Searching for the Holy Grail of Analysis

Jock Mackinlay and Chris Stolte recently posted a Tableau Letter I could have used when my primary job was conducting data analysis or managing other analysts. Their Letter "There Is No Single View" suggests that searching for the one perfect view may be a noble cause but the effort is typically futile. Rather than focusing on a single perfect view, people are better served focusing on the process of analysis, which explores a wide range of views to answer questions or present findings.

Early in my career as a marketing analyst, I had projects where I or someone on my team spent weeks on a project manipulating and tuning the data so that we could create the one chart, graph, table or visualization that told the whole story. I was particularly adept at manipulating data in Excel in ways that were probably never intended by Microsoft (and boy, what a love-hate relationship I had with that amazing product!). What would happen is that I would get to the graphic or table and then find out that it didn't really answer the question, was not comprehensible by anyone else, or raised too many other unanswered questions.

Jock and Chris's Letter is helpful for (at least) 2 reasons:

1. It takes 2 common types of views - Treemaps and Dashboards - and explains that while neither is the perfect single view, both are useful in answering certain kinds of questions.

2. It explains why the iterative process of visualization is the key to effective analysis. The easier it is to move through your data, the faster you'll find the insights.

Anyway, check out the Letter directly.

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