14 Replies Latest reply on Dec 21, 2011 1:18 PM by Richard Leeke

    Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge

    .George Prevelige

      I'm trying to find the best way to provide the following functionality:

      My data consists of a list of all 50 states along with 3 amounts for each state - a different amount for each of 3 possible scenarios. So I created a report that sums the amount based on which scenario is selected by the user. Easy.


      Now my customer wants the option to override each state's amount by one of three choices (x2, x2.5, x3). Short of creating 150 parameters (to account for each of the 3 options for each state), what else can I do to give the user this functionality?


      If I were creating an interface from scratch, I would have a list of states with a 3-option radio button next to each. But I can't come up with anything that straight-forward in Tableau.


      With all the brilliant, experienced users on this forum, I'm sure someone has a solution off the top of their head.

        • 1. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
          Shawn Wallwork

          Can you post what you've got so far? --Shawn

          • 2. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
            .George Prevelige

            Thought about an example but there isn't much to show. But I went ahead and created an example from scratch since the original contains much proprietary data.


            I added a new worksheet (Option2) that uses a filter to change the results for each state. Clicking a number in the grid changes the color of that state. Unfortunately, it also hides all the other states.


            Again, I want to change the results for each state individually based on user entry while maintaining the results for all other states. I'm now fairly convinced that this cannot be done given Tableau's interface options.


            Even if I created a parameter for each state, I couldn't change the color of each state individually. I guess I could write a long nested IF statement that would have n^50 tests.


            Thanks, George

            • 3. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
              .George Prevelige

              I was able to get something to work. I managed to get it down to one long calc field and 50 parameters. I still think a more intellilgent person could devise a more elegant approach. This version only has 4 states included.


              The attached file requires v7 Desktop beta (only way I could get mapping to work).


              Although this topic seems too esoteric to garner any response, I'll post anyway as there may be one other person in the world who might find this useful. I just wish there was a better way to handle user-entered multiple scenarios.

              • 4. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                Shawn Wallwork

                George, I was working on this (see attached) sort of layout, but I hadn't gotten the parameters functioning yet. I'm only guessing but I'm pretty sure you can get all 50 states showing at once, especially in 7 (where you're able to set the width of the parameter cards). I'll take a look at your parameter calcs and see if I can get something working. --Shawn

                • 5. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                  Richard Leeke

                  I had a quick look at this the other day and couldn't think of anything other than the approach you're taking of lots of individual parameters if you need to stay wholly within the Tableau interface for this.


                  An approach I sometimes take for this sort of "what if" analysis is to drive the variable parameters out of an Excel spreadsheet, linked to the main data source via data blending.  Make the changes in Excel, save the Excel sheet (but no need to close it) and then just hit F5 to refresh the view.  That works fine if it's analysis you're doing for yourself, but I suspect won't be any use in your case since it's a workbook designed for others to explore.

                  • 6. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                    .George Prevelige

                    Thanks, Shawn and Richard.

                    Shawn, I think your layout is the most efficient for displaying all 50 parameters. Thanks for the suggestion.

                    Richard, I agree that the Excel + Tableau approach is the most workable given all the constraints. However, I need to post this to the server for general use via a browser. So that's a no-go.


                    We find the need to create these sorts of (realtively) complex scenario analyses fairly often. It doesn't seem to be that bizarre or unorthodox a use of a BI tool. But obviously Tableau thinks otherwise. Are we fundamentally off in our approach and expectations?

                    • 7. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                      Richard Leeke

                      I don't think it's a question of being off in our expectations.  There has been a fair bit of discussion of this sort of thing on the forums over the years - I remember discussions of more sophisticated parameter types (things like some form of multi-valued parameters) and I'm fairly sure I recall comments indicating that the Tableau folk have also been thinking about that sort of thing.


                      As always it comes down to the fact that there is a huge wish list of ideas out there and Tableau have to make judgement calls on which ones to tackle and in what order.  Priority setting on new features must be one of the toughest jobs for the Tableau folk, I'd say.  Whatever they decide they won't please everyone.  But there are a lot of things in the product today that were hot topics on the wish list a few years ago, so there is good reason to be hopeful.  ;-)

                      • 8. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                        Shawn Wallwork

                        Top of my wish list is an easy voting system for features/functionality. And of course it should be presented in a Tableau DataViz! We all agree that Tableau is a great software/company (or we wouldn't spend time contributing to this forum). So why not have a Tableau page that allows us to vote on the new features/functionality we most want/value? (Limit it to 1 vote per user, per feature, please -- for the sake of democracy. And allow Top X filtering.)


                        Richard, I think this would make the 'priority setting on new features' a little less 'tough' and a wee bit more democratic. (Tableau, as always, no promises, but at least you'll know what we really care about.) Just a thought. --Shawn

                        • 9. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                          Richard Leeke

                          Two troubles with that: it's not a democracy (and if it was my company I wouldn't want it to be a democracy either) and also forum users are probably a very unrepresentative sample of users.


                          It's definitely useful to Tableau to know what are the hot topics amongst forum users - but I think it would be hard to set up a voting system that didn't give the impression that if it was voted top it would automatically get implemented.


                          Personally I'm content to know that the Tableau folk listen very carefully to the feedback they get on the forums (and from all sorts of other channels) and my observation is that they make good calls on what gets prioritised.  And that's despite the fact that some of my personal top wish-list items have been on the list since I was first evaluating Tableau before buying it 3 or 4 years ago.

                          • 10. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                            Shawn Wallwork

                            Richard, I bow to your greater experience/judgement. As always, thank you for your valuable insights. --Shawn

                            • 11. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                              .George Prevelige

                              I came up with a more elegant solution that uses filters instead of parameters. However, I've run into an issue in Tableau 7 filled maps. In order for my approach to work, I need to overlay a filled map on top of a static image of the US. This allows me to highlight a state using a filter without hiding all the other unselected states. But the filled states generated by Tableau are not aligning with the background image (see attached).


                              Any cutting edge 7.0 users have a suggestion?


                              I've made sure all the lat/lon parameters are correct. I even created the background image from the filled map view via a screen capture.

                              • 12. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                                Richard Leeke

                                Can you post a packaged workbook showing what you're doing - it's a bit hard to guess from a screenshot.

                                • 13. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                                  .George Prevelige

                                  Essentially it’s the same file as posted above but with a Filled Map Overlay tab that shows the issue in the image attached to my previous post. Note that if you deselect a state in the filter, that state filled image is removed. BUT, I need the state outline to remain. Ergo, the need for a static background image.


                                  And I don't always post a file because:

                                  1. It takes a very long time to create a smaller, manageable version of the project with masked or faked data

                                  2. I guess I don't anticipate that other people are going to take the time to dissect an entire project of mine. I post a question in the hopes that someone has encountered the same issue at some point and so - off the top of his head - can provide some guidance toward a solution.


                                  But I really do appreciate all the free, high-level consulting offered on these boards. I just don’t expect it.


                                  Oh, and this a version 7 report.


                                  Thanks, George

                                  • 14. Re: Multiple Scenarios - an intriguing challenge
                                    Richard Leeke

                                    I understand that posting a sample workbook isn't always needed - if someone can just glance at a brief description of a question and answer if off the top of their head that minimises the effort all round.  I was just interested to see what was happening - but not quite interested enough to try to recreate it from scratch.  ;-)


                                    It looks as if specifying a background image rather than using a background map causes Tableau to switch into the mode where it is just using the filled area as a shape, but is only using the latitude and longitude of the "centre" of the state to position this on the map, rather than using the coordinates of the border.  You can see that clearly both by sliding the size slider up and down (growing and shrinking the states) and also by switching between filled maps and circles (say).  Shrink the states quite small and then switch to circles and you'll see the circles drawn exactly where the mini-states were.


                                    As for what to do about it.  Is there not a selection of layers you can use for the online of offline maps that shows the state borders in a way that works for you?