a pretty smart person but I feel so dumb. Help!! And Matt would help, without judgement. <--that's huge.
7. Remind yourself: You are smart, you've got this! We all have different zones of competence. So while someone may be amazing at calculations, they could also be afraid of the blank canvas. Give yourself grace to learn. Sometimes you come across a Tableau unicorn and that's amazing. But, it's more likely that we each have a specific thing that we love and can jam out on. And even if you're still like: But Em, I am struggling with the whole thing, I bet you have a zone of competence outside of Tableau that's super amazing (and you can't forget about that).
And finally, different aspects of the tool click at different times. I think it's easy to hear stories about what's possible like the people who become a rockstar in a weekend. That's amazing and I will celebrate them. But I also know that person is an outlier. A lot of times, it takes more than two days to master the tool. So if you're not grasping a concept immediately, that's ok. Calculations for me, are one of those things that I still have trouble with. But have I told you about how much I love swapping parameters (I might have even scared the class a little bit with my super excitement over them. Though seriously, aren they so cool? Your user can pick their dimension and measure!) 😍 It's another reason why building a network is so important, whether that's at work or in the broader Tableau community. When someone needs help with calculations, they can go to someone else. When they need help with thinking like a CEO, teaching (or based on my excitement level, swapping parameters), they can come to me.
I hope these tips have been helpful! Let me know your favorite tip to prevent Tableau overwhelm below!
I've been teaching Tableau a lot and recently I started using Tableau Explorer to do the training since that's what the client is using. First off, what a great way to give some power to the people. I love this solution! In Explorer, you get most of what most people need. This post is part one of two parts; information you should have readily available for Explorers when training (based on my experience). The next post is functionality that feels like it's missing to me.
Tableau has put together a nice bit of information on explaining the license types and what may be best for your organization. You can find it here. Once you've made that decision, then it's time to train your users and 99% of the time, you'll need a vendor to do that. Being a contractor that provides training, I want to share a few questions I've received so that it helps your organization when it comes time to rollout the product and training.
"We're going this because..."
Share background information. Yes, you may have already said it before, but people are busy, so please say it again. In my experience as a Reporting and Analytics Team Lead where we were championing Tableau, some people won't be happy about the transition or maybe they just have questions about their role/license. Communicating out the why and what each person's value is, is really important.
"After this training, here's how we will support you."
Soooo many questions arise as people start to use Tableau, from technical tips to data management/governance. My advice is to spend a little time on the front-end to prepare people to be successful with the tool after training.
Where can people go to with questions after the training? We've all been there, right? You learn something in a tool and it's like "I've got this!!" only to use it in real time, and wonder "How did we do that in class?" Making sure that people know where a communication portal/hub/whatever-you-call-it is and what resources are available there is SUPER helpful. Even FAQs like, "If you used to connect directly to data sources and now have an Explorer license, here's the process to get access to your data."
Who can people go to after training? There will be a Tableau champion/evangelist emerge. One way to help identify them is through having internal user group meetings/meet ups. Sometimes people think of Tableau as just another piece of software, like Excel and you probably don't have meetups about Excel. But Tableau isn't Excel and there is a learning curve associated with it. To help identify these champions or leaders, having a space for people to talk Tableau is super helpful! Here's a link to Tableau's 'Internal User Group Best Practices' information that can help you set up an internal user group. Support people when they want to talk Tableau. It will help your analysts product better analytics.
What do people do after training? Practice and get involved with the local/online Tableau and data visualization community. Practice will help you/your people get better. Whether it's a social project like Workout Wednesday or just a data set you find online. It's also really helpful to have people get involved with the Tableau community. It's more than just tweets. Being involved looks differently for everyone (it might be the Community Forums, twitter, Tableau User Groups, or something else. What I do know is that building out your Tableau network is helpful when you need additional support and is a great way to give back to others on their Tableau journey.
I love training and I really hope that everyone falls in love with how impactful data visualization and Tableau can be. But above all else, I want people to feel comfortably uncomfortable and conversant in their dataviz/Tableau journey.
Helping people and organizations begin their data visualization and Tableau journey. I'm a fan of training, Tableau, data viz, my kids, cupcakes, and karate.