The 2009 Tableau Customer Conference is quickly approaching with the May 15th discount deadline right around the corner. We asked some of our last year's attendees not only what they thought about the conference, but how their conference experience has impacted their work and their business in the past year.
Dan Murray, COO at Interworks, Inc., shared his feedback about the conference commenting that he has had one of the best years of his career. I was impressed about Dan's comments on the value of the contacts he was able to make. Keep reading for Dan's compelling review of last year's conference.
A Sense of History
First, it was very exciting to be part of what I felt was a new era in analytics. I have been working in finance, accounting, operations, and info technology for many years…dating back to 1981 and I have some sense for the history. I view Tableau (VizQL) as a culmination of many factors and the next evolution in data analysis. I think my age gives me an advantage over younger people who haven’t lived the evolution.
I had never been at a gathering with so many like-minded data freaks. I was a lot of fun just to sit down at a table and strike up conversations with people that I didn’t know. Everyone had interesting stories. All of them shared my interest in data and data visualization. Stephen Few is the guy who originally turned me on to Tableau Software. I had read his book(s) in the fall of 2007 and emailed him with some questions and asking for help. He responded to me the next day telling me to check out Tableau and that my project was interesting but he was booked for the next 6 months. When I finally met Stephen at the conference I told him that his free advice had saved Blastrac about $1.5 million in cost avoidance. I think he enjoyed that true story. I received a couple of follow-up emails from him following the event thanking me for sharing that with him. It had “made his day.”
ROI from the 2008 Tableau Customer Conference
Priceless contacts. Meeting people like Andy Kriebel, Frank Garza, Jan Tanner, Zita Gonzales, Dana Zuber some of whom told me that received a lot of value from my presentation. That was gratifying. I also think I was able to help Andy push Tableau into wider use at Coca Cola Bottling by explaining Tableau Reader and encouraging him to pick “one VP” and try to “infect” the guy. I’ve kept in touch with him over the last year. Apparently he’s had some success with that.
Getting to meet many of the wonderful people who make Tableau click as a company. Christian, Chris, Elissa, Marc, Deepak... too many more to name. There was excitement in the air and I think everyone sensed something new and significant was blossoming.
Excellent presentations from the keynotes speakers on down to the group breakout sessions. I learned something useful at everyone of the sessions I attended. I also enjoyed the informal atmosphere of the entire gathering. It was small enough that you could barge you way in and talk with the real “gurus” of the field like Jock, Chris, Pat. Very interesting to speak with all of them. The fact that Christian and Chris took the time at the Seattle Aquarium to seek me out and speak to me was quite flattering. I very much enjoyed the conversation with them. I don’t think that would happen at a Microsoft or Apple event.
The Thing that Made it Most Worth It for Me
The community of contacts I’ve made via the web following the event gave me the impetus to find a way to get into the industry. Although I wanted to come to work at Tableau, I think it’s actually better for Tableau Software (and me personally) that I didn’t. Becoming COO of InterWorks Inc has been a great experience and I think both Tableau and InterWorks will benefit greatly from our association over the coming years. None of that would have happened if I had not attended and presented at UserCon 2008. Other people were hungry for High Value Low Cost BI - utilizing Tableau, dimensionally-conformed spreadsheets and ultimately a database backend. My experience at the conference really got me thinking that people NEEDED this tool and that I had a unique combination of education, experience and aptitude for helping Tableau bring the tool into the mass market.
I actually felt a little guilty at the end of last year. When nearly everyone in my old industry was suffering from the financial crisis and resulting business downturn, I was having one of my best years professionally and financially.
What the conference provided was reinforcement for what I had already been doing. We had just successfully implemented Tableau in the United States. I followed the conference by implementing a similar (Tableau-based solution) in Europe with the help of my friend Marcel Bosboom from Belgium. The template created for the schema and Tableau reports was duplicated for Europe in under 20 days. My actual time involved was only (4) days. That was a real home run for Blastrac. The commitment I made to the President of Blastrac was to get him a solution that wouldn’t break the bank and that the average employee could utilize. That would not have been possible without Tableau Software. The solution was delivered early and way below the cost of any alternative solution we investigated. We did our homework and were fortunate to find Tableau Software.
In addition, because we devoted most of our time and effort to data quality, not building reports (with Tableau that was a breeze)….we got the most utility for the least amount of dollar investment. Everyone at Blastrac has a very favorable opinion of Tableau Software. It became viral within the company after that.
My Next Steps
I’m going to spread this story all over the USA this year with formal seminars, speaking engagements and by helping InterWork clients get the same benefit Blastrac achieved. I have a credible, “heart-felt” story to tell. When I tell it, it resonates with people who have to sit in a similar position to my old job at Blastrac. They have a million things to do…but don’t have a large staff and lots of money to get things done. They have to be clever…and Tableau can help people make their business better. I can say that with the conviction of someone who has.