Merkle is a global, data-driven marketing agency that frequently partners with Fortune 1000 companies. With a keen focus on data and technology, Merkle needed a flexible business intelligence tool that was up to their high standard.
Today, Merkle uses Tableau to showcase data to customers—framing analyses as storytelling experiences. In this video, Amanda Gessert, Senior Manager of Business Intelligence shares how she uses Story Points in presentations. Interactive visualizations allow customers to ask questions, drill down, and get answers immediately. When asked about data storytelling, Amanda comments with a smile, “data is nothing without the people.”
Tableau: You have a real focus on Storytelling at Merkle, don’t you?
Amanda Gessert, Senior Manager, Business Intelligence: I think data storytelling is hugely valuable. I think that data, while we like to think it can stand on its own, it can't. Data is nothing without the people involved with it.
Tableau: What's your position at Merkle?
Amanda: I'm a senior manager of business intelligence. So, basically, I help customers understand how to make their business intelligence more effective.
Tableau: What does that look like, practically speaking?
Amanda: So whether that's helping them to identify good tools, or whether that's helping them figure out how to take their visualizations and kind of bring them up to the next level, tell stories with this visualizations or, you know, help them to get the data in place on the back end to support the type of analytics that they're most interested in doing.
Tableau: How does Tableau fit into that?
Amanda: When you're working with a tool like Tableau, you have a lot of different ways to approach the same situation. And it's so easy to flip between those ways that you don't feel as cemented into doing things the way that it's been done before.
Tableau: What's your favorite thing about Tableau?
Amanda: I love the flexibility of the tool. I love that if you can dream it, there's probably a way to do it. And I love that it almost challenges you to find new ways to do things, or better, more effective ways to do things.
I love the flexibility of Tableau. I love that if you can dream it, there's probably a way to do it. And I love that it almost challenges you to find new ways to do things, or better, more effective ways to do things.
Tableau: How do you use Tableau with your customer data?
Amanda: My experience, a lot of it, has been working with clients to help them discover different ways to take their current analyses, frame them in more of a narrative, persuasive form, and Story Points is a great way to do that. It gives you the opportunity to, similar to PowerPoint, segment your presentation, but still allows you the flexibility and the interactivity of Tableau to be able to, on the fly, change what it is that you're doing, drill down a little bit deeper, or even dig into the underlying data to answer an unanticipated question.
Tableau: How do your customers react to that?
Amanda: What's interesting is if I show them data in Story Points and don't tell them that we're showing them their data in Story Points, and as far as they're concerned, it's PowerPoint. And then all of a sudden I drill down or I do a filter or I do something like that, their mind is blown and they think it's fantastic.
Tableau: What are the benefits of using Story Points?
Amanda: That person who's interpreting that story is also sometimes that person who is interacting with the data and who is starting to figure out exactly what it is that's going on with whatever problem it is they're trying to solve.
And so, as a result, having something like Story Points really enables them to be able to leverage their data, tell that story they were already going to tell, but to do it in a more flexible, interactive way.
Tableau: What would you do if you didn't have Tableau?
Amanda: If I didn't have Tableau, I would, I would probably cry. I would be so sad. Because it does, it just makes me happy every day to come into work and to spend time working in it.
Tableau: How has Tableau impacted your career?
Amanda: Tableau has hugely impacted my career. What's so funny is prior to working with Tableau the first time, I knew I loved data. And I knew I loved working with people. And it always felt like there was something missing in the middle.
I had this skill that I knew a lot of people didn't have, kind of being able to communicate about data and also having that analytic skill set, but I think I was missing was that medium, that tool set to be able to really leverage my skills in a way that was going to benefit my career.
Tableau: And that’s where Tableau came in?
Amanda: And that's where Tableau fit in. It allowed me to start working with data and working with people to help them understand their data. And, you know, between working with people to train them on the tool to working with people to train them on visualization best practices and how they should be creating dashboards more effectively, it's totally changed the trajectory of my career.
Tableau: Are you actively involved in the Tableau community, like Tableau User Groups, for example?
Amanda: I love the Tableau User Groups. In fact, we even have one we kind of unofficially host at Merkle. Just monthly meetings where all of our Tableau users, we get together and we talk about exactly what we're working on, different tips and tricks that might be helpful to others, bizarre use cases that might be useful.
Tableau: What benefits have you experienced from your User Group?
Amanda: It just provides a good place to meet face to face with people and to have conversations that might be more difficult to do over the phone or over e-mail with somebody who actually works at Tableau.
You can have conversations about different ways that you might implement your server or better ways you might implement your server. And you can have conversations about kind of weird problems that you might be having and get a whole troop of people surrounded around a laptop to kind of talk through different issues.