Tableau Community Spotlight: An Interview with Jeff Plattner

Jeff Plattner Bio

Jeff is currently a Data and Analytics Consultant with Daugherty Business Solutions, in Minneapolis, MN. In this role, he leverages his passion for data visualization to help his clients better see and understand their data. In his two years with Daugherty, Jeff has developed and helped deploy Tableau dashboards for several clients, led Tableau and data visualization best practice training and created the Daugherty Tableau Style Guide.!/vizhome/TableauStyleGuide/Intro

He enjoys spending time with his wife, their two kids (5 and 2) and their dog. As a family, they love spending time outdoors, especially being at the lake, biking and camping during the warm Minnesota summer months. A sports lover, Jeff also stays active playing in area basketball and softball leagues.

Jeff is an active member of the Tableau Community, where he practices his Tableau/data visualization skills through community-led data projects such as Makeover Monday, Workout Wednesday, Sports Viz Sunday and others. He also enjoys staying active in his local data community through the Twin Cities Tableau and Alteryx User Groups, as well as spending time working on his Etsy shop, ‘History Visually,’ where he sells sports prints, created using Tableau Public. Jeff is a former Tableau Public Featured Author and five times, his visualizations have been selected as Tableau Public Viz of the Day.


Michael: Hello, Jeff. You have an affinity for sports datavizzes. In the example of your work above, I had to show the one for my hometown team, The Detroit Lions! 😊.

Can you discuss the criteria a person should follow to create a great sports dataviz?

Jeff: Hello Michael, first off I want to say thank you for having me on your Tableau Community Spotlight series. I’ve enjoyed learning about others in the community and I’m excited to share a little of my story, as well.

Regarding the viz above, as a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I’ve also followed the Lions fairly closely over the years. I must say Barry Sanders was one of the scariest players to watch my team play against. With him, any play had the chance of going the distance and as a fan of the other team, you just sort of sat there and held your breath whenever he touched the ball! As a Lions fan, you must have really enjoyed the Barry Sanders era in Detroit! This particular viz came as the result of a conversation with friends, around Thanksgiving time. We were talking about how good the Lions have historically been on Thanksgiving Day, so I thought the data would be easy enough to get at, so why not put something together and let it tell the story?

To answer your question, when I think of great sports data visualizations, a dozen or so people in the Tableau community come to mind. When I’m looking to create a new sports visualization, my first step is typically to scroll through their Tableau Public portfolios, in search of inspiration. With great data visualization, sports or otherwise, I feel there are common themes like exceptional use of color, simplicity in design, excellent use of white space, avoiding clutter, and concise titles/text to help tell the story. As far as team colors and images go in sports data vizzes, there’s a ton of great work out there where these are both used and not used, so it’s really just a matter of preference. But, remember, if you do choose to incorporate team logos or images in your work, be sure to give the appropriate credit.

Here’s a visualization I made to help our #DataFam NFL Pick-em League participants better understand their success in correctly picking each NFL team to win or lose. I’d like to think it incorporates at least some of what I touched on above, but the most effective is probably the use of color, where red represents incorrect picks.

#DataFam NFL Pick-em League


Michael: You are a consultant for Daugherty Business Solutions. Can you discuss how you use Tableau and data visualization for your clients?

Jeff: Absolutely. Daugherty’s guiding principles of providing clients with exceptional value, employees with an incredible work environment and communities with unwavering support are what makes it such a great place to work. For me, Daugherty has been an absolute blessing. Every day I get the opportunity to work alongside incredible people and be part of a team that helps our clients solve their most pressing business challenges.

From a personal standpoint, I have found a level of satisfaction in my day to day work that did not exist prior to joining Daugherty. My role as a Data and Analytics Consultant has given me the opportunity to do what I love; leveraging data visualization to help clients better understand their data, which leads to more informed business decisions.

The way in which I use Tableau and data visualization for my clients, at Daugherty, is sort of multi-faceted in that I’m able to not only help develop Tableau dashboards for the client, but also be there as a resource. That may come in the form of providing group training and/or one-on-one support for the client’s internal Tableau users or also by sharing my knowledge of data visualization with the broader team.

Michael: Can you tell me three of your favorite Tableau Desktop tips and tricks?

Jeff: There are so many amazing tips and tricks that have been shared by the community. I think it would be most beneficial to others if I share some of those resources. That way, anyone who reads this will know where to find some great tips/tricks and have the opportunity to apply them to their own work. Here are three that come to mind.

Tableau Speed Tipping – Ann Jackson and Lorna Eden

Things I Know About Layout Containers – Curtis Harris

Using PowerPoint with Tableau Dashboards – Kevin Flerlage

Michael: What do you feel is missing from Tableau Desktop? What features would be on your wish list to see added to the application?

Jeff: Tableau does such a great job of listening to their customer’s needs and adding new features with each release that meet those needs. Dynamic parameters are on the way, so the other two items that come to mind are the ability to copy/paste text boxes, as well as having a spell check. I’m not so sure the copy/paste of text boxes would help me a ton in my day job, but when working on personal projects, I tend to float objects on my dashboards and sometimes use several text boxes. One viz I think back to is my March Madness Bracket of Champions viz, where I floated an absurd number of text boxes. Nearly all of them were just a few different sizes, so being able to throw one out onto the dashboard and then copy/paste it several times would have been a huge time saver. And spell check for obvious reasons…I mean, most of us probably aren’t making a bunch of spelling errors, but it is nice to have a safety net, especially in a business setting.

Michael: What were your three favorite things you attended or did at #TC19?

Jeff: TC19 was such a blast! I recently wrote a blog post about my 2019 Tableau Conference highlights, so if I stay true to that ranking of favorites, here are my Top 3.


3. Braindates – My blog post mentions how Braindates were the underdog of the conference for me. With TC18 being my first ever Tableau Conference, or tech conference in general for that matter, I avoided them at all costs doubting my ability to add value to a conversation. After hearing so many great things about them following the conference, I approached TC19 with a different mindset and challenged myself to see if I could leverage Braindates to help share my knowledge of the community with others. With Tableau Public literally changing my career and my entire life, it felt natural to host a couple of Braindates focused on Tableau Public where I could share my journey and then answer questions from the other participants on how they could approach getting started with Tableau Public and becoming more involved in the community. The conversations were great and it felt amazing to help others discover a side of Tableau they never knew existed, in some cases.

2. The Tableau Community – As I mentioned, TC18 was my first Tableau Conference. Looking back on it, I made several rookie mistakes as I’m sure most people do. For example, I packed my schedule full of sessions and on multiple occasions left a conversation with a new community connection to rush off to my next session. If you’re reading this, DON’T DO THAT! Most, if not all of the sessions are recorded, so you can always go back after the conference, make a big checklist and start checking off the sessions you missed in person. On the other hand, you may not get another chance to finish those conversations and begin what could wind up being a lifelong friendship. The Tableau Community is filled with so many amazing people who are an absolute joy to be around. So, at TC19, I made a point to schedule Braindates, as we touched on, leave holes in my schedule, finish those conversations (even if it meant being late for a session), and just say yes at any chance to hang out with members of this great community.

1. Thank you Andy and Eva – Like so many members of the Tableau Community, #MakeoverMonday has had an enormous impact on my career. Together, #MakeoverMonday and Tableau Public provided me with an opportunity to improve my data visualization skills, while building up a portfolio of work along the way. After several months of building up my Tableau Public portfolio through #MakeoverMonday and other personal, sports related projects, my hard work had paid off. I wouldn’t be where I am today, career-wise or happiness-wise, if it weren’t for #MakeoverMonday, Tableau Public and Ryan Sleeper (who first introduced me to Tableau Public and the Tableau Community back on Feb 7, 2016). I was fortunate enough to have met Ryan at TC18, but did not meet Andy or Eva. When I got the chance to thank both Andy and Eva, in person, at TC19, it meant the world to me and was the top highlight of my conference!

Michael: I recently read an article that stated that Minneapolis is one of the most livable cities (and best to retire in) in the United States. What is it that makes Minneapolis so special?

Jeff: Oh, I love this question! Ok, let’s start by getting this part out of the way…Minneapolis, and Minnesota in general, get a bad rap because of the long, cold winters. Unfortunately, brutally cold winters might be the only thing a lot of people know about Minneapolis, so I’m happy to share some of the things that make it such a great place to live and work.

First, let me share a few facts. Home to 19 Fortune 500 companies, spanning industries such as healthcare, retail and commercial banking, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area has a healthy job market, coupled with an unemployment rate lower than that of the national average. As you likely noticed in your article, Minneapolis also indexes quite high nationally in areas such as education, quality of life and affordability.

However, what makes Minneapolis so special, in my opinion, is its unique blend of big city amenities and small city feel. The city has so much to offer, from its theaters and museums to the music scene and state of the art sports stadiums. The city also has a ton of great restaurants, bars and breweries. And if all that wasn’t enough, the city of Minneapolis also boasts one of the most impressive park systems in the country. The city has several regional parks, as well as 160 neighborhood parks. There are 22 lakes and 83 miles of off-street biking/running trails in the city. And we’re talking about just Minneapolis alone, not even taking into account the city’s many suburbs.

During the months of May through September, Minneapolis sees average temperatures ranging from the low-70s to the mid-80s. So, if you’re thinking of planning a visit and would rather not go ice fishing or cross country skiing, it’s probably safest to come visit us during those months. Oh, and somebody told me they have a pretty cool Tableau User Group too!!

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

Jeff: Thanks for asking, I’m really looking forward to a fun year in 2020! A few weeks ago, I started a project called Tableau Public Revizited, which is dedicated to celebrating examples of excellent data visualizations that happened to fly a little under the radar. Every couple of weeks we’ll revisit a Tableau Public visualization and write a short blog post on what makes it a great data visualization. I see it as a fun way to celebrate past vizzes, while sharing some thoughts around data visualization best practice. I’ll continue participating in Tableau Community projects with a focus on completing more #WorkoutWednesday challenges in 2020 than I did in 2019. I’m excited to complete my first Tableau Public collaborative viz, in 2020, and actually already have a few collaboration ideas with some amazingly talented members of the community, so that should be fun! As far as personal projects go, my current labor of love takes me back to my childhood days of being an NBA fan. There’s still a lot of work to be done on it, but here’s a teaser (image below). And last but not least, I plan to stay active in my local, Twin Cities Tableau User Group.

Thank you for having me Michael, this was a lot of fun!

Tableau Public

Here is a partial visual list of Jeff’s datavizzes on Tableau Public. I encourage you to visit the link below to see all of his great work!


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