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Forewords to Business Intelligence (BI)

A decade ago when internet and data were starting to bloom, trillions of trillions of data have been clutched, lying within billions of data storage. Today, you are sightseeing the era of data evolution across the world. A variety of tools were born, specifically made for analyzing data in which human can no longer evaluate themselves for practically processing that gravity of data.

This is where the BI applications step in, help us harness the power of analytics to generate insights by visualizing the dull figures into tactical pictures.

Tableau is one of the tools that has the 6 “infinity stones” and by all means, everything you need is in one software. There is a reason Tableau is the number one choice for many large enterprises as they would normally have a large pool of data envying a software that is capable of producing numerous variations.

Whether you are a digital marketeer, a manager, a business analyst,… using Tableau flawlessly not only do you make solid fortunes for your business but also building for yourself a pair of wings.

Sounds powerful? In fact, it is! I have spent hours researching for a detailed Tableau tutorial, unfortunately, not many that I could see. Therefore, I decided to dedicate myself to this series for those who desire to get started with Tableau.

The series consists of many chapters, increasing difficulties, and terminologies. However, I will try my best to convey in the simplest way. Forget about the extreme English that you have read everywhere else, this series is meant for the beginners, with or without the knowledge of BI.

Every chapter will be presented along with an exercise file, notice that not all the features will be introduced as there are too many and some of them may be unimportant however following along is sufficient to get the hang of it.

2 pieces of advice if you are serious, subscribe to my site for the incoming chapters which I will deliver directly to you and do not give up, download the file and practice.

Getting familiar with Tableau interface

We will be using Tableau 2019, I believe you have 30 days trial for the first time. It does not take long for the installation so make yours ready.

And here is your exercise file.

Establish a connection

Tableau allows users to connect all forms of data including local files or to a server with a whole bunch of options that you can ever imagine.

To learn more and create your first SQL Server, follow this guide.

On the left-hand side is where you locate how you would import your data into Tableau. The middle area displays all your saved works and the right-hand side for those who need extra readings. We just care about the left panel and to keep it simple, we will use Excel file for experimenting.

You also have some data samples at the bottom of the panel if you prefer starting the hard way instead of my exercise file.

As you can see, the analysts can even connect to other analytic platforms like Google Analytics or a CRM like SalesForce. A deeper analysis layer on top of another layer, behold yourself!

Now import the given excel file.

Inserting data within Tableau

After the import, you should have your very first dashboard like this.

Data Source section consists of:

Left panel: This one shows you what kind of connection you are using (Excel, SQL, Salesforce…). You can add more connections to simultaneously work with multiple sets of data from different sources.

Right panel: This is a data mapping area, either start with a simple sheet or joining multiple tables. You do need a minimum knowledge of database in order to establish the dimensions and metrics.

Bottom panel: This section allows you to control the root information and managing worksheets, dashboards, stories.

Tableau needs to know which set of data needed to import into the workbook before visualization. In other words, we cannot produce any graph without any presented data in this phase.

To insert data:

  • Under Sheets tab, select the sheet
  • Drag and drop onto the mapping canvas

Tableau auto-detects the content and should match and display all the columns and rows pulled from the excel file. You are now able to sort the table, limit the rows, or to check which field names had been added and so on.

Once you are happy with your table, it’s time to visualize it.

Creating a graph

Sheet tab interface

Things get bitter at this phase with hundreds of buttons however the workflow is quite straight forward. In comparison to other tools that I have used, this is not the worst.

Besides, it did not come to my intention to compress everything into your mind unnecessarily. Instead, I will make separate tutorials for the features which require a certain level.

The structure of the interface:

(1): Main menu toolbar – most of the advanced features reside here.

(2): Sidebar – shows all the available dimensions and measures.

(3): Cards –  How you want to display your data and style that set of data.

(4): Show Me panel – Core feature, this makes Tableau to be well-known for its visual layouts.

(5): Data Source and Sheet Controller – Manage the source file and sheets.

(6): Shelves and Views – where the visualization displays.

Visualize data with Show Me

Show Me is togglable, you may or may not see this tab opened on the first start, click on Show Me and you will be able to see the list of predefined graphs.

However, they are all greyed out due to there is no field had been specified. Hover on any of the graph or chart, Tableau will tell you what the conditions are to enable the graphs.

For example, hovering on the treemaps graph not only can it show you the requirements but also the name of the visualization type in case you would like to know what they are. In this case, it needs just 1 dimension and 1 measure statistic.

Stop reading right here! Before you proceed any further, you MUST first understand the concepts of Dimensions and Measures as these two terminologies are the backbones of analysis.

To save time, based on my experience, imagine you have a table of data, Dimension is the first horizontal row (field names) while Measure is vertical (values). In most cases, Dimension is text-based, Measure is numeric-based and quantitative except for identification numbers (ID).

Some analytic platforms like Google Analytics, Measure equals to Metric so understanding these two terms helps you adopt any application.

Now let’s try to create a Treemaps, as mentioned earlier this one requires 1 dimension and 1 measure. There is a number of ways to do this but start with the first method:

  • Under Dimensions tab, click on the FirstName LastName field
  • Simultaneously, hold Ctrl on Windows (Cmd on Mac) click on the Salary field
  • Locate the Treemaps within Show Me panel and click on it

And you will see something like this.

Note that it was not necessary to select Salary measurement as you clicked on the staff names, Tableau will automatically detect any available Measures from the source data. In this case, there is only 1 Measure.

However, this is the best practice when you work with multi Dimensions and Measures at the same time. What we just did for this case study, we requested Tableau to retrieve the staff names and their annual salaries and show us the whole picture of the staff based on their earning.

Visualize data the manual ways

Working with a variety of source data requires a manual process using drag and drop feature.

There are some spots on the workspace that you can drag-drop your data onto. Let’s try to drag the staff names dimension onto the left column of the viewport.

The default visual should look like a table but missing a measure column. Drag Salary measure and drop on either the text column itself or one of the icons inside Marks panel. Keep in mind that each icon will result in different visual representation, this is how you style your table.

After adding the measure, you should have got some of the graphs activated.

This method will give you more control over the settings as you might need to customize a specific set of data. Already knew all of this? Let’s climb up to the next level to learn some great tips for sharing graphics and data

Split data

One fact about Tableau is we cannot modify the cell data including fixing the spellings, date, or values. However, splitting data is doable. It’s not an unusual thing for a digital marketer or a database developer with this terminology.

For example, you have a dimension that contains all the staff names, normally the name may be stored in a unified format like firstname lastname. Suddenly your boss looks at your presentation and says he does not want to see the last name or he wants to create another dimension that contains only the first name and last name separately.

By using Split tool, you can divide the data into multiple segments easily with one click, these segments will become the new dimensions.

To split a set of predefined data:

  • Go to Data Source dashboard
  • Select the column that you want to divide
  • Right-click and choose Split

Depends on your database, the format could be varied, you may see your data look something like Zen:Tran or Zen,Tran or Zen”Tran or with something numeric like dates, times, addresses… then you can select the Custom Split tool and define your split conditions.

If you have your cell data separated with a semicolon, put “;” in Use the separator box. You can specify what part of the cell data will be split and what not.

If you have multiple data segments, for example, firstname:middlename:lastname:nickname, use the column box to inform Tableau the structure of that data.

NOTE: You should always use clean data before splitting.

Create a story

Now you have a catchy graph, you came up with some new ideas, you see some great potential statistics and you want to run into your boss to show him how professional you are?

No! You’re close but not done yet. What we need is a presentation, like Powerpoint, are you going to show your entire workspace to the audiences?

In Tableau, it is called a story. This story contains all the sheets that have been dissected and visualized. Every sheet has a point to present to your boss. Some enterprises may have 20, 30 schemes of problems and you need to gather all the issues in one place.

To create a storybook, locate and click on the book icon at the bottom toolbar or simply go to Story > New Story.

I already made 2 more sheets with different charts. When you switch to Story dashboard, it should be blank as it requires a sheet to display the information.

After you drag a sheet on the story tab canvas, you will see your graphic here. To create more stories, navigate to the top left and select Blank and repeat the whole process. You can also add comments to a specific spot to highlight the issue or increase the size of your stories.

If you think your story looks too dull, Tableau allows you to format the layout. To customize the layout go to Format > Story, a new panel appears thereafter.

When you are happy with your work, switch to Presentation Mode by pressing F7 or locate this icon at the top.

Closing chapter

That’s it, quite straight forward, all of that is enough for you to produce high-quality work and impress your boss.

There is so much to cover but you managed to get through it right? Believe me, this skill will never be useless and obsolete. The more you implement and elevate the power of BI tools, the more escalation you gain.

Stick with me, creating your first visual doesn’t mean you are done. I would love to hear your opinions so next time I would dig deeper into a particular topic. Subscribe to my site to receive more cool tutorials.