Jerry Seinfeld married his wife Jessica in December 1999. Just a few months before that, she ended her 5-year relationship and a brief marriage with her first husband. In Vogue Magazine, she is quoted as saying,
“I met Jerry at the end of what was the most difficult period of my life. I had just made a painful decision to dissolve a five-year relationship that began when I was 21 and culminated in a brief marriage. But Jerry’s friendship gave me strength and resilience at a time of desperate need, and it has formed the basis for my happiness in the years that have followed”.
There are many parallels between this story and those of us who have worked with “legacy BI” tools and then switched to Tableau. Let us see how.
1. You Don’t Want to Go Back Again
Every visualization problem is different so why should they all be answered with a bar, line or a pie (oh) chart? If you need a unique chart type in other tools, they need to be either available out-of-box or in their extension library. Fair enough. But can I use that waffle chart plugin and switch the axis. Sorry, you can’t do that. You know what they are missing? The basic building block of visualizations: the grammar or the fruit below the yogurt – the VizQL.
You walk into a meeting and your CFO asks you to build a dashboard. It should contain dynamic filters, role-based security, and visualizations that change based on user input. And you just say “Yes, we can do that”. You trust the tool enough to say yes for any kind of visualization problem. Sorry, ‘data trust’ and timelines is beyond the scope of this article 🙂 But there is always a version 1.
Visualizations are meant to be consumed on the web. The web is 24×7 and the last thing you want is an unresponsive Tableau Server on a Saturday night. Fortunately, the last time I had this issue was ….. never.
In the legacy BI world, there is a laundry list of thing that need to be monitored. The repository database, processes, web tier, JAVA, and so on. After all, oil change for your car is not something you look forward to.
4. Always There for You
We all have bad days. Boss or a client asking for something be done yesterday. Or getting design opinions on a dashboard from everyone that will make Stephen Few cry (for the record, it doesn’t take a lot to make him cry or scream). You then come back to the desk, start Tableau Desktop and see that “Viz of the Day” show up and forget everything that just happened, albeit for a moment.
In your legacy tool, you have tried multiple approaches to performance tuning and convinced the DBA that the issue is in SQL query execution. Explain plan, stats collection, partitioning, indexes everything is on the table. But wait, this started as an analytics project when did it turn into a database optimization project?
Enter the world of extracts in Tableau. Turn that switch on and watch all these problems disappear. Sure, extracts don’t work for big data but there is a cloud for that.
6. Frustrates You
You are just trying to get that multi-level (or nested) sort to work. You have tried different approaches for a day before discovering ‘dynamic sort’. It’s just a sort, why do I need to build a ‘dynamic sort’? Excel can do it with a single click. By the end of it all, you are done for the day.
7. You Swear You Will Never Talk to Him/Her Again, But Still Do
After the frustrations with sort, you begin the next day looking for other tools. All of them can do nested sort just fine. But then you discover you cannot create a combination map chart, play golf or tic-tac, or build a sushi inspired dashboard and you call your search off.
8. Inspires You
You visit the public gallery and discover thousands of lifeless excel sheets turn into stories. Stories that tell the 1,000-year history of monarchy in the U.K or violence in Africa. Inspired, you start building your own and get stuck. You post your question to the community and an hour later the perfect solution is waiting for you. Inspiration helps you get started and the community helps you reach the finish line.
9. Quality of Time Spent
Every day you spend with the tool, you learn how little you knew. The “art of possible” is only constrained by your imagination. The inner beauty of the tool in only revealed if you dare enough to reach the depth. As Carl Newport wrote in his book, Deep Work,
“If you instead remain one of the many for whom depth is uncomfortable and distraction ubiquitous, you shouldn’t expect these systems and skills to come easily to you.”
10. You Learn to Ignore the Shortcomings
Can we get better printer-friendly formatting options? Sorry, paper is so 1999! I want to rename the workbook and remove that v2.1 from it. What’s wrong with ‘v2.1’? How about an out of box way to manage environments and moving content between them? Well, that’s for the legacy tools. You don’t need multiple environments in Tableau. Really?
I hope you enjoyed reading this. I look forward to hearing from you. Also, let us know why you (or don’t) think discovering Tableau is like finding your significant other.