The Information Lab

The Information Lab helps people make sense of data

The Information Lab is a team of certified Tableau software consultants in the United Kingdom. Tom Brown founded The Information Lab after discovering a passion for helping people make sense of data -— a passion fueled by five years of working on traditional business intelligence projects which ‘just never seemed to be what people actually wanted.’ After evaluating Tableau in 2008, Tom realized the world of BI had changed and became an evangelist and specialist in Tableau.

Tableau: Tableau literally changed your life. How did you find us?
Tom: I first met Tableau four years ago trying to find solutions to help customers become self-reliant in business intelligence. We were working with lots of Microsoft technologies, which gave us great databases, but they weren't taking us that last mile to make our customers self-reliant. When we found Tableau, everything changed. I have a team of five people who are enthusiastic and love their work. They work in the evenings and weekends without me asking them to. Tableau made our work fun again.

Tableau: Who are your customers?
Tom: Tableau is used across all industries, and that's reflected in our customers. They all have data, and they all have a need to get some value from it. We work with some large banks, lots of universities, in the health care space. And we also work with some very, very small companies. We're not going into IT particularly but into the business departments. So we're working with people in marketing, analysts, in the HR department and the finance teams, everybody!

Tableau: How do they describe the value of Tableau?
Tom: Tableau is productive. Our customers are working many, many times faster than in the tools they were using before. It's distributed. There are many, many more people in the business able to contribute to data-driven discussions because of Tableau. And it’s bringing the fun back into work.

Tableau: Give us some examples of the impact Tableau has made.
Tom: We recently worked with a large record label in the UK that collects streaming Spotify data—some really big datasets—and they use Tableau Server to push that information back out to more than 600 clients.

In health care, we work with people who are trying to use Tableau Desktop to do some really detailed analysis about why certain people present particularly late with cancer. They're looking for things like geographic clustering, for example, but by type. If you're an older male living in an inner city, you're very unlikely to go to the doctor. Once they found that information out, they specifically target those people with marketing, because if they can get them to present early to the doctor then they've got a a much higher survival chance.

We worked with a small but significant retail company in London who was sending out marketing brochures to their clients. But they weren't taking any account of who those clients were or where they were located geographically. So we used Tableau's mapping functionality as a filter to exclude people who would never likely come in, because they lived so distant from the actual physical store. That saved them a lot of money in marketing and let them focus on the right people.

Tableau: How is Tableau changing the way people work?

"The vast majority of people learning Tableau are people in the business, not IT. And the feedback generally is that their work just became fun again."

Tom: The biggest change is that since everybody can use Tableau, the contribution to decision-making is coming from everywhere. The vast majority of people learning Tableau are people in the business, not IT. They're the people that know about the business and can make decisions. And the feedback generally is that their work just became fun again. When we're training them, we see smiles and we see people suddenly feel empowered again. If every decision needs to be rooted through someone in IT, then that's not particularly empowering; Tableau is changing that.

Tableau: How does Tableau support your initiatives?
Tom: The greatest thing Tableau is doing is continuing to build great software, which is taking us to places that their competitors can't go. That gives us a level of confidence. We're a small business. Yet we when we take our software out to companies, we know that we can compete with much, much larger organizations. Tableau really packs a punch.

Tableau: What is it like working with Tableau as a company?
Tom: The partnership with Tableau is very real. With many other companies, partnerships are not necessarily two-way. We're out there every day meeting customers and telling them about this great new way of working. Tableau gives us a great deal of support--through direct connections into the sales team, with partner managers, and with the development team— it's a two way street.

Tableau: How has business grown?
Tom: Tableau is having extensive growth in the UK, and I think that will continue to grow apace. In one year, we’ve grown from me to a team of five. We became the first Tableau Gold partner outside the U.S., which is exciting for us. And we expect that growth to continue as Tableau's growth and recognition continues in the UK.

We also continue dedicating a lot of our resources to supporting the community. Our website specifically helps other people using Tableau; we decided to flood it with information that would help people. We write blog posts every week. The Tableau Hub brings together all the Tableau resources that we can find, and that's really been helping our customers and the rest of the Tableau community.

Tableau: What does the future hold?
Tom: There's a massive amount of interest in v8. And I think what Tableau presents with version 8 at their conference in San Diego is really going to take Tableau to not just the next level but levels that people hadn't even imagined yet!