Last year during a lecture, my business analytics professor made a pretty profound statement: “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, it’s data.” I didn’t think much of it, shrugging it off as something only a data-crazed analytics geek would say.
It wasn’t until after this summer that I realized how much merit there was to that statement—it truly is data’s world and we are just living in it.
As we are probably all aware of at this point, data is constantly being collected on all of our online actions. In 2020 the world will generate 50 times the amount of data as in 2011 (IDC, 2011). Google is recording what we search, what websites we visit, videos we watch, and much more. Facebook is constantly collecting user’s personal data—birthday, gender, location, interests. Other sites like Amazon collect data on what items we have viewed, what times we are most likely to be searching, and past purchase history. These tech giants are like the protective older brothers we never asked for—they watch our every move and then report back to our parents about what we are up to.
All this data opens a lot of doors for companies. If they are able to successfully collect, organize, and synthesize it, it can be an invaluable asset. It can fuel innovation in products, help increase profits, improve marketing efforts, help maintain competitive advantage and much more. But what if you have all this data and no idea what to do with it? This is where the problem lies. And it’s a problem many companies are currently struggling with. Within data there is huge opportunities for advancement. But to turn opportunities into reality, people need the power of data at their fingertips (Tableau.com). Nowadays, companies have access to essentially unlimited data, but very few know how to use it to its full potential.
And here lies the topic of this blog post! I want to use this opportunity to tell you a little bit about my summer experience as a Product Marketing Intern with a company called Tableau Software—a business intelligence software that’s primary purpose is to help companies and individuals see and understand their data.
As the power/importance of data analytics and BI is a relatively a new fad, its not surprising that Tableau—one of the top analytics platforms–was released fairly recently in 2003. The platform consists of three main products with a wide range of capabilities including Tableau Desktop, Tableau Server, and Tableau Online. The company also uses a social platform known as Tableau Public (I like to think of it as Facebook for data nerds), which allows you to create a profile, share your creations, and check out what other people have made. It was founded in Mountain View, California in January, 2003 by Chris Stolte and is is now headquartered in Seattle, Washington with over 3,000 employees worldwide. (Wikipedia)
Tableau is first and foremost an analytics platform. It provides an intuitive interface in which users can easily interact with, manipulate, and analyze data. For those who have never heard of or used the product, this is the gist of how it works:
- Connect to your data. Tableau provides hundreds of data connectors within its product. With just a few clicks, you can connect to data from excel, google sheets, or just use the Web data connector to extract data from any chosen website.
2. Create interactive visualizations. Tableau automatically sorts your data into different “pills.” These “pills” are then placed into two categories—numerical or categorical. Using the interactive interface, you simply drag and drop these pills into different areas on the screen to create different tables, charts, maps, and almost any other kind of visualization your analytical heart desires. Users can hover, scroll and select certain categories to learn interact with the visualization and learn more even more. Here we see a viz that is using bar charts to show a company’s profit in different regions throughout the world during different times of the year.
3. Create interactive dashboards. Combine multiple visualizations into one interactive dashboard. In the example below, the creator of this viz used a combo of we see Word Clouds, Gant Charts, and Line Charts to effectively communicate the flow of human migration.
4. Be a data rock star. This is the term used at Tableau for someone who kills the data analytics game. Through creating these dashboards, data rock stars are able to see and understand their data more clearly. Tableau believes that everyone can be a data rock star, no matter your profession. You could be a dog walker using the software to analyze which months of the year you are most profitable, or you could be the CEO of a fortune 500 company using the software to make company changing decisions.
My time spent working for the company was amazing. I learned a ton about marketing and analytics in general, but more importantly I saw firsthand the importance of not only having data, but being able to make sense of it in todays world. Like we have talked about at length in class, data is all around us, so as aspiring businessmen and women, its essential we are able to synthesize it in order to use it to its full potential. Tableau is an awesome tool that can help us do this.
Tableau is free for students and I would highly recommend you check it out! Check out how to download it here.