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Data Storytelling discovery with Tableau Software version 8.2


Posted on Saturday, April 26th 2014

During a very attractive presentation for the independent analysts group BBBT, Tableau Software, trough the voice of Francois Ajenstat, showed some of the most expected data storytelling functionalities in Tableau 8.2. Parts of the presentation have been made, without net, on the Mac version of Tableau, in Beta since a couple of weeks.



Data Storytelling discovery with Tableau Software version 8.2
Robert Kosora, in charge of this evolution of Tableau as one of the first data storytelling tools, presented a synthesis of his research. The underlying idea is that graphics are dots, steps, and that we now need to connect the dots to create a story. In Tableau, these dots will be called story points. Each dot, each story point is a sequence. And all sequences combined are a presentation.

In Tableau 8.2, story points are an evolution of the existing presentation mode. This presentation mode can run on full screen to focus the attention of attendees. A timeline appears at the top of the screen, as a movie storyboard. With a simple drag and drop, you move views, graphics, and dashboards to this storyboard. Each view is a story point. Each sequence is a moment, a detail of the analysis you want to focus on.
Story point after story point you create your story. And you will be able to tell this story to your public, again and again. Or they will be able to run the story by themselves.
Let’s take an example: your first story point is a map with your last year revenue split by country. The next story point will be the North America detail by state; Next one will be a scatter plot with sales by state, product line and customer; A next story point will be the detail of all orders of your main customer, etc. For each of these steps of your story, you drag and drop the dashboard or the view to your storyboard at the top of the screen.
If you drag and drop multiple views of the same graphic, they are of course not duplicated. Story points are virtual labels of what you want to show at each step of your story.

How to combine narration and interaction

Data Storytelling discovery with Tableau Software version 8.2
All what I described above could already be done with screen shots pasted into your favorite PowerPoint presentation! But with Tableau story points you don’t use another software, you stay in your data analytics software, keeping all dashboards and graphics live and updated. And you keep interaction. If you are interrupted during your presentation by a question, you can - if you agree to - go into details and answer the question, just coming back after to your story by clicking again in the timeline. You will be able to combine narration and interaction. You create the scenario of your story but if necessary you can go out your scenario, interact with data and attendees, and come back at the same point.

You can also create a repetitive story, for example for quarterly financial results. Each time you will run your story, all data will be automatically updated. The story i.e. the presentation stays live connected to the data.

With the story line, at the top of the screen, you can follow the story or explore data points as you want. It seems a great answer to the narration/interaction dilemma. We could even imagine in a next version a function to decide which level of narration/interaction the storyteller will allow to the readers. Part of the presentation could be interactive, another part could be closed and the readers forced to follow the story.
Another suggestion could be to create non-linear stories. Actually, the story line seems to have one dimension only. With branches and crossings, it would be possible to bring to data storytelling the same level of non-linear story we find in web documentaries, created with tools like Klynt or RacontR.

A first step to enhance in next versions

After recording, all these data points create the story.This story can be pushed to the readers on the web or on iPad. A story can be shared on Tableau Server. The level of interaction will be the same on all devices. But Francois Ajenstat who presented this preliminary version, acknowledged it would be an incomplete step. Data Storytelling is a new subject. And Tableau Software will need feedback from the users to define a roadmap for next functions.,

May I suggest my first ideas?
1) Video recording. It could really be interesting to broadcast a closed version of a story, like a movie, where users can only read the story, without any interaction. Export in a video format would be great.
2) Audio recording to create a voice over and transform a story into a real multimedia presentation that could be shared on the web to a large community.

These evolutions would create a real value for data stories compared to PDF that nobody reads! Instead of a PDF report, you will push a “Tableau story.”

Story points should be available in version 8.2 of Tableau before the end of June 2014. Today, only Microsoft with PowerView’s storyboard, and Yellowfin, really got into this data storytelling market. But, I recently saw new developments from Tidemark and Coheris. All data analysis software will come to storytelling in the next years!

We still have an issue… we have to teach to “data people” how to communicate… that’s why they should transform themselves into data scientists!

Philippe NIEUWBOURG
I am an independent industry analyst, and author, with 20 years experience specializing in business... Know more about this author


1.Posted by Philippe NIEUWBOURG on 06/20/2014 3:34 PM
Tableau 8.2 have been released yesterday. To upgrade from your actual version, you can just visit : http://www.tableausoftware.com/support/upgradeassistance

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