By Robert Morton 2008/07/21

"Insight brings value out of data," explains George Smirnoff. As Managing Director at Trexin Consulting, George enlists a multidisciplinary staff for collaborative root-cause analysis. Tableau is well suited for the iterative process of developing insight, and is an exciting centerpiece of his teams' dynamic brainstorming sessions.

His teams have investigated unexplained revenue shortfalls, examined securities fraud and shored up corporate defense strategies. This often revolves around outlier analysis: when slicing data in different ways, the same trend becomes apparent. Using simple rules to segment the data helps isolate outliers by establishing conditions which become red flags in combination.
George's presentation was exciting and fast-paced, drawing in excellent questions from the audience. He paced the presentation with some humor as well, making a dig at lawyers' superiority complex: "they are looking at this awesome Tableau stuff and acting like it's normal!" For some time afterward, a number of clustered conversations lingered in the room; customers with similar backgrounds were discussing their successes with Tableau in their own interactive settings. One customer encouraged another to "go for it" in an upcoming, high-profile storytelling meeting - take Tableau to the CEO, and leave PowerPoint as an afterthought.
Some key takeaways for successful collaborative sessions with Tableau:

  • Accept that you will find some erroneous data, and resolve to address it as soon as possible.
  • Explain the nature of the meeting in advance to the participants: it is a problem-solving session, not a blame-finding one. Defensiveness can completely kill the productivity of these sessions.
  • Explore the data in different ways to find recurring outliers. Beware of sampling issues, since aggregations of low-count data will have a high margin of error.