Perhaps no other genre of Data Analytics tools has been more widely adopted over the past five years than Interactive Visualization, spotlighted by offerings from vendors like Tableau, QlikView, Sportfire, Alteryx and Pentaho. Simple enough to provide exploratory insight in minutes, these platforms are progressively providing much of the same enterprise, web-based functionality for Dashboards and OLAP solutions found in classic BI suites.
Sourcing the data is still vitally important.
We love the interactivity of tools like Tableau. They've changed the way in which people interact with data. We're adults, though. We know that even the best interactive technology still lives and dies based on the data that's behind it. When we use these technologies, we spend a good amount of time organizing and preparing the data into something that people will like, understand, and enjoy. These tools provide improving data preparation and access but most often require some data engineering to make them sing.
Building the right metadata and measures
As smart as these tools are, they aren't self-aware. They don't know about your business practices. They don't know how you see the world. This is why it's important to focus on developing the calculations and dimensional terms that make sense to the people who will use them. Data and tools alone don't solve the problem, but we like to use these technologies to help us get there.
Visualize the visualizations
We like to put these technologies through their paces. Even if you have great data, there are times when you won't see anomalies until you explore with the tool. We put in place QA processes to make sure that all of the visualizations make sense.
Share them with your team
While most of these technologies, including Tableau, started out on the desktop, they have continued to mature, and now offer server versions. While certainly not as sophisticated from a operational side as platforms like Pentaho, Cognos, BusinessObjects or Microstrategy, technologies like Tableau have a clean, simple interface for the web that is relatively easy to configure and access.
These technologies are game-changers. They are in a class unto themselves.