0 Replies Latest reply on Jan 10, 2017 3:00 PM by Ryan Sleeper

    Help Smooth the Excel Transition

    Ryan Sleeper

      Hello TUG leaders -


      A common challenge that I think most of us face is educating some end users on the value of data visualization, and moving them away from their spreadsheet mentality. I've also noticed about half the attendees for each of the KC TUG meetings are new to the group.


      Being that these new users are likely working towards the same goal of spreading the value of Tableau within their organization, I wanted to share a few thoughts / resources on helping 'smooth the Excel transition'. These can be used personally, but may also make for good user group fodder.


      I've documented the challenge and my experience in this post, A Spreadsheet is Not a Data Visualization.


      And a couple of exercises / tutorials you can present to stakeholders or user group attendees.


      1. Compare a spreadsheet to a highlight table


      Create a quick crosstab view in Tableau with at least ten rows and ten columns; sales by sub-category on the Rows Shelf and Month of Order Date on the Columns shelf works well. Ask the audience to find the highest value in the data source and call out the answer when they find it. This usually takes 20 - 30 seconds and usually results in at least one or two incorrect answers. Then transform the same crosstab to a highlight table using Show Me and ask them to find the highest value again (they'll see the punchline immediately). The point is that the simplest of encoding leads to reduced time to insight and increased accuracy of insights (which really gets hammered home if somebody called out the incorrect answer).


      This sounds like a simple exercise, but I have seen many a-ha moments when the value of data visualization is explicitly introduced like this.


      2. A tutorial for how to use Tableau like Excel


      Sometimes stakeholders have trouble transitioning to Tableau because of some functionality that they can't easily replicate from Excel. The most common example of this that I've seen is conditional formatting / the ability to modify individual cells. There is a common 'hack' for this that started a couple years ago with (I believe) Dan Montgomery and/or Peter Gilks and/or Jonathan Drummey. It involves using a placeholder field that allows you to conditionally format individual rows or columns. A full write-up is at Tableau Legends Per Measure and Conditional Formatting Like Excel.


      You'll also notice that the post covers the Legends Per Measure feature that is coming out soon. This is another nice step toward providing flexible crosstab formatting in Tableau. I noticed that this feature was not in the last beta version, but it is listed on the Coming Soon in Tableau 10.2 page, so I'm not sure when it will be ready for prime time.


      I hope this helps!

      - Ryan