“They keep changing their mind about report requirements, they could never use Tableau!” That may be true, but business users change their minds because they have so many questions and want to get answers. Now. What they aren’t good at is translating their questions into a dimensional model. Why should they be? There’s a business to run and patients to see. When we started rolling out Tableau at Seattle Children’s, we wondered how many people would make use of a sophisticated data visualization tool. Of course there would be a handful of developers in the BI team as a handful of super hungry data folks throughout the organization. We quickly discovered that far more people than we ever expected were begging to get their hands on a copy of Tableau for their own use.
End users have deep domain knowledge in their areas and spend years building very complex spreadsheets and Access DBs to meet the reporting challenges required to run their business and improve patient care. Countless shadow IT systems are created by users accustomed to building their own solutions to work around the time delays found waiting for IT. At last count there were more than 2000 Access Databases saved on the network at Children’s and very few were supported by IT. If an end-user can build a complex spreadsheet with v-lookups, linked tabs, advanced pivots and detailed charts, they could quickly understand how to make use of Tableau.
The process started slowly as we introduced copies of Tableau desktop to the usual suspects; those who continually ask for more data to answer more questions. As they took their analyses to meetings and blew people away with their insights and ability to dig into problems, the demand for access to the tool grew quickly. Anyone who built spreadsheets and then copy and pasted charts into PowerPoint could see the potential to make their lives easier by using Tableau and wanted in. We heard countless stories about users who could spend more time analyzing problems and less time meeting with or waiting for IT. Without any change management or “marketing” of the tool internally, usage grew. It quickly proved our end users were definitely smart enough to use a tool like this. They now have the power to ask more questions and change their mind with each new answer.
We’ll be talking about the growth of our “nerd-herd” at the Cool BI Forum at the TDWI World Conference in May. I hope you can join us.