Storytelling: Tableau Story Points

Storytelling: Tableau Story Points

As the business world is inundated with more data, people are creating more reports, dashboards, and models to comprehend what the data is telling them.  But what do you do when you are inundated with reports, dashboards, and models?  Simple – you create PowerPoint presentations.

Although this sounds outlandish, it goes on everywhere.  And frankly, it makes sense for two reasons.  First, executives or managers don’t have time or the patience to stare at a dozen reports every week or month and comprehend what all the graphs and charts are telling them.  Second, people construe metrics, pivot sums, and KPIs differently leading to an array of conclusions.  An IT department might have accomplished the data warehousing ideal of delivering “one version of the truth” but the truth gets interpreted in many ways.  Because this is a problem, organizations ask a qualified person to “explain” the reports to everyone.  Usually that person does not build better reports or fancier pivot tables; he starts building slides and copying/pasting content from existing reports and dashboards, adding descriptions and explanations to drive the audience to a common conclusion.

While I think most of the business world will continue telling stories using PowerPoint, Tableau has made creating “slides” and narrating a story a lot easier in their 8.2 release with a new feature called Story Points.  In their words, Story Points “will help people add extra context, flow and guidance to tell a more structured story with their data.”

Here’s how it works:

After creating reports and dashboards with your data, create a “new story” in Tableau.

storytelling1

You are presented with a very simple layout: Title, Navigator Box (Caption Box), and Sheet Area.

storytelling2

1)      Edit the title

2)      Add a caption – usually a short statement describing the point you are trying to make

3)      Drag and drop a viz (report or dashboard) to the main area

storytelling3

4)      Click on “New Blank Point” and then repeat steps 2 and 3.

storytelling4

Limitations

Given that this is Tableau’s first version of Story Points, there are many limitations.  Here are just a few…

1)      Caption boxes can’t be resized or moved to the bottom or left / right side of the screen.

2)      Only 2-3 lines show up in the caption box.  User has to click into the text and scroll down to read the rest of the text.

3)      Besides Tableau reports and dashboards, you can’t embed other reports.  You can take a screenshot of your non-Tableau report, create a viz with the image, and then drag the viz into the sheet area.

Conclusion

Although storytelling exists in other tools – mostly niche BI products, Tableau is the first big player in the market to implement it successfully and introduce the masses to storytelling.  Tableau Story Points is very basic in their 8.2 release, but all in all, Tableau Story Point is a great, new feature and has a lot of potential with enhancements coming in future releases.

Useful Links

Tableau Story Point examples – http://www.tableausoftware.com/public/gallery/topic/Stories

Video by Tableau on Visual Storytelling – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZsJSJ0WSZ4

Download Tableau Desktop 8.2 trial – http://www.tableausoftware.com/products/trial?os=windows

Robert Kosara’s paper.  He is credited with developing Story Points in Tableau – http://kosara.net/papers/2013/Kosara_Computer_2013.pdf

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