I’ll be in London tomorrow, November 16, for the Tableau 6.0 Tour. This is my first trip to London in many years and I hope this is also the starting point of a much closer relationship with Tableau.

I believe that you can’t improve the way people display data visually if:

  • you tell/show them things that they can’t relate to;
  • require skills they don’t have and don’t need;
  • use tools they have no access to.

That’s why Excel is the best tool to improve data visualization skills, and that’s why you’ll see many more tutorials here in the near future.

But tools are not neutral and, while you can force them to do things they were not designed to do, at some point you must consider your options. Do you want to spend a whole day (or more) trying to figure out how to create a chart in Excel that a different tool can do in seconds? I don’t.

So, once you’ve mastered the basic data visualization principles (and, again, Excel is the perfect tool for that) it’s time to move on. Organizations know that they can’t use Excel alone to manage all their data, and that’s why they buy all those expensive BI solutions. Now they are becoming aware that sitting on all that data is not exactly smart, and they need better (visual) reporting tools.

Data visualization is growing fast. Good products are starting to emerge. Tableau is one of them, but many others will follow. We’ll see sparklines everywhere, defaults will display a high data-ink ratio, designing and implementing interactive dashboards will be easier than ever and top management will be delighted. Angels are singing now.

The best part? When it’s time for you to upgrade there will be no secrets, no steep learning curve. Why? Because you’ve been doing that for years… in Excel.

Anyway. I’m sure I’ll love Tableau and I’m including it in my plans for 2011.

If, by a strange coincidence, you happen to be there, maybe we could have a chat.