According to IDG Enterprise’s 2015 Big Data and Analytics Survey, the number of organizations with deployed/implemented data-driven projects increased by 125 percent from 2014 to 2015. A primary reason is the promise of unlocking and analyzing data to make good, actionable decisions based on trends, forecast on goals, produce budgets and so much more. Various departments within an organization can rely on their data to answer questions such as “What’s next?” and “Why?”
This potential for data has many companies focused on hiring data analysts, data engineers and data architects in the hopes of making sense of all the data they collect, store and secure. However, as the need for these positions grow, many people hired into the roles often lack or have limited knowledge of the most effective means and tools of gathering and analyzing data. Many rely on limited Microsoft Excel skills and the ability to understand pivot tables and lookup functions. Excel does have its benefits; however, it does not scale or do a good job of making real-time, business dashboards. What organizations need is Business Intelligence (BI) software that can produce visually appealing reports in a fast, reliable, readable way to help drive informed decisions that have a positive business impact.
Recently, we were asked by a government customer to produce a dashboard to demonstrate how data could be used to show results/impact in a certain area, and more specifically, demonstrate how spent resources impacted a country’s health statistics. While the client presented us with the scenario to demonstrate data visualization, they did not have a specific tool in mind or provide data to use. Based on our experience with BI software, we decided to use Tableau.
With the tool selected, we needed to identify sample data. To stay in line with the client’s request, we researched world health statistics and found a wealth of public data available on the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which included mortality rates based on several countries around the world spanning back to the 1960s. Despite being a morbid topic, it matched what our client was looking for.
Armed with the right tool and appropriate data, it took very little time to produce a meaningful dashboard based on WHO’s Death Statistics. We produced and uploaded a rudimentary dashboard to show Tableau’s capabilities with dynamic maps, clickable bar charts and timelines. The setup was relatively easy to work with, especially if you have normalized data. Here’s something we came up with from the data from WHO: https://public.tableau.com/shared/K3SGB2MNC.
Our ability to utilize location data and dynamically plot it against a world map is extremely useful and easy to use for developers and users alike. The dynamic dashboards can act as data filters across the board to immerse the user to become extremely interactive with the data. We see that Tableau’s philosophy is not to limit the user experience, but to make the data as transparent as possible and to allow users to come up with their own conclusions and make data-driven decisions.
In this instance, an organization would be able to identify specific areas where health and education efforts were needed to improve mortality rates and then evaluate year-over-year the impact of those efforts.
This is just one, brief scenario of what can be accomplished with an easy-to-use tool and just a sliver of the data that exists today. With proper data and BI software, the decision-making process can become so much more effective and efficient at almost every level of an organization.