Businesses and Integrating Social Media

imageA year or so ago, I wrote this to help managers in mid-sized companies  understand the best ways to train employees on how to use social media to interact with customers.  Clearly, I suck at the subject so take it as a outsiders view point. 

Before using social media, most employees generally want training on how to engage customers, especially if they grew up pre-internet or don’t use it personally.  The most preferred way individual training.  Unfortunately, in most companies this scales poorly.  There is so much turnover that it is expensive to keep everyone up to date with newest networks, let alone how to use Facebook or Instagram.  It also limits the learner to established practices.  This limits their options and discourages them from exploring new ways to communicate with customers.

Many companies fallback to webinar training, but this is usually a terrible medium for learning complex ideas.  This type of training often take the worst aspects of traditional classroom learning such as being a passive listener and having to attend at a fixed time.  Add to that a student needs to stare at PowerPoint slides on a tiny 17” screen while listening through tinny speakers it a wonder that anyone would attend unless forced. 

There is still a place individualized training and webinars but other options work better.  Some of the best idea come from podcasters and YouTube video bloggers.  Many are entrepreneurs with their livelihoods at stake.  Therefore, most tend to be focused on increasing attendance.  Here is what they many successful ones do:

1. Keep the message short and focused. 

People find the best training sessions are up to 5 minutes long.  Studies show that people on phones watch training sessions for about 3 minutes and tablets/computers for 5 minutes. 

Short lengths help keep people’s attention.  More short content offers increases the likelihood of covering something people need simply by chance. 

Serialization provides more excuses to publicize content.  This is similar to how tweets aren’t often about the content.  They are about keeping the message in the front of the consumer.

The problem is that short content is often harder to do.  Instructors spend more working a 3-minute speech than an hour-long one.  This increases quality.

Percentage of video watchedviewingpercentageSource: Wistia.com

  1. Make highlight reels.

Take snippets the important ideas from long-form content and post it on the content intranet.  This is common in the public policy sphere.  A creator will make an hour-long video, take snippets out, and post the best parts as short form content.  Some will even create separate short pieces and condense the material still further (sort of like an ad or highlight reel.)  

  1. Practice just-in-time learning.

Because most businesses are cyclical, create and publicize content when learners need it, during peak times of the year.  For instance, at a bank, more employees will want to give savings advice during tax season.  

  1. Ask questions before producing content.

Participation is higher in session where employees know it will cover something they are interested in learning.  In a hour+ long training, few people ask questions.  Sessions cause mental fatigue, especially those in remote locations when the temptation to answer emails or play solitaire is strong.

Gathering feedback before production gives the trainer an idea of what people want to know.  It also gives time for people to think about what they want to learn.

  1. Market it.

Content is worthless if no one knows it exists, market it.  Ideally, there should be multiple posts per week about how to do things cycled on the intranet.  Even if it is a repeat, post it.  Few employees will know that it is a repeat and even if they do, there is no harm with a little refresh. 

  1. Build a community.

If the company is really serious about using the internet to communicate with customers, build a internal community.  Make it a one stop shop.  Start by adding all available training and links to corporate social media presences.  Next, have employees write about personal experiences.  Make this a user listening post.  Use forums, surveys, Q&A, and anything to keep interest.  This will also help trainers and experts by giving a single place for research.

  1. Be passionate.

Nothing is more boring than listening someone reading a script or going through the motions.  If it is boring to the poster, imagine what it like for others.  Training should be interesting to the trainer firstly.  Otherwise, it is not worth doing.

  1. Use multiple mediums.

People learn in different ways, so it is important to mix up training by using multiple mediums such as live training, audio, webinars, videos, blog post, LinkedIn requests, etc.  Together with many short pieces, this has several benefits:

  • Helps to track what works for the audience.
  • Risk of failure is lower, so it allows trainers more freedom to experiment. 
  • Allow for creation of meta-training.  This means creating categories of training based ideas and not on the content type.  Some of the better MOOCs do this.

Use video and live feeds and examples to liven the presentation.  When using video, produce audio and text versions of content.  Despite MTV mantra, video didn’t kill the radio star.  The great aspect of audio is learners can multitask (think audio books.)  Short posts are great to drive traffic to existing content and offer bite sized training to boot.  Post snippets from live training sessions can help reinforce ideas.

9.  Test your audience.

Short quizzes or surveys after the content can reinforce content.  Even if the content is short, ask questions after it to reinforce the material and to gather feedback on how well the content was conveyed.

10.  Be Committed

The weakest part of an social media strategy is management.  Most C-level executive want to engage customers online, but don’t put resources into help employee do it.  The results is lackluster with many employees jumping in at the start and two months in the effort is forgot about, to the detriment of the customer base. 

Nor do many engagement their employees or customers to provide an example.  Without this engagement, interest will wane.

Samsung vs Internet

Boomstick

 

 

Samsung seems to be taking tips from TheDonald and attempting to silence parities and stiff people who have been affected by the fire prone Note 7.  You think companies would have learned that controlling the narrative rarely working on the Internet these days.

There are just too many people with access and too few public relations employees to fight them.  Instead, an obscure modder get their 15 seconds of fame while I and much of the world wouldn’t have even know it existed.  It shouldn’t be surprising that they treat their potential buyers as poorly as they treat their employees.

Link: GTA 5 – EXPLOSIVE Samsung Galaxy Note 7?! (GTA 5 Mods Showcase)

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Tableau Conference ‘14 Diary–Day 2

Let us review day 1:

  • Most of the conference goers where relatively new to Tableau, few that I spoke with had more than a year or two of experience.  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly, Tableau has grown rapidly in the last year or two.  The other is the conference seems geared toward newbies.  It also doesn’t hurt that Tableau gives out free passes to new enterprise clients.
  • Many of the presentations to on day one focused on data presentation and little on how to get the data into Tableau.
  • There was little explanation on what insight people received from using Tableau.  Most dashboards created were around user self service.

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The conference started at 9 instead of 8 today.  I think this was to give marry makers some time to recuperate after last nights festivities. The breakfast was different today, but just as good.

Session #6: Keynote:  Neil deGrasse Tyson –Science as a Way of Knowing

Oddly, I wasn’t familiar Mr. Tyson.  I should turn in my geek card.   As co-creator and main host of the new Cosmos series I should have known who he was.  The original inspired me to get into the hard sciences as a kid.

His presentation focused data should be used to explain the universe and how humans need to be open to new ideas that can challenge how we see the world.

Source: Tableau blog

  • The tree of life doesn’t have humans at the top.  We are just one of thousands of species on its branches.  Also we are more closely related to mushrooms than to plants.
  • It is not a matter of if, but when we will be hit by a large asteroid.
  • We don’t have to destroy the asteroid to save the planet, only use the gravitational pull of a space ship to alter its course.

Takeaway: It might not helped me use Tableau better, but it was sure entertaining.  Oh and Pluto is not a planet.

Session #7: Making a Viz that Stops Traffic

big_circle_zen_masterMy first real session of the day brought in three Tableau Zen Masters, Paul Banoub, Anya A’Hearn, and Dan Montgomery.  20 or so are chosen each year based on the knowledge of the software based on their contributions to the Tableau community, user feedback, and employee nominations.

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Thanks for Patty Walsh for snapping these.

The three all had decent presentation styles focusing on data presentation over analysis.  As a fan of Edward Tufte, I wasn’t a fan of what they has built, but well-crafted.  I felt they were too over produced to be practical for users.  However, they all had great color sense and use of language.

  • Use your dashboards to tell a story
  • Pair down your charts using only ones that will enhance user understanding of the data
  • Match colors and fonts with company standards
  • If putting a visual online, use the Blog size, 650×650 canvas
  • Max number of colors should be 2 to 3
  • Use conversational language to explain visualizations
  • Add pictures where necessary
  • Tableau does not embed fonts, so you will have to screen print specialized fonts and add them as a graphics.
  • Learn by pulling data on topics you love and building visualizations.

Useful links:

Takeaway:  The is a trade off with visualizations.  Data heavy ones might be easier for analysts but management and casual users need simple visually pleasing visualizations.  Try to make your works look cleaner and less like Tableau.

Session #8: Porn, Pokémon & Pop Culture: Using Data That Doesn’t Suck

Similar to the previous session, a few more Zen Masters and a Tableau employee took the stage.  For whatever reason, I thought that Jewel Loree, Andy Kriebel, and Peter Gilks had a better presentation.  I think it was because they spoke less about their visualizations and more about how to get data into Tableau.

  • Cut and paste is king.  There are few tools that help clean data.
  • Cleaning data it the most time consuming part of creating visualizations (hear-hear.)
  • Excel is still comes before Tableau.  You still need to build the data sets somewhere.
  • KISS is the way to go as user engagement is the key to success.
  • Create your own data to hone your skills.  Use an app like Moves to capture what you do or last.FM to capture your musical life.

2014-09-15 20_00_51-Paint By Numbers

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2014-09-15 20_04_06-Jewel Loree

Note: since my pictures did not come out, I found the visualizations referenced in the presentation from from the presenter’s respective web sites.  Click on the visual to discover more.

Useful links:

Takeaway:  Tableau only makes data pretty.  It is still hard to get the data in a useful format.

Session #9: Keynote: A Conversation with Michael Lewis

200px-Michael_Lewis_2009I was looking forward to this keynote as I have read a number of his books.  I like how he brings the data users to life without getting into the gory details of the analytics they employ.  Personalities always come before numbers.

This session was a Q&A that started off stiffly, but as he and Tableau’s Kelly Wright warmed to one another the conversation improved.

  • His stories focus on personalities over data.
  • Most of his stories are about outside or little guys fighting consensus in the marketplace.
  • He related better to people who use theirs instincts vs detached people like venture capitalists.  He finds it hard to connect with quants and entrepreneurs.  The are too detached.
  • He likes using a minimalist writing style and does not use jargon.
  • Pairs down is story and leaves part unsaid to to let the reader interpret.

Lewis-Wright-300x136

  • Thinks that the right-left divide in the country was due in part to the financial crisis.
  • The financial sector is scared of change.  Many people fear technological change will cause them to loose their jobs.
  • Thinks there is a disconnect in capital markets.  Most people working on Wall Street are free agents and don’t hold allegiances to their employer of customers.  This is harmful.
  • He gets writing ideas from talking to people in his network.

Books I have read w/Twitter reviews:

Links

Takeaway:  Work to pair away your data until you can see the story you want to tell.

Session #10: Use Tableau like a Sith

image

In the end, I am not sure what I got our of the Sith presentation done by Darth Flashypants, and Jinbar Nomix.  It focused on hacking Tableau desktop and server to bend it to the will of the user.

Much of the time, I spent wondering if I would use anything they presented in real life.

 

 

  • Tableau employees hate pie charts.
  • Tableau Data Stores are in XML.  If one knows how to decode the parameters in the file, they can change a file saved in 8.2 to open in earlier versions, create pivot tables with more than 16 columns of data, change Excel connections to Access connections, and muck around to point at Internet URLs to pull in pictures rather than embedding them in the file.
  • There is a way to create exploding pie charts using dual axis charts.
  • There is a way to create gauges, but it is so complex why would you?
  • You can use a jitter function to show over-lapping data points.
  • There was a lot on how to improve Tableau Server performance, but since I am not a server admin, I didn’t bother to capture it.

Links

Takeaway:  Tableau uses XML, so it is possible to do some cool things if you know how to read it.

Session #11: BI Reboot at Coca-Cola: Driving Sales with Tableau

Chathura Manawadu was wonderful.  This was the best presentation of the day and a great note to go out on.  He created a dashboard called SalesPulse for the thousands of Coca-Cola distributors that interact with the local Walmart and mom and pop stores.

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image

 

  • Designed their metrics from the bottom up as they implemented Tableau.
  • Package the dashboard weekly by division.  3,500 users pick the packaged Tableau workbook off a file share and can use it when offline.
  • Use a consistent color schema for all dashboards they create.  Schema are color-blind friendly.
  • Track sales, volume, and R.E.D. score.Sketch1627410
  • In the back end, use Business Objects connected to Teradata or Microstrategy connected to MS SQL databases and Excel files.

Links

Takeaway:  Companies can use reader to distribute dashboard to field users. It just takes some effort to make it happen.

Night

At night we took Seattle’s light rail to see a baseball game.  I continue to be impressed by the cities transit.  Chicago’s pales in comparison.  There is little graffiti, it is cheap and it seems to connect bus, monorail (which I don’t think many ride,) and their funky trolley system well.

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Safeco Field and Century Link field, where the Seahawks play are right next to each other on the south side of the downtown.  Personally, I like the building aesthetic of the Seahawks field, but Safeco’s upper decks view has an unparalleled view of the city.  It is the best view from any park I have been to date.

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Garlic fries is a local Mariners fan favorite.  The first third was overpowering, the second third wasn’t too bad…the last part was more garlic than fries.  Vampires beware.

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In the upper deck, it was a cold clear and clam night.  The stars were out but the Mariners lost to the Astros.  I thought their pitching was decent, but their hitting line up was scattered and weak.  Luck is the only way they will sneak into the wild card playoff spot.

Update: 10/21/2016: Sine spell corrections.

Tableau Conference ‘14 Dairy–Day 0 & 1

2014-09-14 16_02_58-Tableau Conference 2014 _ Seattle, Washington September 8–12

This is a rambling account of how I experienced the Tableau Conference 2014 (TCC14) held in Seattle.  I will highlight the sessions as well as the city attractions attended adding color where necessary.

Day 0

Up at 4am, is there another 4? Why wasn’t I informed of this?! It started good, if you are leaving from anywhere, Bloomington airport is one of the best to go from, from parking to the terminal takes less than 30 minutes with security being a breeze.  The only place better is from Charlottesville, VA.  What makes that better is various historical artifacts at the terminal to peruse, otherwise they are similar. 

4142382064_186593cfb4_z vs. airport

One thing I’d change about the travel arrangements was the car.  I rented a Kia Sorrento.  A decent upgrade to my ride, an a upgrade to my Hyundai Elantra Touring, but was unnecessary.  The public transportation in the city is truly excellent.  I suspect the train from SeaTac to Seattle proper would only take 20 minutes and cost a few dollars. 

Once checked in the Motif hotel, the car stayed parked as it was too expensive and a pain to drive around.  The hotel itself was good, living up to its name with weird colorful rooms and an open lobby with furniture chosen more for its modernist style than comfort.

After dropping my luggage off at the hotel, some of my collogues and I went down to the waterfront and at ate at The Crab Pot, a local tourist trap.  While the salmon wrap was the worst food I ate during the stay, it still was tasty enough, I’d not recommend it for the price and so-so atmosphere.

Then to check-in at the conference.

Check-in

Unfortunately, this initial start of the conference sucked.

IMG_0648[1]Going up the escalator, the group I was with was treated to dub-step played by a DJ via his MacBook and Tableau employees milling around giving away stickers and other flair to adorn your clothing.  The check-in process was simple overall just walk up the some Apple tablets, enter your info and the cleric finished the process, 5 minutes tops.  The best part was the free self-styled Tableau backpack, which came in handy as when traveling the conference center and city itself.

The main problem during this process was receiving the lanyard, which as the size of a 7 inch tablet, which made me feed dorky when wearing it outside the conference.  When you met someone for the first time, the lanyard caused them to stare at your navel.  My eye are up here, HERE!  Because they had RFID chips, vendors and those letting you into session poked your belly with wands.  I made me feel like to Poppin-in-Fresh Doughboy – he-he.

Poppin_Fresh_(Pillsbury_Doughboy)

Source: Wikipedia

Session #1: First Timers; Field Guide to the Tableau Conference

Uh, painful and by far the worst session I attended in the four days.  Matt Francis and Emily Kund did their best to pack in 10 minutes of content in an hour of presentation.  They tried and failed to explain what we were about to embark on in hipster-isque fashion.  Upon refection, their presentation style made sense, but just was poorly executed.

Takeaway:  If you have been to any conference in your life, skip it if your going to TCc15 in Las Vegas.

Night

I does a choice of a network event with free beer and Seattle.  Of course I chose Seattle since I am uncomfortable in large unstructured gatherings.  So off to Pike Place Market, which I found that many of the shops were closed since it was after 5.  So a group of colleagues and II  walked to Etta’s, a Tom Douglas dinning establishment.  The overall décor make me feel out of place.  I’m much more confortable in jean wearing family establishments. Despite this I had an excellent salmon dish decked out in local farm grown vegetables and their specialty rub.  Included was some of the best calamari I have ever ate.  I wouldn’t eat there again, but it was a good experience overall.

Day #1

The first day we were treated to an excellent buffet-style breakfast instead of the usual carb filled donuts and coffee style spread, which I see the norm.  For those that didn’t like the fare of egg, meat, potato, and bagel combo they could go to the juice bar or refreshment stations place strategically around the center.

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Source: Tabeauza via Twitter

Session #2: Keynote: Christian Chabot (CEO)  & Chris Stolte (CDO) – The Art of Analytics

2014-09-14 16_31_14-Live Stream of Keynote _ Tableau Conference 2014 - Internet Explorer

Tableau really came out the of the gate with a wow factor similar to an Apple product launch.  It was a high-energy affair that seemed to enrapture the audience.  It is not often that you see a CEO of a billion+ dollar company start off with a marijuana joke to get the crowd into what he’s saying.

While topics at the sessions start were interesting, it was a typical affair about how visual analytics was going to change the world and how Tableaus power users will make it happen, so I won’t going in details.  You can go to the conference site and watch.  The more interesting things were about upcoming features.

Terminology explanation is in order before going into the new features:

Pills – These are the measures and dimensions when used in a visualization

tableau-blue-vs-green-pill-300x65

Shelf – Anything that holds pills such as Pages, Filters, Marks, Columns and Rows.

Table with one measure

Tableau Desktop

  • Enter measures on shelves.  This bypasses the Create Calculation popup. You can save them as measures too by dragging them into the Measures area.
  • Auto complete on the shelves.  This is similar to what Excel 2010+ does when you enter a formula into a cell on the taskbar.  Should be a great feature that will make simple calculations easier to enter. 
  • Analytic drag and drop.  Users will be able to drag, say Median pill onto a measure on a shelf and change the calculation on the fly. 

Takeaway:  Expert analysts will enjoy them and the changes will make it easier for newer users to build out visualizations.

Maps

  • Search – Users will be able to type in say, Colorado, and have the map zoom into the correct location.  It will work with countries, states, counties and cities (and maybe more)

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  • Circular and Lasso selection – Users will be able to select areas in anyway they choose. Right now you can only select in squares.

Takeaway:  Great updates for power users, but casual users will not notice these feature.  They are not prominent on the UI.

Performance

  • Caching will make maps update quicker
  • Maps will pre-render in the background so there is no lag when moving around.
  • Calculation will now use more than one core.  Most systems have at least 2 to 4 so expect much faster results.
  • Calculations will persist once calculated.  This will help when opening a book to continue to work or switching between dashboards.

Takeaway:  Minor but useful improvements.

Data entry

  • Auto clean up Excel imports.  Can’t wait for this feature. I will no longer have to format Business Objects reports before entering them into Tableau.
  • Split on qualifiers.  If a column has something like this, Illinois-Bloomington, you will be able to separate it into two columns on import.
  • Web data connector.  This allow users to pull into content from web APIs.  This might be an awesome bridge to import data from Adobe SiteCatalyst or other could data API sources.

Takeaway:  Not flashy, but these are the most important improvements.  Data cleaning takes up large portions of most analysts time.

Storytelling

  • Can control colors on the screen now.

Takeaway:  There were other features talked about bit I didn’t write them down.  Storytelling is still worthless in an enterprise environment. 

Enterprise

  • Caching calculations.  Same as above
  • JavaScript API version 2
  • Infinitely scrollable views.  Finally, I never liked that it only displayed 10 workbooks at a time.
  • Cleaner interface with more meta data displayed on screen.
  • Easier to adjust security features on a per user/group basis.

Takeaway:  Features will make finding work easier.  The server features should help infrequently updated workbooks run faster.

Cloud

  • “Cloud 2 Cloud” login.
  • Push data from one cloud based software (such as Sales Force) to Tableau Cloud.

Takeaway:  Only good for those using Tableau’s cloud instead of Tableau Server.

Mobile

  • Caching calculations again.
  • Ability to favorite workbooks and to highlight
  • Web and mobile app will have more ways to edit.  Eventually Tableau wants parity with desktop and mobile operations.
  • Snapshot – Ability to save data to use when offline

2014-09-14 16_32_37-Live Stream of Keynote _ Tableau Conference 2014 - Internet Explorer

  • Mobile workbook creation
    • Ability to pull in Excel files and create dashboards
    • Mobile app can zoom down to the record

        Takeaway:  In 5 years it could be a game changer, but most changes are minor or untested in real world scenarios.  I personally like this feature because it means my tablet will have more powerful editing features.

          Session takeaway:  Tableau says that they will invest more in research in the next 2 years than since the inception of the company.  If that is the case, expect great things when these upgrades arrive in the coming months.

          Session #3: DATA @ NFLX: Building a culture of Analytics Everywhere at Netflix

          Of all sessions on the first day, this was the one I wanted to see and it didn’t disappoint.  Blake Irvine and Albert Wong went into detail about the analytic strategy of  Netflix.  It turns out that they are going down the same path as Country Financial, just on a larger scale.

          Sketch140152635_cr

          Each division has its own analytic group.  The benefits are that the system engineers can become system experts rather than generalists.  This improves analytics expert response time to meet user needs.  Each area operates independently and therefore Netflix must own multiple reporting data stores.  To minimize duplicate reporting/metrics, analysis teams have frequent knowledge sharing meetings.

          My take: This is a good short run strategy as a company grows, but becomes burdensome as it ages.  All these process need experts to keep them running.  Knowledge is often lost when people move jobs so it becomes harder to maintain and upgrade.   Even with open-source technologies, which Netflix often uses, eventually the company will have a difficult time with maintenance and an nearly impossible time switching technologies when the need arises.

          Other things of note:

          • The company does a lot of A/B testing to improve user experience.  Tableau is used in some of these workflows.
          • Mostly reporting systems use open source technologies to gather and store data, though they still use Tableau for the front end and occasionally Teradata in the back.
          • Nearly all of their data is in the cloud using Hadoop and Amazon S3.

          20140909_135759

          • Have an OE department that uses Tableau through Hadoop and Teradata.
          • They are open to developer changes on the fly (empowerment) to reporting systems.  Many have access to the underlying database and can change code to meet their users insights need.
          • The IT is reluctant to remove reporting systems once built.  This is one of the reasons why I think their strategy will become unsupportable in a decade or so as people who build the systems leave.
          • There is little to no data governance.

          Takeaway: Data, analytic, and insight silos are common no matter if the company in the new or old economy.

          Session #4: Visualizing Unstructured Data with Tableau, Featuring Bill Inmon

          20140909_144655

          Honestly, I didn’t get much of out this presentation.  Bill was too detailed in his explanations of unstructured data using taxonomy created by Wand.  When pivoting to his Verizon and 1st American Tableau reports, I was unimpressed.  Having used unstructured data from call center and surveys before, this added nothing someone couldn’t do with R or Rapid Miner’s text analyst add on. 

          The main problem was there was no sentiment or context analysis, so you have to use qualitative or other data to indicate whether or not groups of calls were positive or negative.

          Takeaway: I still think that Tableau stinks for mining/displaying unstructured data.  It is better to use a specialized tool and the display the insight in Tableau.

          Lunch

          tcc14_day3_breakfast_001

          Source: Classmethod.jp

          Food provided continues to impress.  The conference had a main place to eat near the vendors booths, but also stocked at least a dozen fridges with wraps, drinks, and salads so you never had to go far for vittles.  I am sure a few people left for lunch, I did for a bit to purchase some bottled tea, but if you weren’t picky as me, you could eat hardily, even if vegan. 

          The main problem with lunch was the wait.  With 5,500 and at least 1,000 Tableau employees going to each at once (all of the sessions ended at the same time) people could wait a half and hour to get to the buffet.

          Session #5: Zen Master Tips & Tricks Panel

          In this session, the there were three presenters, Kelly Martin, Craig Bloodworth, and Mark Jackson each with a different style they used to create visualizations.  Overall, the session was average, the best part was looking at the examples rather than the tips they offered.  This and the following session really helped stoke the design side of my brain.

          • There is no need to type if or case statements.  Tableau will handle the branching for you.  If used, I think this will make statements less clear to others.
          • There is an ability to do top ten (or any number) on by a category basis [link.]
          • There is an ability to do context filters [link.]
          • There are two API for Tableau Server.  Version 1 is undocumented and version 2, new to Tableau 8, is documented. To understand version 1, you can use Fiddler to discover it features by spying on the traffic between the computer and server.  It also helps to code by using Alteryx to code the API and pull XML data.
          • Use blank text boxes over data to prevent people from clicking on it.
          • The [+] in front of a dimension in a hierarchy is called the power key.

          Takeaway: Tableau is flexible. Most of the tips offered have multiple ways to accomplish the same thing.

          During this session, some of the examples helped me figure out ways to solve some of my problem dashboards.  During the session, I drew an updated design for the Agency Dashboard.  Hopefully, I will have time to integrate it in a few weeks. Note: I know my drawing sucks, bare with me here.

          Sketch10314839

          Session #6: 10 Tips to Becoming a Tableau Jedi

          I was impressed with Marc Rueter’s presentation.  He was knowledgeable and went just at the right speed to explain his tips without having to hurrying like many presenters did with the limited time they had. 

          • You can drop dimensions and measures on top of existing pills to replace them.  The new pills will inherent the previous pills existing formats and display.  I use this trick when building dashboards.  Frist, I duplicate the worksheet and then make the change on the copy.
          • Create a Summary.  on the visualization, right-click > Summary
          • Create a source average or median.  Duplicate data source w/o connecting it to its parent and place the measure the chart.  For best results use dual axis.  I am not a fan because you have to use data blending and a duplicate source.

          2014-09-14 16_56_29-Trellis Chart with Linear Regression

          • You can create trellises
          • You can create drill downs on dashboard using actions (Country > State > County)

          The rest were too complex to explain or I already knew they existing so didn’t write them down.

          Night

          Not knowing the extent of food that would be on hand at the Data Nite Out, I went to eat at Elliott’s Oyster House out on Pier 56.  I think it had the best food I ate during my stay.  This might be because I didn’t eat much during the conference, but whatever, it was great.   Chowing down on their Sockeye salmon ruled and tasty spicy clam chowder while looking out on the harbor was awesome.

          Data Nite Out235px-Marge_vs._the_Monorail_(promo_card)

          Getting back to the hotel, I was soon on a bus to the Seattle Center that Tableau rented for their networking event.  This location is familiar to tourists.  It contains the Space Needle (which I had already been in on a previous trip) and the starting leg of the monorail built during the 1962 World’s Fair.

          I wasn’t prepared for this event’s scope.  With 8 to 10 bands and dozens of food and adult beverage locations, it was easily the most impressive part of the entire conference.  They did it in style.  Each area has a unique theme, food type, and activity.  After wandering around sampling every sugar, salt and, grease concoction I could find, Sir-Mix-A-Lot started.  I never been a huge fan, but the show was high energy helped in part by the free booze Tableau provided those in attendance.

          10665919_10154538293690542_6202035597743553825_n

          Ode to Sir-Mix-A-Lot

          I like big data and I cannot lie
          You other quants can’t deny
          A dataset comes in with a little bit of analysis
          And a pie-chart in your face
          You get insight

          Hmm…

          Update #1: Spelling and photo sizing changes.  Added some graphics based on comments.

          Why Project Frameworks Succeed

          2013-11-21 05_00_47-Webcast_ How To Prepare For The AIPMM Certified Product Marketing M...

          AIPMM Product Lifecycle Framework

          In the last year or so, my area became leaders new product development.  In a customer-focused company this is essential.   This led one of my collogues to bring in the AIPMM product lifecycle framework to guide our work.  

          Like most frameworks, it is an application of the basic principals of the systems development life cycle (SDLC,) which encapsulates most project management techniques.  This got me thinking how these frameworks succeed or fail within organizations. 

          Generally, it is not the framework that fails.  The AIPMM model works like most others following the this pattern:

          Plan > Design > Build > Operate/Refine/Retire

          In business, there are is actually three outside forces that have a greater effect on project outcomes.  People using any framework need to understand them in order to succeed.

          Well-defined strategy

          A strategy does two important things for frameworks:

          • It defines what ideas employees will research at the beginning of a project.  Without a strategy ideas and the project scope are impossible to vet accurately.  This leads to indecision and project bloat. 
          • It allows people to make decisions between phases (at tollgates.)  Without a strategy, decisions are made based on who pitched the idea.  Bad projects result because there is no vetting process. 

          Empowered decision makers

          The product lifecycle framework has gates between phases to let workers and stakeholders gauge the viability of a project.  During these checkpoints, decision makers need the power to kill the project.  Why should they have this ability?

          Usually, management personnel pitch projects they are have a interested in.  Then hand it off to subordinates to execute.  Because it is hard to say no to the boss, employees tend to finish projects once they receive orders.  Unless management trusts their judgment (the definition of empowerment) bad projects are hard to stop.  I have seen too many unnecessary projects built because management gave employees the responsibility to build, but not the authority to direct its design or kill the project.

          Adherence to the framework

          This might sound like a no brainer, but often groups start off with good intentions on using a framework and veer off after a few months.  It is easy to do because frameworks impose constraints and may slow implementations.  This tends to be an anathema to executives who want it built now.  The project lead has an important job to educate others on why they should follow the framework.  In the end the project is likelier to succeed and meet the needs of the organization. 

          Remember the adage:  One is better than none.  Even if they are a pain, always work within some sort of framework to help guide and improve decision making.  If the one chosen doesn’t work out, there are plenty of other to choose from.

          Steam Box: How Customer Intimacy Works with Customer Segmentation

          2013-11-19 18_55_26-Steam ControllerEven with the recent release of the PS4 and Xbox One, I am waiting for the consumer-oriented console, Valve’s Steam Box.  It is worth the wait, not simply because I am a PC gamer, but for the fact that is a lesson in excellent market segmentation. 

          What is Steam?

          For those not computer gamers, Valve has platform called Steam, which allows users to purchase games electronically and have them downloaded to the desktop.  Using tried and true market disruption, it is likely the primary reason brick and mortar companies stopped selling boxed PC games. 

          Now they are on the cusp of releasing a TV based console to their 50 million+ user base.  This is built on a platform called Big Picture, which allows users to hook up their computer to a TV and play games.

          A cold reception

          The overall reporting has been rather negative.  The PC gaming community mainly complains that it is already possible to hook up a computer to a TV.  The console community issues are about specs.  Using a good, better, best system, the are likely to constantly change meaning users will need to upgrade every year to stay current*.  And they are both right.  However, neither are the targeted consumer.

          Customers intimacy counts

          2013-11-19 18_42_45-Untitled 1 - LibreOffice Draw

          Valve seems to have segmented their client base in such a way to discover a user group that has these attributes:

          1. Consume entertainment (games, music, and video) on alternate devices or in unique ways
          2. Do not want to tinker with technology, they just want it to work**
          3. Have discretionary income

          If you have heard of this type of consumer before, it is likely you’re using an Apple device to read this post.  What Valve gambles on is this customer group would like to play computer games (and purchased media) on their TV without hassle. 

          To make this easier, they have used a customer centric approach.

          1. Create a plug and play system, much like plugging in DVD player to the TV
          2. Offer familiar features lifted from the Steam application
          3. Build a great user experience by offering an easy way to find and play media and games

          Gauging success

          Unlike Sony’s PS4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One, which have to sell at least 10 million consoles in the next year to remain viable, Valve’s third party hardware designers, such as Asus do not need to sell in large quantities for success.  Convincing just 2% of their user base, or about a million or so users, succeed in building a billion dollar eco system.

          This approach is not unlike AppleTV.  While not a major product, it fits a niche that helps the fruity company retain its most loyal (and profitable) customer segments inside iTunes. 

          To help adoption, Value has worked several things to help customers:

          1. Demanded a high-level of quality control around the user experience. Valve is controls the software and input device (controller) quality to giving to Steam box a standard user interface (UI) paradigm.   This is much like other appliance based goods such as the iPhone and Microsoft Surface.
          2. Access to a hundreds of games day one, and when including their streaming service, access to all 2,000+ games the Steam library today.
          3. Open platform (Linux) encourages programmers to find new uses for the system.  Groups like XMBC are likely to have an app that gives users access to their previously purchased media.  Valve already stated they are working with media providers so features like Netflix, and Spotify should be available day one.  There might even be room for competition, such as the indie gaming platform Desura.
          4. The open nature allows users to pair most any peripheral.  Those who rather play games or surf the web keyboard and mouse will be able to do so.

          The best part of this effort might be for those who don’t use the product.  If popular, gaming companies will design their games around controllers and might be more inclined to port their games to Steam, enriching the ecosystem for all users. 

          Postscripts

          * Consoles user complain about the upgrade treadmill, however this is not a problem.  The reference designs are better than the new consoles.  Usually, games companies benchmark their offerings to these platforms.  In addition, a 5 year old mid-range computer plays every game today and likely for the next 5 years given the software plateau we have experienced lately. 

          ** I explain that the likely user base is going to be non-tinkerers.  Given that it is an open platform based on Linux, it is likely to attract a hacker following.  However, it is unlikely they will buy a finished console.  Instead, they are likely to install Steam OS on a custom machine much like PC builders do today.

          Defining Strategy

          Over the past six months, I have been in the process of refining how I work from a strategic viewpoint.  What brought this to the forefront of my thinking are the great changes that managements wants for the company.  I generally use this line of thinking to figure out what the projects I work with are trying to accomplish.  In addition, I use it to get a handle on how competitors go to market and to see if they are actually competitors or just in the same field.

          The process

          The strategic process should dictate everything about corporation’s business work. It is a simple cost benefit process weighed against expectations of philosophical beliefs. Without one, a company governs based on the whims of the strongest executive personalities or worse, their competitors.

          The main benefits are twofold. Firstly, it allows greater insight into the business. The company can apply their financials to the value chain and note what is working. Secondly, it forces each person to be accountable for the success of the company. Additionally, it enhances empowerment as employees know why the come to work each day.


          Chain of Accountability

          Strategy Diagram


          Centralized companies should work from a unified strategy down to the tactic level, while flat and decentralized companies might need to have a handful of strategies rolled up into a overarching philosophy.

          Level explanations in the chain of accountability

          Philosophy

          A company’s view of the world and how it fits within it. There should be only one philosophy per company as it the lens in which you view the world. Once set, this view should not change often as it leads to confusion. Therefore, it is vital to make it broad enough to weather changes in the marketplace.

          Pitfall #1: Not communicating the philosophy. Leaders can create a great philosophy then marshal the resources needed to execute it. Without constant communication, employees default to working within the system because the unifying message is unclear. This is the Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

          Questions at this level:

          • What do well? How are we different from our competitors?
          • What do we want to do well in the future?
          • Where can we grow?
          • Does everyone understand what we want to accomplish?

          Strategy

          This is the physical manifestation of the philosophy. It is the lens used to evaluate tactics and gauge success. While it is possible to have multiple strategies, a company needs to track benefits gained and effort expended separately. Do not pool resources between strategies because it will lead to organizational conflict.

          A strategy needs two things to be successful:

          1. It needs to be actionable.
          2. It needs to be attainable given the time horizons, the resources (people) available and accessible capital. This is the Iron Triangle.

          Pitfall #2: Mistaking a philosophy for a strategy. Take the philosophy; grow households. It sounds good on paper until someone wants to act. How does the company want to grow households? Maybe lower prices or expand product line or entering new locations? A strategy needs to actionable.

          Pitfall #3: Creating a strategy without resources. Until a strategy has resources, it is a dream. A strategy needs resources in order to work.

          Questions at this level:

          • What are we trying to accomplish?
          • What does success look like and how do we apply it to our goals?
          • How long is this going to take?
          • What resources do we need to accomplish the goal?
          • What will we give up to succeed? Highly important = organizational change

           

          Positive goal

          At a high-level, it is what the strategy hopes to accomplish. Goals are the quantifiable piece of a strategy.

          Pitfall #4: Cost center thinking. Without a positive goal, groups seem like cost centers to be minimized. This often happens in service and IT areas. It is important that everything be subject to both the positive and negative goals.

          There are no questions at this level since strategy work addresses any questions.

           

          Negative goal

          What the company is willing to surrender to reach the positive goal. This goal is very important as it allows the company to know its limitations.

          Pitfall #5: No negative goal. Without a negative goal, there is no expense management and ability to stay within the strategy’s purview. This often leads to bloat (scope creep.) It also makes it impossible to figure out what tactics are successful.

          Again, there are no questions at this level.

           

          Metric goal

          Amount of benefit you gain per effort spent. It is the lens to evaluate ideas and gauge the success of both tactics and overall strategy. For tactics to be effective, you need some way to pit them against one another. Not all programs will necessarily have same metrics, but all need an objective metric based on the strategy goals.

          Pitfall #6: Vanity metrics. These are many metrics not tied to a strategy. While some may have valid micro or diagnostic uses, they should not be confused those that make or break a strategy. Vanity metrics are easy to spot, think Facebook Likes, since they do not have negative goals.

           

          Tactics

          Execution of the strategy. Every tactic, however mundane, needs a direct line to the overall philosophy through its metrics and strategy.

          Pitfall #7: A tactic with no strategy. These tactics are easy to spot because they do not have a Metric Goal. Without this tie, there is no accountability, no ability to empower people to work toward strategy, and employees will not feel engaged.

          Questions at this level:

          • What do we want to do?
          • When we rank various tactics, which ones bubble to the top based on our strategy metrics and ability to execute?
          • Do we want to continue, expand, or terminate this tactic based on the results?

          Remember: Strategy = F(x){tactic #1 metrics, tactic #2 metrics, tactic #X metrics} – All corporate efforts need to be included in the strategy.

           

          Example: Putting it all together

          Say a CEO of an offline luxury futon-company wants to go online in order to better service clients. To be worth their while, they need to ramp up sales in this channel too. Because it is hard to find funding for this venture, the company shifts resources internally to build out its web presence.

          Philosophy

          Since our customers are shopping online more, we want to capture these sales while improving our customer service to bring in more repeat buyers. This benefits the company because it is cheaper to sell online and we will be able to learn more about our customer’s preferences.

          Strategy

          Over the next four years, we want 1 in 5 new clients to come from the online channel. These clients should have client satisfaction scores similar to our offline clients. To do this, we will move $1 million a year and utilize 10 FTEs from our offline efforts to succeed.

          Goals

          Positive:

          • 20% sales (20,000 a year in Year 4)
          • 80% client satisfaction score for these clients

          Negative:

          • $4 million spent
          • 40 FTE equivalent (100,000 person hours @ $50/hr.)
          • Implicit: spend less on the offline sales channel

          Metrics

          1. $100 or less online cost per sale in Year 4
          2. 5% profit margin based on COGS in Year 4
          3. 80%+ client satisfaction score

          Tactics

          • Year 1-2: Online system improvements (metric 3)
          • Year 1: Test marketing messages (1 and 2)
          • Year 2: Campaign and advertising roll out (1 and 2)
          • Year 2: Additional online customer support (3)
          • Year 3: Increase product availability (All)
          • Year 3-4: Mobile app (3)

          Notice how each step relates to the one above and below it. This is by design to and allows accountability from management level to program directors to the lowest employee. With this hierarchy in place, the company can begin to assign bonuses for meeting the goals or change tactics based on well-defined strategic criteria.

          Change is inevitable and a good strategy will have the flexibility to meet this need. Maybe this company does not need to create a robust mobile app since the web site is mobile enabled. They then can shift resources to marketing. Conversely, if satisfaction is high but sales low, the company could shift its efforts from online customer support functions to increasing product availability or advertising.