The Information Lab: Helping people make sense of data
The Information Lab is dedicated to helping companies understand and use their data. In this video, CTO Craig Bloodworth discusses how Tableau “gets (clients) exploring— and excited about what they're using.”
Tableau: How did you first come across about Tableau?
Craig Bloodworth, CTO: I discovered Tableau based on problems with Excel.
So I downloaded it (Tableau) after four days of working with the mass spreadsheet. I demoed it Friday morning. Installed it, connected to the data, drew all the same charts again, new dashboards, and finished by the end of the day. And it was really that's when the penny dropped for me.
And I believe I got my credit card out that night and I still own my own copy.
Tableau: We love that! Tell us about what you’re doing these days.
Craig: I manage a team of consultants and try and do some really cool stuff with Tableau, try to push it to the edge and bring in new technology, new integration and just generally kind of having fun.
One of Craig's "just for fun" vizzes tracking his movements in a day. Watch the video to see it in action.
Tableau: In a nutshell, what does The Information Lab do?
Craig: We really focus on doing what's right for the customer there and then. And that doesn't mean necessarily entering into a long sort of 6-month, 12-month engagement.
It means that they have discovered Tableau usually. They have data they think they can get something from. And we just help kick start them and get them in the right direction. They then usually do go into some training and then they go off and run with it themselves, because they know the data, they know what they want to get out of it.
It's really nice to see people take something that you've shown them, something that interests them and then take it their own way and then get to join up with them later and see what they've created. And they feed it back to us and we get some insight into how they use it.
Tableau: In your mind, is there anything that sets Tableau apart from other software companies?
Craig: So there are very few technology companies that... everybody in the company loves to be a part of, and loves to know that they're opening one piece of software that day and it's Tableau and their day is going to be great. Because they can just do all their work, they know they're going to achieve a lot of stuff, knowing they're going to make customers happy.
And then when it comes to taking all that experience and going back to Tableau and saying we'd really like our customers to be able to do more, or to do it slightly differently, to have the face-to-face contact with the same guys who are doing development, who run the company, I think it's pretty unique and it's a big testimony to Tableau.
Tableau: Who exactly in your company uses Tableau?
I don't think there's a single department, a single vertical that can't use Tableau. Everyone these days has data and has insight they can derive from that data.
Craig: All sorts, I don't think there's a single department, a single vertical that can't use Tableau.
Everyone these days has data and has insight they can derive from that data. I look and I see banking companies, I see logistics, I see even a karaoke bar in London is a Tableau customer. Now they get great insight from the data that's generated by their till system. And people who aren't even employed to analyze that data get excited by seeing the lines go up, or they're meeting their target for that night.
It feels pretty good to see them getting brand new insight from data that's been around forever and they never thought they were going to be able to do anything with.
Tableau: What’s introducing people to Tableau like?
Craig: Presenting Tableau for the first time you can see sort of in the room people sit up and sort of their eyes widen, because you're just showing them that working with data doesn't have to be difficult.
My best experience with showing someone Tableau was a one-day engagement I did with a market analysis company. They gave me a big data set at the start of the day. By lunchtime we kind of explored the data, got all the meaning out, and then by the end of the day we created about five dashboards. And we had a company director right behind us asking questions of the data, their own data, and we're answering them on the fly. And they get to leave now with a great workbook they can use to take to their clients and show them what the data can do for them.
Tableau: What sort of data are you typically helping your customers connect to with Tableau?
Craig: Our customers have connected Tableau mainly to the classic database systems. We're seeing a lot more people moving to the cloud now. I believe in one week I had three different customers requesting demos with Amazon Redshift. People are very excited by things like Google Analytics and Salesforce. They can really see how they can take stuff that they've been adding to these systems for years and now they can get insight and it can feedback to them instantly.
Tableau: What kind of impact has Tableau had on your life?
Craig: Personally, Tableau has made a big change to my career. Since adopting it fully and joining The Information Lab I've found myself working a lot with The Guardian data blog, for instance, just as Tableau Public was getting really popular. I since then, about a year later, got the Tableau Visionary accreditation, and found myself going from a two-person company, two-and-a-half years ago, to now The Information Lab is 14 consultants and growing.