Developing a Proactive Data Analytics Strategy Using Tableau

analytics strategy, data strategies, data visualization, developing your strategy, planning for future changes, Strategy, tableau dashboard

Without a strong analytics strategy for your company, you have no idea if your available data is serving your business goals. Instead of creating opportunity with your data, you’ll be stuck reacting to the market or to old data that you could have used to prevent mishaps or losses. Having a solid analytics strategy is the first step in creating a data-driven company culture that uses visual analytics to make it come to life. And it is most definitely the first step in making business decisions that are rooted in fact rather than intuition.

Tip: You know you’re in need of a stronger analytics strategy if you’re not in control of your data and don’t know exactly what it’s accomplishing for you.

Signs that your business lacks a proactive analytics strategy

  • Instead of using data to set, measure, and achieve your business’ goals, you use data to see what went wrong.

  • Executives have limited access to data for decision-making.

  • You are having trouble maintaining competitive advantage and clearly identifying areas of improvement.

You might know your KPIs and you might already be storing and collecting data, but if there is not a direct correlation between the data you’re collecting and what it is doing for your company, you’re most likely wasting time and resources trying to bridge that gap. With a more clearly defined analytics strategy, all of the data you collect and store directly correlates with your business goals, allowing you to make real-time decisions for optimal performance. That means more wins so that you can move onto the next goal. Your company moves from being reactive to proactive. That creates a competitive advantage. When you see a win, instead of wondering how to get the same result again, you’ll know exactly what’s working and why so that you can repeat it.

Our BargeOps business unit is a great example of a company that completely transformed processes and decision-making for their customers by using Tableau. BargeOps supports growth of their customers by building in a clear analytics strategy and making visual analytics readily available. Using Tableau, a data warehouse designed for BargeOps customers, and deep integration with their client’s financial and operational data, BargeOps enables clients to analyze the productivity of their barges and boat traffic in real time. Day in and day out, they are building up their KPIs and improving their data so that they can make their boats and operations as efficient as possible. When river conditions change, they can see how that will impact barge movement, and adjust their tow boats available to meet the current demand. Data availability and a strong correlation between their information and their goals made the competitive difference.

3 Steps to creating a successful analytics strategy

  1. Define your strategic initiatives.

    What are you trying to achieve? What are the KPIs that define success for your company? What are your most important business goals? With a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve with your data, your key players can get on board and have a unified vision. They'll understand what the ‘win’ means, and that will fuel motivation when it comes time for installation, training, and follow up. It’s so much more than just installing new software.

    In this step you’ll answer questions like- Where do we want to see success or growth? What specific metrics will show us that we have succeeded? Where are we losing to our competition and how can we resolve that?


  2. Identify challenges or risks to the process.

    After identifying the objectives, it’s time to identify and move any potential roadblocks out of your way. What challenges or risks might your company face throughout this process? Consider any challenges that may come up while setting up your analytics environment:  when you are assigning leaders to champion Tableau for their team, when training, or in follow up six, twelve, and eighteen months after Tableau has been installed. What can your team do to meet those challenges and prepare for them?

    A challenge that many companies face is how to integrate their current IT roles and processes with their new data strategy. Questions arise like: Who should have access to the raw data?  Will job roles need to be redefined?  How can a secure environment be ensured? By addressing these questions related to data governance and risks before installation even starts, you will gain a well-rounded perspective of what transformation could involve for every department and mitigate any unexpected challenges.

    Through this step your leadership team will have the opportunity to explore every benefit and risk, and this will equip them to confidently partner with you to lead the transformation. Allowing questions about challenges and risks to arise and be fully resolved creates the necessary buy-in you need from your team before moving forward.


  3. Define your Tableau-specific goals that align with your strategic business goals.

    After deciding your business goals, what Tableau-specific goals are necessary in order to see that your business goals are met? Does a certain percentage of your staff need to be trained to use their Tableau Dashboard by a certain time? Do specific reports need to be better visualized in Tableau and updated regularly to ensure success? What team processes might need to be put in place to ensure everyone makes exploring data through Tableau a part of their workflow?

Who should be involved in your analytics strategy discussions?

  • Leadership

    Anyone who is responsible for setting business goals at a high level and holding management/employees accountable to those goals should be involved in these initial discussions about strategy.


  • Key stakeholders

    Everyone who has a vested interest in the success of your business should be involved from the beginning. Early involvement will help them fully understand the benefits of the transformation as well as what it will take both financially and operationally to become a data-driven company.


  • CIO

    IT should be involved from the very beginning because they truly are one of your most valuable partners and resources.  You’ll need to mutually discuss: how data is already being used, governance policies currently in place, and infrastructure that might be needed in order to make your data transformation a success.


  • Your Tableau partner

    We at csg love being involved in developing your strategy from the very beginning so that we can help you uncover aspects of transformation you and your team might not have considered. And we love helping you clearly define for your stakeholders how using data analytics can make the difference for your business. By understanding the goals that drive your everyday decisions, we can make the most of your Tableau installation. We have helped many companies go from making very little use of their data to making truly data-driven decisions every day, and we also know many of the pitfalls that they faced along the way. If you’re looking for a partner through this process, we’d be honored to walk you through everything from these early discussions to software deployment, team training, and continuing engagement.


Final tips to remember when developing your strategy

  • Don’t be afraid to start small.

    If it’s not time for a company-wide transformation yet, don’t be afraid to start small. Smaller introductions of data visualization can increase efficiency now and can prove its value when it comes time for a company-wide analytics strategy. Start by identifying teams or leaders that would benefit the most from Tableau. If there are employees who are regularly in charge of reports for executives, a Tableau Dashboard could streamline their workflow and allow executives to start using the data for decision-making right when the data is entered. Taking care of the lowest hanging fruit first can lead to some easy wins and quicker adoption later.


  • Know what data you need. (and what data you don’t.)

    In reality, not all data is useful. Don’t waste your resources collecting data that’s not useful for you. Identify your long-term goals and then focus on organizing the data and creating processes that will keep that data up to date. Rather than losing your focus in a sea of data and information overload, hold onto the data that is valuable and actionable. And don’t be afraid to trim off the rest.


  • Plan for flexibility and future changes.

    Think long-term. Don’t just think of what infrastructure you’ll need now. Plan for the future so that your processes, equipment, and people can grow with your data.


  • Optimize your data storage strategy.

    If you don’t already have a clearly defined data model, we would be glad to assist you in organizing your data warehouse so that it will serve your business analytics strategy. We partner with IT teams to ensure that your environment is architected for maximum flexibility and security, and modeled for optimum analytics usability and accuracy.


  • Ideally, your analytics strategy should apply to the whole organization, not just a portion of it.

    We have seen many organizations only accessing their data for decision-making in small pockets of the company. If some departments already have a strategy for using data to make decisions, that’s a great step; use it as a case study or a specific use case to show the rest of the organization the value that can be found and acted on.

    But transformations are the most successful when they support overall business goals and organizational outcomes. When fact-based analysis is valued and made possible company-wide, you can move forward faster together.


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