Learn How Set Actions Can Help You Build Powerful Tableau Dashboards


Every few months, Tableau supports its customers by releasing innovative and exciting content that continues to make data exploration, analytics and story-telling easier, deeper and more interactive. Here at KeyData we stay on top of upcoming features and developments to assist our clients in their Tableau journey.

In October last year Tableau 2018.3 was released and contained within it was one of the most ground-breaking and powerful features introduced for some time. We are very excited about it and want to share it with the wider Tableau community.

Interactivity is a core component of any rich analytical system. It helps answer deeper questions, guides data exploration and can create a much-improved user experience. The tool we want to focus on in this post is Set Actions. Set Actions will assist in that data journey by allowing both you and your viewers to choose how you look at your data by interacting with it directly.

Set Actions were first introduced to the Tableau community at the Tableau Conference last year where they were demonstrated in one of the main presentations and then released in 2018.3 to widespread acclaim. In basic terms, Set Actions build on and combine pre-existing tools. They build on Sets; and they build on Actions. Both, and perhaps in particular sets, are under-utilised tools by most Tableau users, but are equally worth investigating in their own right.

In this example, an intuitive interactive selection allows a comparison to a selected state

Despite this post concentrating on Set Actions, it will be beneficial to briefly summarise both Sets and Actions to ensure at least a basic understanding before combining them and considering Set Actions.

Starting with sets – sets are, in effect, a custom field that define a subset of your data, based on existing dimensions. You can use them to compare and ask questions about that particular subset. A set can either be dynamic – where the members of a dynamic set change when the underlying data changes – or fixed – where, as the underlying data changes, the set contents do not.

Sets are powerful. They allow sub setting of data to be used anywhere in a visualization, and can be used to colour, group or filter as well as being accessible in calculations and more. After you create a set, it displays at the bottom of the Data pane in the Sets section. You can then drag it into the viz like any other field.

There are many ways you can use sets to answer complex questions and compare cohorts of data. A key difference between filters and sets that is worth emphasising is that filters only keep data that is in a selection, whereas sets group data into two groups—in or out of a selection. This is a difference that makes sets such a key asset to any Tableau developer. Sets will let us see things in context without filtering information out of the view.

Actions, on the other hand, allow you or your users to interact with your visualizations by selecting marks, hovering, or clicking a menu. The actions you set up can respond with changes in the view or by navigation. By selecting one or numerous marks within a viz, a user can change what is shown and how it is shown either in that sheet or a related sheet within the same dashboard.

Now you can be selective and don’t have to expand the whole hierarchy at every level

The three pre-existing actions were: Filter Actions – where you use the data from one view to filter data in another, to help guide analysis for example; Highlight Actions – where you call attention to marks of interest by colouring specific marks and dimming all others perhaps; and URL Actions – where you can create hyperlinks to external resources, such as a web page, file, or another Tableau worksheet. The action carried out by each of these actions was consistent but restricted. Filter actions always filter, highlight actions always highlight and URL actions always launch a URL or provide some sort of navigation.

Set Actions differ in this. By their very nature, they can have much broader utilisation and application. Set actions are much more than a new type of action; they extend Tableau’s interactivity to support custom user-defined behaviour. What I mean by that is that a single set with actions directed against it can apply different behaviours to various target sheets.

For example, previously it was entirely possible that the same set could colour sheet A, hide data in sheet B, and filter an axis in sheet C – all at the same time. And now with Set Actions, a user selection in any of these three sheets can be created to update the set, thereby modifying all target sheets with one single selection. Coordinating multiple actions through a single selection dramatically increases the breadth and depth of scenarios that can be addressed for end users though interactive applications.

Set Actions are all about interactivity. They connect two existing features – sets & actions. This then provides a wealth of opportunity to create new compositions from existing concepts. The new Set Action feature means that a selection of data points in a visualization can be stored in a set and then can be consumed elsewhere enabling richer, more flexible analysis for end users.

There are innumerable use-cases for Set Actions. In the embedded Tableau workbook below you can explore a selection of examples of some of these. One thing to remember with a couple of these visualisations is that yes, there are other pre-existing ways to do some of this stuff. But not all of it. And the content you might have been able to create before – you certainly couldn’t do the overwhelming majority of it by selecting marks on the viz itself.

As Tableau continues to release versions of its product with fresh and exciting features, we as users are enabled to continue to push the boundaries of our data analytics. We hope this look at this one specific new feature will create a spark within you to go beyond the ordinary. At KeyData we are excited to see what we and our clients can do with these tools at our fingertips.

If you would like to know about how Tableau can benefit your organisation and how KeyData can help you achieve your goals with your data using the latest technologies, please contact us.

(Due credit goes to the magnificent Lindsey Poulter and her wonderful blog without which the spark of creativity around Set Actions would never have been fanned into life within me. Thanks also go to the Tableau blog and, in particular, the content produced on Set Actions by Bethany Lyons, among others.)

Learn How Set Actions Can Help You Build Powerful Tableau Dashboards2019-06-21T14:28:26+10:00

New face at Key Data: Sam Batchelor


Here at Key Data we are expanding our horizons and would like announce that Sam Batchelor has recently joined the team.

Sam has moved from Auckland, New Zealand with her husband and son, and brings a wealth of knowledge around data and especially Tableau. Previously at Fonterra as their Data Analytics Manager, Sam enjoys working with people to make sure that they can get the most value from their data.  Sam has a wealth of experience in large organisation Tableau and Analytics enablement which beautifully compliments our offerings.

Sam is very excited to meet our clients in Brisbane and looks forward to the longer months of good weather available in the “sunshine state”.

New face at Key Data: Sam Batchelor2018-02-26T03:46:39+10:00

Key Data Consulting wins the Tableau’s 2016 Services & Training Partner of the Year Asia Pacific Award


I am incredibly proud to announce that Key Data Consulting has won Tableau’s 2016 Services & Training Partner of the Year Asia Pacific.

With over 200 partners in the Asia Pacific region the award recognizes our team’s performance and achievements in helping customers to see their data differently, using Tableau.

In the past year, we have delivered a blend of services and training to customers throughout Asia-Pacific and beyond, including India, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the United States and almost every State in Australia. This accolade shows that our efforts, expertise and approach are making a real difference to our Tableau clients.

We work hard to differentiate ourselves with our experience, deep understanding and service offerings over end to end Analytics platforms including sourcing data from raw data sources to ETL to Data engines and Data Warehousing, Best Practises in Data Preparation, Visualisation and of course the Tableau front end.  This allows us to offer Tableau services & training within the broader organisational context of how to get the very best from Tableau’s fantastic capabilities.

Receiving the award at the annual APAC Partner Summit was a great honour—and a strong motivator to continue our focus on delivering best-of-breed analytics solutions to all KDC clients.  We are ecstatic with the award!


Key Data Consulting wins the Tableau’s 2016 Services & Training Partner of the Year Asia Pacific Award2017-03-06T12:26:41+10:00

Viz of the Day – Congratulations Sian!


Thrilled to hear Griffith University’s Policy Innovation Hub has been awarded Viz of the Day on Tableau Public!

A big congratulations to Sian Robinson et al from everyone here at Key Data Consulting! Sian’s work visualised the Queensland electorates using census data. It is difficult to get an appearance on Viz Of The Day as it is selected globally and you have been using Tableau for about 3 months! I’m happy to have been able to help get you started with Tableau and this project.


Viz of the Day – Congratulations Sian!2016-06-17T11:39:03+10:00

Our size, services, and reputation are growing!


Tableau Partner Summit 2016

Our size, services, and reputation are growing!

It’s still early in the year but already I have plenty of news to share.

Firstly, I was thrilled to discover Key Data Consulting was one of only three Tableau Partners nominated for Services Partner of the Year at the 2016 Asia Pacific (APAC) Summit.

The nomination at APAC recognised our small team’s excellence in delivering Tableau powered solutions and training for our customers, not just in Australia but across the whole Asia-Pacific region.

I was excited to attend the summit, meet other Tableau Partners, and access previews of next-generation programs. I was even more excited when I learned we’d been nominated for the 2016 Asia Pacific Services Partner Award!

The nomination shows just how quickly we’re gaining a positive reputation in our industry. It was truly humbling to see our name up against some of the industry giants including the winner, RXP Services.

Recognition at APAC came just after I learned we’d been successful in our bid to become an approved Panel Member for the provision of ICT services to Queensland Government agencies.

Panel Membership puts us in the best possible position to help government agencies harness the full potential of their data. I’m looking forward to developing new working partnerships with government this year.

Last but not least, our size and services are growing! Our analytics services are expanding as our team is growing too. Stay tuned to find out who’s joining the KDC team and our new service offerings in the very near future!


Our size, services, and reputation are growing!2016-02-23T11:04:16+10:00

ODIQ – What a year!


The Open Data Institute of Queensland had its first Annual Celebration and review in December combined with a “Data as Art” Exhibition.  I was sad to have missed this event as I was overseas but enjoy supporting this organisation.

In the past year Key Data Consulting have supported ODIQ behind the scenes and as a Lunchtime Lecture presenter, we plan to continue this close association as Open Data moves more and more to become an essential element for Business, Government and Personal interests analysis.

I have included links to ODIQ’s first annual report and website below.  If you are Brisbane based and looking to get the most from your data. . .get involved!

If you need help in working out how to best use open data for your business then we can help. Simply get in touch!

ODI7052 2015 Annual Report Final

ODIQ – What a year!2016-01-04T14:21:56+10:00

How analytics leads to behavioural change



Analytics is about making differences obvious in a way that enables changes in behaviour and outcomes

At the 2015 Australian Tableau Conference, I gave a presentation on the application of Sports Science using Tableau and new generation ETL tools like Lavastorm and Alteryx. Using these tools helped my (Manly Dragons) Dragon Boating Club team to analyse team and individual technique and make positive changes to training routines. I got some great feedback on the presentation and Tableau has now kindly made a video of it available on their Customer Stories page. 

If you take a look, you can also see the Viz I created that compares different paddling styles. Using this, the team’s paddlers could envisage and understand the differences between their technique and their teamates’. An old coach used to say “there are 3 paddlers in everyone, the paddler they think they are, the paddler everyone else thinks they are and the paddler they actually are.” She was exactly right. The Viz removes two of those perceptions, leaving only the true paddler.

The Viz really does make differences obvious in a way that enabled changes in behaviour and outcomes for the team. In the example the behaviour is use of a paddle, but it can easily be variance in a production line or ANY business process. When I am developing analytics, my thought process is:

How can this information be portrayed to make desired change obvious?

Will it be easy for the audience to understand why or how that desired change is needed or should be done? 

This is more important than technical skills necessary to complete the work— they are a means to an end. The real skill is the ability to create change by presenting information in a way that minimises change inertia, whatever the cause of that inertia. You also need insight into causes of inertia if you are trying to change something; what is obvious to you may not be obvious to the people involved in the process.

It’s exciting to see the story and video on the Tableau site. I am also very excited to be going to Las Vegas next week for the 2015 Tableau Conference. I look forward to coming home with new insights, tricks and geeky stuff for the Brisbane Tableau User Group on November 11. I hope to see you there!

How analytics leads to behavioural change2015-10-18T06:48:14+10:00

How to get good at Tableau – in 8 easy steps


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I get a lot of people asking me how they can become good at using Tableau. It’s a rapidly growing market and it’s natural to want to keep up with the latest technology.

If you want to fast track your Tableau learning curve here are my top tips:

  1. Find something you are passionate about. It needs to be something that has a good amount of available data. A lot of the subjects people are really passionate about have publicly available data, e.g. sporting data. You can use Open Data released by governments simply by searching ‘subject name’ and ‘data’. See what comes back!  We recently had a member of our User Group present on the TV show “Survivor” using data off Wikipedia and the internet, he was passionate, he had put in the effort and it was fascinating!
  1. Get Tableau. If you have Tableau Professional or Personal, that’s great. If not, download Tableau Public (it’s free). You can publish your discoveries about your passion to the world on Tableau Public.
  1. Subscribe to Viz of the day– the examples aren’t always perfect, but some are fantastic. Viz of the day can give you a great idea of how other people are using Tableau. There is a huge variety of ways that people attack data issues so when you see a good or interesting Viz, download it and look at how the author created it.
  1. Get familiar with and use the Tableau online learning tools, these are first rate.
  1. Go to a publicly available Tableau training course. These are excellent, well thought out classes. Training can take you to a higher ability level very quickly.

Extra tip: If you buy the product and use it frequently in the month before the course, you’ll absorb more useful information at the course. Don’t waste your absorption capacity on basic stuff!

  1. Read up on Stephen Few’s tips on Visual Design at Or even better, attend one of his excellent courses.
  1. Join your local Tableau User Group. If you can, present the work you did on your chosen topic of passion. You never know, your enthusiasm might be contagious! It is ALWAYS more interesting listening to someone talk about a topic they love. I am lucky I have several to choose from where I have done deep analytical analysis.
  1. Stretch yourself. Focusing on a subject you love makes it easier to reach a deeper level of thinking and to find time for data discovery. You will find yourself stretching your learning further with ease.

For myself, I have been lucky to have had a string of topics I am passionate about. Each has taken me to a new learning level as they required a subtly different approach to get the best insights from the data using Tableau. The broader your experience, the more you have to call on when a new question arises.

Lastly, if you only do one thing, find something you’re passionate about and apply it to Tableau. Oh, I already mentioned that!


How to get good at Tableau – in 8 easy steps2015-09-16T19:31:32+10:00

Open Data Institute of Queensland here we come


Next week on Thursday at Lunchtime I have been invited to do a demonstration using Tableau Public with Open Data Sets to show people how Tableau can be used for understanding available free data at the ODIQ Lunchtime Lecture Series.  I have been to several of these events and they are great for those who want to understand and explore what can be done with Open Data sets.  If you would like to come along you can find out more and register here.  Also tomorrow Neil Gladwin of the DSITI website will be presenting about Qld Govt Open data, this is also well worthwhile if it fits your schedule!

Its quite a busy week, between a number of private engagements on Wednesday night I am also hosting the Brisbane Tableau User Group at River City Labs, at this event I have JJ Phillips the CEO from Alteryx ANZ having a Q&A about Alteryx, what it is and how it can be usefull with your data issues, also some presentations from our broader user group on how they are using Tableau, these are great nights, if you would like to come you can get details and register here!

So that’s next week. . .busy, this week I am in Papua New Guinea teaching an oil company how to use Tableau with their data, I love my work!!

Open Data Institute of Queensland here we come2015-08-18T21:31:20+10:00

Data Visualization Best Practises


Tonight I am hosting the Brisbane Tableau User Group, as part of that I am presenting a summary of principles and lessons learnt that should be applied when developing analytics. These are from a combination of sources but I must provide reference to Stephen Few of He has heavily influenced and fast tracked my thinking in this space, some of the material presented here is his with focus on areas I believe is most needed. Enjoy!

Data Visualization Best Practises2015-02-18T16:43:07+10:00