Tableau: Wow. That’s an incredible result. We assume they were pretty happy, then?
Matt Boyer, Senior Application Developer: They were able to use the dashboard we deployed very easily.
Scott Cochran, Data Analyst: They really liked being able to be able to drill down and see their data, starting from a high level to get to something useful.
And that makes me feel great because it makes me feel like I’m helping reduce the national debt.
Tableau: What was the issue you were trying to solve?
Matt: The Army National Guard has a very interesting set of problems. They have to train a large number of new recruits and existing soldiers every year. They need to send these people to training, they need to plan this training and they all have different points of view.
Scott: So they wanted something where they could see an overview and then when they needed to, they could drill down and get to, say, a specific course or specific school that they needed to analyze further.
Tableau: Can you describe the data environment?
Justin: For this current contract that we're working on with the Army, there are probably more than 50 interfaces, so data is coming from multiple sources. It's in different formats. We're able to combine that and make it useful for the client by taking data from multiple sources, putting it into Tableau, and presenting it in a different manner that made it much more effective for our client.
Matt: The Army National Guard has a 54-state model—that includes territories—and they don't want anybody from one state seeing the data in another state. At the same time, at the national level, they want to see all the data. So that's terribly important.
Now, from my perspective, another huge part of the security would be authentication and the fact that we have to pass DOD security requirements.
Justin: Security is a very important aspect of our everyday job when we deal with the Army.
Tableau: Tell us more about that. How did Tableau play into the picture?
Matt: We came across Tableau at the same time that we became a Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) level-2 shop. We've since become CMMI level 3. We started out and we had to apply to get Tableau Server put on the DOD Certificate of Networthiness (CoN) list.
Tableau: How was your client analyzing its data before you came in with Tableau?
Justin: The Army was used to taking Excel and data tables and putting that into a PowerPoint presentation. With Tableau, we put an actionable visualization in front of them and made something valuable that they were able to interact with.
Scott: It used to take our clients a long time to analyze their data. Now with Tableau, they can see their data and very easily drill down to a specific training requirements—specific courses, specific schools that they need to look at at that time.
Justin: Very simply, Tableau has presented the data in a visual manner. It gives them something that they can use to drive returns. They can act on it and get results. And that's something that they can't really do with the typical data sources that they were using day to day.
Tableau: And after they saw those visualizations, what were the next steps?
Matt: The chief challenge—and it was a very fun challenge—was how we were going to take this cool dashboard and integrate it into a Web application so that everybody in the Guard could use it and benefit from it. We had to use the DOD smart card.
We came up with a service-oriented architecture on how we could integrate Tableau in a service manner and integrate it into any of our applications and only have to do the customization once.
Justin: We embed the Tableau solution within that system. So the main application that we've already established, which they already know how to log in to, is the one that trusts and authenticates the user and allows them to log in and see the dashboards that we've produced.
Tableau: So what has the overall impact of Tableau been—on this project and beyond?
Justin: Once we put it out there, it generated ideas. They started thinking about new ways to use Tableau to answer some of their problems.
It sells itself. It makes it easy for us to go to the client and say, "This is a solution that we have for you."
Matt: Tableau has come along and we can start to design dashboards. So we can start to visually show people what the real value in the data is.
Scott: And for anybody considering Tableau, I would say ‘Just jump right in’ because it makes connecting to your data sources so easy. The ability to create visualizations is extremely simple and you can give your clients quality dashboards in the end.