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

Tableau Data Day Out


A few weeks ago, the KeyData Team attend the Tableau Partner Conference, and the Data Day Out down in Sydney – A great excuse to get out of the office! It was a huge privilege to be given an exclusive insight into the up and coming features in Tableau coming in the next year. Just a small sample of the upcoming features include:

Tableau Data Prep – Tableau are throwing their hat in the ring for data cleansing and manipulation with Tableau Data Prep. This new tool allows you to connect to databases and files, and produce reusable workflows to clean and manipulate your data before bringing it into Tableau. The best part about Data Prep? It’s completely free with any creator license! We here at KeyData have used Data Prep, and we think it shows great promise, and really helps fill the gap between traditional ETL/ELT Architectures and ad-hoc data analysis. You can try Data Prep out right now with Tableau 2018.1.

Extension API – In my opinion this is potentially one of the biggest game-changers for Tableau. Don’t be fooled by its dull name, the Extensions API allows for a huge leap forward in functionalities in Tableau. In a nutshell, users will be able to create native Javascript applications that run inside Tableau Dashboards, and can interact with Tableau directly. A simple example is now you can create a d3.js animation of your data as a dashboard element that will respond to dashboard actions. The big advantage of this functionality is the potential for new Dashboard objects and visualisations, allowing super users to break the rules of Tableau.

Natural Language Processing – All the power of a search engine, reading directly into your data sources! With Natural Language Processing, you can now ask questions of your data in plain English. You will be able to directly ask your data with questions like “What are my biggest sales regions for 2017?” and it will intelligently search your data for the relevant information, and return the result as a Tableau Visualisation. This functionality can help end-users answer their business questions, bypassing traditional report-oriented approaches. It’s an exciting feature that we believe will help set Tableau apart from the competition.

Dashboard Starters – A welcomed feature is the Dashboard Starter. These dashboards are optimised for displaying data directly from a data source like Salesforce for example. The biggest advantage is for new Tableau users looking to get a quick win and speed up time-to-insight for commonly used data sources. At the moment, the number of dashboard starters is fairly small, isolated to a couple of commonly used data sources, but will evolve as time goes on from what we heard.

New Subscription Offering – Tableau have recently shifted towards a new model for subscriptions, where all users are either Creators, Explorers or Viewers. Creators now have access to Tableau Desktop, Data Prep and either Tableau Server or Online, making it the complete package for data operators. Explorers are given web edit capabilities in Tableau Server, allowing end-users flexibility to create dashboards with existing data sources. Viewers are given access to dashboards in Server. These three categories aligns better with the different types of roles in an organisation.

The Data Day Out itself was a blast. Fantastic talks all around, especially Jason Fox on breaking the cycle of default thinking. Special thanks to Francois Ajenstat (Chief Product Officer at Tableau) for flying all the way across the world to talk about what’s new and exciting at Tableau.

It was great to chat to so many Tableau enthusiasts from so many organisations. It is great to hear the stories about the difference that Tableau has made to improve the day-to-day operations to so many groups. One common trend that was running through most conversations was around data governance, especially among larger organisations. It’s a difficult balance between keeping data secure, whilst empowering data analysts to work effectively.

Anyway, thanks heaps to Tableau for running an awesome event…again! We’ll see you at the next one!

Tableau Data Day Out2018-06-08T15:28:23+10:00

Tableau 2018.1 – Analytics Game Changer


With Tableau 2018.1 the analytics company have announced significant changes to their product lineup and pricing structure, as a reseller, services partner and trainer for the complete range of Tableau courses I could not be happier with the changes announced this week. I believe these will be a game changer enabling much larger scale deployments in a more cost effective and efficient manner. Here are the key points I like:

  1. The addition of Tableau Data Prep (at no additional cost to the old Desktop Professional price) adds significant data preparation capabilities, this closes the gap on one of the biggest criticisms I heard from potential and existing clients, whats more like Tableau, it makes data prep easy!
  2. Role based pricing replaces package based pricing, simpler, closer to client roles, especially
  3. Tableau Viewer role – Most organisations want to make Tableau available to a large user base but as the pricing has been based on more complete functionality this impacted cost, in truth the bulk of end users are consumers not analysts but pricing previously reflected more complete capabilities. The viewer role provides access to the magic Tableau does at a price that reflects the role as a consumer instead of analyst or developer, bring on the numbers!

Their are loads of others but for me these are the 3 that really stand out and CHANGE THE GAME!

Checkout #NewDayForData at www.tableau.com

Download and try the changes

Tableau 2018.1 – Analytics Game Changer2018-04-27T12:46:14+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

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