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Prototyping: A Key to Success
5 Things that make Tableau Outstanding

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Dec 2012 - Issue: #19

Prototyping - (Part 1 of 4)

A Key to Success 


By Michael Trezise - Senior Manager
and Casey Considine - Senior Consultant 


Remaining competitive and successful in today's marketplace requires, among other things, being better than your competitors in product innovativeness, design, quality, service and value.  Accomplishing that requires staying ahead of your competitors and in-tune with customer needs, ensuring that products exceed expectations from the start; and when they don't, having the agility to react quickly in addressing unexpected problems, needs, and changes. Unfortunately, many companies do not have consistent, pervasive practices and methodologies in place that ensure they can get it right most of the time and can act expediently in addressing the unexpected.


Used regularly today across many industries and businesses for product, process, and software development, prototyping is one of the most valuable tools available to any company to help ensure continued competitiveness and responsive in the marketplace and with their customers. 


Prototyping is nothing more than the process of developing a preliminary, validated and, sometimes, tangible realization of a concept for a process, product, system, or solution.  The preliminary realization of the concept, i.e. the prototype, serves as a working-model that is used to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept, or to define, or refine, its requirements or final form.  If proven feasible and of value, a finished prototype often serves as the basis for implementing or manufacturing a final or, potentially, enhanced version of the desired process, product, system, or solution. In some cases, the finished prototype may continue to be used as the final version.


At its best, prototyping is a highly collaborative and iterative process involving a diverse collection of individuals including, as appropriate, representatives from both internal stakeholders (e.g. IT, business, marketing, financial, users) and external stakeholders (e.g. vendors, customers, users). This wide representation and active participation of stakeholders during the prototyping process helps ensure that cross-functional business, user and customer requirements are identified, validated and tested during - and not after - the prototype design and development process.  The level and consistency of stakeholder participation has a direct impact on the quality and usability of the resulting prototype, and on short- and long-term effort and cost.


Ensuring the quality and viability of a product, process, system or solution before implementation or distribution is not a pipe dream; nor is saving time and effort, and controlling costs - it's just good business practice.  Prototyping is one of the tools any business can use to remain competitive and successful in the marketplace.


Bardess Group has successfully used various forms of prototyping with many of our clients to validate and address short- and long-term business needs and problems.  Future articles will highlight some of our business experience and lessons in these areas.


Coming Topics

  • Prototyping (Part 2 of 4): Process and Types
  • Prototyping (Part 3 of 4): Challenges and Dangers
  • Prototyping (Part 4 of 4): Roadmap to Success 

By Dmitry Gudkov - Senior Consultant   


In early November 2012,  

I attended a Tableau Customer Conference and thanks to an exceptionally well organized event, I was able to greatly enhance my picture of Tableau (which I first reviewed 2 years ago) and get answers to some questions.


The first thing I'd like to say, beginning from Version 8, Tableau can honestly be considered a truly mature product, a big difference with what I saw two years ago. It's a smartly designed, feature-full and a powerful analytic tool which is especially good for ad hoc query and analysis (Q&A).


Here are the 5 things I liked (not in order of importance):

  1. State-of-art data visualization makes Tableau outstanding in the crowd of BI suites. Tableau people talk about "being creative with data" and it's easy to believe in this while looking at clean and elegant Tableau dashboards. By the way, in French, tableau has two meanings, painting and table - artwork and data, an excellent match of brand and product concept.
  2. Drag-n-drop authoring - the cornerstone of analysis and design processes. Tableau makes it simple and easy.
  3. Special types of dimensions - in Tableau there are at least two: time and location. I like the idea of special dimensions in general because some dimensions should be treated differently for more efficient analysis and Tableau demonstrates this very well. For instance, location dimensions can easily be used for maps and spatial analysis. Time dimensions should be treated differently as well because in almost all cases, information is relevant only in specific time context.
  4. Maps is one of the strongest features in Tableau. Usually Maps is a real issue for BI developers because support for Maps is usually rather poor in most BI platforms. Some platforms provide mapping functionality via integration with 3rd party GIS platforms like ESRI or MapInfo. However, the level of integration is never "good enough", not to forget the additional licensing costs. Some vendors imitate mapping by offering maps simply as a colorful background for scatter charts, without the important capability of highlighting regions or providing additional visual layers. Tableau has exceeded expectations and offers excellent mapping functionality which includes regularly updated maps and complimentary information (e.g. population or income) licensed from 3rd parties (without any additional costs to customers).
  5. Groups and Sets - the ability to dynamically group dimensions is not something unseen before in BI suites. However, creating naming sets on the fly and applying set algebraic operations (introduced in Tableau 8) to them (like addition, intersection, subtraction and calculating aggregates against sets) is a very useful and practical feature.

In Conclusion...


Tableau is an excellent Q&A tool with a great design that is well-suited for non-technical users. It is powerful, easy to use, highly visual and aesthetically pleasant. The company is healthy and their product is developing rapidly. Tableau is clearly on the rise.


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