TABLEAU COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANN JACKSON

Ann Jackson - Headshot

Ann Jackson Bio

Jackson Two is headed by Ann Jackson, our chief Analytics Evangelist.  Ann is an experienced and passionate individual with a rich and extensive background in data visualization, exploratory data analysis, data communication, and business process improvement.  She is an expert at taking multiple data sources, finding meaningful connections between them, and communicating out the insight and potential they house.  She places a strong emphasis on connecting analytical discoveries with quantifiable business improvements and overall business strategy.

Ann Jackson is widely known in the Tableau community and was named a Tableau Zen Master in 2018.  She is dedicated to her local Phoenix, AZ community and leads the Phoenix Tableau User Group.  Ann’s dedication to growing the practices of data visualization, data communication, and data literacy means that she is constantly connected and contributing to the global community.  Ann holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a Masters of Business Administration in Healthcare Management.  She is also proud to be a Tableau Desktop Certified Professional and Tableau Server Qualified Associate.

Questions

Michael: Hi Ann. Tell us a bit about your Data Visualization & Analytics Consulting company, Jackson Two.

Ann: Jackson Two was founded in 2018 after many years of experience in the analytics space.  We focus specifically on using modern analytics tools and platforms, like Tableau, which enable businesses to understand and effectively use the massive amount of data they are accumulating.  Our emphasis is on fully enabling all types of people and organizations to use their data – which means everything from effective data access, data visualization, data communication, training and adoption, and implementation strategy.  We love working with clients on all ends of the spectrum and helping them derive value and meaning out of their data using visual analytics.  That includes not only the visual design and communication aspect but also building out repeatable analytics processes and systems along the way.

A lot of people ask me about the origin of the name.  It represents the partnership I have with my husband Josh.  He and I share the same passion for analytics and he has been a constant support and ally for me.

Michael: In your company bio, you state:

[Ann] places a strong emphasis on connecting analytical discoveries with quantifiable business improvements and overall business strategy.

Can you give us some insights on how we can do this?

Ann: All metrics captured should tie directly back to business objectives and be used to inform and enable decision making.  Measurement for the sake of measurement has very little value – it’s the context and comprehension from the measurement that causes people to become “data-driven.”  I will often ask “what does it mean when this number is bad, what does it mean if it’s good?”  It tends to be a great starting point because often times there may not be clear answers and even the notion of good vs. bad may be unclear.  The follow up question that comes “okay, so the metric is good, what are you going to do with it?”  Questions to both answers need to be well known and agreed upon to allow organizations to lead with analytics.  It’s also a great way to prioritize the most critical measurements or performance indicators.

Michael: Between Jackson Two and your original Ann Jackson Tableau Public sites, you have created a lot of insightful and useful data visualizations. Can you showcase your three favorites data visualizations you have created for my readers?

Ann:

Ann Jackson _ Resume

My Interactive Resume: https://public.tableau.com/profile/ann.jackson#!/vizhome/AnnJacksonResume/AnnJacksonResume

I’ve always wanted to build out a resume in Tableau and finally did it.  This one required so much thought work on what I wanted to share and how.  I also spent a lot of time getting feedback from others to help shape what the final result was.  It’s very special to me because I’ve had some non-Tableau friends look at it and describe what they like about it and the design details they notice align with all the detail work I put into it.

Human Resources Report Card _ Jackson Two

Human Resources Report Card: https://public.tableau.com/profile/ann.jackson#!/vizhome/HumanResourcesReportCardJacksonTwo_0/HumanResourcesReportCardJacksonTwo

This one is a dashboard (or analytical display) designed to be something seen inside an organization.  It’s my take on how you can take a broad subject area, roll it up to a top level and then include supporting detail.  It’s true to my analytical style of allowing audiences to derive value without the need for narrative.  I imagine this being a display in a large meeting where several different types of people are huddled around talking about the action they’re going to take.

The Women of Iron Viz

The Women of Iron Viz: https://public.tableau.com/profile/ann.jackson#!/vizhome/TheWomenofIronViz/TheWomenofIronViz

I love what this viz stands for – the strong leading women who contribute to the thriving Tableau community.  It was a pivotal moment for me to realize my name is among so many women that I find to be inspirational and powerful.

PHXTUG Logo

Michael: You lead the Phoenix Tableau User Group. Can you tell us a little about the group and the kinds of activities you have?

Ann: The Phoenix Tableau User Group (PHXTUG) is a monthly meeting bringing together all different levels and types of people interested in Tableau.  We have a very strong leadership council of 5 individuals that are dedicated to ensuring the meetings are fun for all levels and spectrums of experience.  Every month we have a hands-on activity – designed to get people working in Tableau Desktop or Tableau Prep.  The other major part of the TUG is having a speaker or multiple speakers share something related to Tableau or analytics.  As an example, we had a panel of 4 professionals in June focusing on getting a job in analytics.  In July, we’ll have Zen Master Steve Wexler present on working with and visualizing survey data in Tableau.

On a more personal level, the Phoenix TUG holds a special place in my heart because it’s how I originally got connected to the Tableau community.  It has been a great resource for me to gain broad awareness in my profession and connect with peers in my community.  Having a monthly meeting with people in the same industry and watching how we are all growing and changing has been a constant source of inspiration for me.

Michael: What is missing from Tableau Desktop (don’t include anything that is going to be released with v2018.2) and why do we need it?

Ann: I’d like to see more sophisticated visualizations natively supported – things like Sankey diagrams or network diagrams.  Often times business problems and relationships are complex and these types of visualizations can be a more direct way to comprehend than more common chart types.

A bit harder to explain – but the capability to easily build out new data sets with time being the unifying dimension.  It should be a native feature of Tableau Prep to create a table to visualize across multiple data sources spanning any dimension of time (day, month, year).  It’s taking the concept of data blending and related data source filtering and pushing it back to the table/data source level.

There are some very small things that I’d like to see as well: saving workbook themes, better control over defaults for dimensions, a clean way to describe bins in tooltips, and turning off the date drill-through feature without having to build custom dates.  I say all that with the knowledge and belief that Tableau Desktop is the deepest and most full featured visual analytics software available.  And specifically, that the workflow they’ve championed has allowed people like me to dig deep into wanting more nuanced, deeply thoughtful features.

Michael: In your day-to-day work activities in the Tableau consulting industry, what do you feel are your clients biggest pain points when it comes to data prep and data visualization? How are you able to help them here?

Ann: The leap from using something like Excel for reporting to using Tableau can be painful – oftentimes there are multiple data sources being represented and analysts are integrating the data sources together manually.  Transitioning from that mindset to connecting data sources unearths a lot of operational inefficiencies and non-standardization within data.  It takes a strong foundation of being able to work through those components to get to impactful analytics.  I help in this capacity by using visual analytics to guide clients through this growth phase.  There’s something very impactful about using Tableau as an exploratory tool to see what data applications hold and how we have to add a human touch for there to be relevancy.

I also see a lot of opportunity for growth and improvement on how to use visual analytics.  By that I mean both the correct chart types and how to use analytics to describe or analyze a process.  My clients still struggle with translating business requirements into the correct collection of visualizations that can be used to drive results.  To that end – I spend a significant amount of my time working to unearth the questions and to describe the “why” behind design and development choices.  Some of my most mature clients still struggle with identifying the right things to report on.

Michael: What is next on your “To Do” list? What can the Tableau community expect to see from you in the near future?

Ann: I recently started a video podcast with Luke Stanke called Hashtag Analytics.  It’s been a great way to express our thoughts, opinions, and ideas on the broad world of analytics in a very authentic way.  We’re hoping to keep that going – I know it’s something we both have gained a lot of joy from.

I’m going to continue participating in Tableau Public’s Iron Viz contest – similar to 2017, my goal for 2018 is to participate in all the feeder contests.

I’ve also got a busy schedule for TC18 which includes 2 different speaking sessions.  I’m delighted to take #WorkoutWednesday to conference with Luke and Rody ZakovichLorna Eden and I are also taking over for Andy Kriebel and Jeff Shaffer and doing speed tipping.  She and I have a lofty goal of reaching 100 tips combined this year!

You touched on it a bit – but I’ve got a personal project of building out more business focused dashboards.  As Jackson Two grows, I think it’s important for us to demonstrate what visual analytics looks like within the confines of different industries and organizations.

Beyond that – you’ll continue to see me actively contributing to Workout Wednesday, general Tableau Twitter, and blogging.  I get a lot of fulfillment out of connecting with people globally – that’s something that will probably never go away!

Tableau Public Link (Jackson Two): https://public.tableau.com/profile/jackson.two#!/

Tableau Public - Jackson Two

Tableau Public Link (Ann Jackson): https://public.tableau.com/profile/ann.jackson#!/

Tableau Public - Ann Jackson

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