REVIEWER: William Laurent, practice director for Governance and Business Intelligence at Global Passage.
BACKGROUND: Global Passage is a strategic management consulting firm with clients in multiple industries throughout North America, Asia/Pacific Rim, Europe and the Caribbean. The firm is primarily focused on the life sciences, financial, manufacturing, entertainment and insurance industries. Major practice areas are business intelligence (BI), business continuity (BC) and corporate/IT governance.
PLATFORM: Windows XP.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Global Passage needed to provide BC intelligence to clients in a way that made better sense for them. Too often, BC plans and impact assessments live in Microsoft Word documents supplemented by text-based reports. Executives want the ability to gauge trends and exposure by glancing at a visual representation of the facts, not by wading through multiple documents or reports. Tableau gives the ability to present BC information in a way that is customized for all audiences.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Tableau is a BI tool that lets customers view data results in a host of commonly accepted graphical formats. All forms of decision support and BI are enhanced through the lens of data visualization. Data querying is as simple as drag and drop, although users have a large palette of custom functions at their disposal, such as the ability to create calculated fields and data groupings, set data filters and beyond. Pivoting data results is easy and intuitive. Being able to view result sets from different dimensional perspectives enables the user to immediately form conclusions from the data that may not have been apparent from the outset. A new feature lets users create interactive analytic dashboards from heterogeneous data sources dynamically, boosting just-in-time BI.
STRENGTHS: The ability to effortlessly pivot and slice and dice data at the click of a button in a way that makes sense is what sold us on Tableau. Being able to see multidimensional data in a number of graphical contexts was impressive on its own, but the ease of navigation through these dimensions was, for our practice, the primary value-add. The user also has the ability to assign various colors to lines, points, plots and other objects on a report that represent different values inherent in dimension. Having color-keyed result sets brings subtleties (which may have been previously hidden in the data) to the forefront, greatly enhancing the clarity of analysis. The reasonable price was also a primary strength. There is no barrier of entry to robust data visualization, even for the smallest of firms. Sorting and filtering has been improved in the latest release as well.
WEAKNESSES: Tableau is selective in the number of supported data sources it will connect to - although the new release has more options. We had to save data cubes into Excel files and import those cubes into Tableau. Also, Tableau is only as good as the data you feed into it. When we fed data that was more flattened in nature, we found we had to perform a few workarounds with calculated fields to achieve our desired output.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Global Passage helps clients gauge their exposure and readiness to disasters through various business impact assessment and risk methodologies. Clients need to be able to visualize their current state of affairs in a graphical context with attached benchmarks and reference lines. Instead of delivering BC data via standard spreadsheets or reports, we wanted to bring this information to life by putting it in other formats such as bar charts, Gant charts and blotter matrices for better analysis and decision-making.
DELIVERABLES: BC impact assessment and dependency matrices are visually rendered and embedded in PowerPoint files for an audience of senior executives. Also, graphical reports in color can be quickly produced and delivered to audiences on demand.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Because Global Passage is a strategic-oriented consulting firm, there is little consultant bandwidth for in-depth technical training on individual applications. Likewise, it is important that the tools we employ to solve problems for our clients are intuitive and don't require classroom time to achieve optimal use. There was no training needed from Tableau for us to achieve immediate results and value for our clients and our practice.
DOCUMENTATION: The product has been designed to be very intuitive; however, all relevant help is accessible from the application help menu. Also included are initial product overviews and sample workbooks (data sets) so that the user can get started using Tableau immediately out of the box.
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