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Tableau Workshop: opinion from Dr Phani Kumar Chintakayala

After the 22nd February Tableau Workshop, hosted by the CDRC at Leeds, we invited Dr Phani Kumar Chintakayala to share his perspective on the training and Tableau version 10.3 …

“It was back in 2015 that I first heard about Tableau visualization software – it was version 9.0 at this point, and I tried out bits and pieces but didn’t explore much further. Then in February 2018, I attended a 1-day workshop on Tableau 10.3 hosted by the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) in the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA). Even before the start of the workshop, as soon as I opened the software, I realised that the latest version of Tableau has come a long way and is far superior to the version I tried back in 2015.

The workshop started off with a couple of introductory sessions, the first of which was delivered by Prof. Roy Ruddle of the School of Computing, who is perhaps best known for his research into novel interactive visualization techniques. He highlighted how visualization can act as a tool to better understand data, especially in the current era of Big Data. The second session was delivered by representatives from Tableau, Thierry Driver and Archana Ganeshalingam, who demonstrated and took us through some examples of how Tableau is used by a range of people from researchers to professionals, for visualizing interesting inputs/outputs.

After the introductory session we were let loose on Tableau 10.3 to gain hands-on experience with its various features. It was quickly apparent how easy it is to use Tableau.  We were given around eight, carefully-tailored challenges to complete, using real open data in conjunction with Tableau. Each challenge built on the last and we were required to use a range of different Tableau features, putting into practice our training gained in the morning session. Taken together, these challenges really helped us get to know the various tools and features of the software.

As with many other latest software versions, data-loading in Tableau is as easy as simple drag and drop. Tableau supports basic analytics and provides various means of visualizing data. Some features of the software are very versatile and feel unique: for example its ‘dashboard’ feature which allows users to bring a number of plots (generated using the same data) into one window and enables you to link them in the window. This means you can gain better insight into how a change in one aspect will affect the others.

While doing sentiment analysis on a sensitive topic using Twitter data, I used Tableau to visualize origin of tweets on the issue. I plotted the data on Tableau Map with the size of the blob representing the volume of tweets originating from a city or town. Below is the amateur map that I managed to develop. Through visualization in Tableau, I was pleased to find I could easily identify the cities that reacted on the issue and the volume of tweets generated – much better and more impactful than presenting the same information in, for example, a table.

Map of India with certain cities and towns highlighted to reflect Twitter data concentrations
Please click on image to see a higher resolution version.


All in all, the CDRC Tableau Workshop was very useful as it introduced several features of Tableau that will allow me to visualize data in order to better understand it and its implications before proceeding to analyse it. This is a very useful tool, especially when dealing with Big Data/secondary data where understanding the data and their context is very important. Although I have not tried any other visualization software, I believe Tableau is a helpful tool for any analyst wanting to visualize data and thereby gain a better understanding of data and their context.”

Dr Phani Kumar Chintakayala is Senior Research Fellow in the Business School and Leeds Institute for Data Analytics at the University of Leeds. His primary research interest is Behavioural Economics covering consumer behaviour, econometric modelling, sustainability etc. 

We are planning to run this workshop again in Spring 2019. Please register your interest for this course by emailing Kylie Norman.