Posted - Feb 25th, 2014

Dan Murray recently wrapped up his talk for the Portland TUG meeting at Nike World Headquarters. Several of our friends from Nike were in attendance and were kind enough to share some video footage of Murray’s presentation. The video cuts off towards the end, but it covers most of Murray’s presentation.

Introducing Murray was Tim Hallrud, Sr. Project Manager for North America Nike Tech. Hallrud had some incredibly nice things to say about Murray and InterWorks in his introduction.

“Nike uses a firm called, InterWorks that may have some of the smartest Tableau people around. They’ve been doing it for longer than virtually any other consultant. We have James (Wright) who works here at Nike, essentially our InterWorks representative. He really helps us adopt this through the enterprise, promote best practices, he does teaching; so we’re very lucky. Then we have Dan, who came all the way from Atlanta just to present out here. This (He) is among the best resources you can ever ask to answer your questions.”

Speech Overview

Each presentation Murray gives covers the same base material, but it is tailored differently to each group he visits. Major talking points included:

  • My first Tableau project
  • The data flood
  • Being an evangelist/getting buy-in
  • Deployment strategies
  • Building effective dashboards

My First Tableau Project

Murray talked about his first interactions with data with his previous employer, Blastrac. He discussed his search for data solutions and just how expensive and labor intensive some of them could be. One day, he ran into some books on visual analytics by Stephen Few. Few directed Murray to try out a trial of data visualization software from Seattle-based software company, Tableau Software. In 2007, Murray began his journey in Tableau.

Murray was able to do things in a free, trial version of Tableau in one weekend that would have taken him months and millions of dollars to achieve elsewise. From that moment, Murray was sold on Tableau. As Murray began using Tableau more and more, he was eventually asked to speak about his experiences at a Tableau event. Afterwards, hundreds of people came up to him to ask him about Tableau. He began to consider the possibility of doing this for a living. Murray thought consulting would be fun, and decided to leave his job and begin independent consulting. After a few months, Murray joined data consulting firm, InterWorks to continue his Tableau consulting journey. The rest is history.

Through his experiences, Murray learned three important things about Tableau and its value:

  • Start quickly
  • Spreadsheet work
  • Fast payback

Murray realized, “Everybody needs this tool, they just don’t know yet.”

The Data Flood

Murray covered the latest in Big Data and Tableau. Murray went on to discuss just how valuable data has become to so many people, especially government agencies like the NSA. In reference to just how big data has become, Murray provided an illustration:

“It would take 462,170,217 1 TB drives to store all the data that has been produced from the beginning of this year to Jan. 28. That’s $1.32 billion worth of MacBook Pros with 1 TB drives.”

He went on to explain that only 1% of this data is analyzed.

“We’re pack rats. We don’t even know what it is we’re going to do with this data, we just store it like a squirrel digging holes for acorns. Then we figure out later whether or not we’re going to use it, kind of like a squirrel randomly searching through a massive pile.”

He allowed that storage capabilities are keeping with this volume of data. The next step is ramping up analysis.

Murray offered a two part solution to this situation. The first part involves the use of tools like Tableau to help analyze these massive amounts of data. The second part is the skill and knowledge of the people using those tools.

Being an Evangelist / Getting Buy-In

Murray outlined the problems that many Tableau users have in trying to get others using the software. It can be the most challenging aspect in enterprise adoption. Murray instructed everyone to “talk less, do more.”

Murray explained how he started the very first Tableau User Group, along with two others. His mission was to get data people speaking publicly in a way that everyone could understand. At each meeting, they would break off into teams to solve certain problems. Then they would make the most frightened person present the results in front of the entire group. Murray stressed the importance of clear communication and proactive effort in getting people to buy into Tableau.

Key advice he gave included:

  • Move quickly
  • Make a compelling story
  • Show the something they haven’t seen

Deployment Strategies

Murray recounted how several companies asked him about specific methodologies in deploying tools like Tableau, to which he would respond:

“There isn’t one. It’s very cultural dependent. How far are you willing to go and how fast?”

Murray continued by comparing and contrasting the very different cultures of Facebook and Cisco in implementing Tableau. Facebook was very bold and willing to take risks. They went from 0 to 500 Tableau Desktop licenses in a short amount of time. Inversely, Cisco took a more reserved approach. They took more time and leveraging in order to implement Tableau across the organization. Both have had great success in Tableau despite their different cultures.

Building Effective Dashboards

Here, Murray went directly into Chapter 8 of “Tableau Your Data!” to explain dashboard best practices. Murray expressed the importance of design with elements such as fonts, color, context, use of tool tips and filtering. He also painted a broader picture in his explanation of how to build dashboards that appeal to people’s natural inclinations and sense of visualization.

Put simply, he stated a dashboard should:

  • Fit available space
  • Load quickly
  • Be easy to understand

He went on to compliment Nike’s dashboard design, claiming “it’s just about some of the best work I’ve seen in the world.”

Murray’s talk at Nike was one of many he’s given across the country over the past few months. Each is unique in its own right, but offers the same core advice and lessons that can be applied to anyone interested in data analysis. Murray is still continuing his “Tableau Your Data!” tour, with several events remaining.

Check out our full list of tour dates.