Using LODs instead of WINDOW

As a consultant, I am asked to find solutions to a variety of issues. Last week, I was working for a client that had created a dashboard to track when values were outside of expected ranges (any monthly value falling outside two standard deviations from their three-year average). The dashboard showed monthly indicators for 37 months (the current month and 36 months prior).

To demonstrate the issue, I have replaced the data source with Superstore. You can download the accompanying workbook from Tableau Public.


This view was ideal for their analysts, in that they could see historical trends of these indicators. However, the supervisor wanted a more summarized view – one that would only show those subcategories outside of the norm for the current (or selected) month.

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Learning Tableau via Reverse Engineering

When I first started to learn Tableau, I first went to the Tableau website and watched every training video. I played around with Superstore and quickly jumped into using my own business data. I began by duplicating existing Excel reports in Tableau, but eventually branched out and started creating my own true dashboards. I was one of the few people in my department actively using Tableau. Because of this, I didn’t really have anyone I could go to for advice or assistance. Thank goodness for the amazing Tableau community! I would search the forums for ideas for different types of dashboards, and more importantly answers to questions on how to get Tableau to do exactly what I wanted it to do.

That was in 2012, and in the years since I have learned more from the Tableau community than I ever could from videos or training classes. I have downloaded countless workbooks from the forums and Tableau Public, pulled these workbooks apart, and advanced my Tableau skill set by learning from what others have done. I have developed my method for reverse engineering Tableau workbooks.

I had the opportunity to present this topic at both the 2017 Tableau User Conference and the 2017 Tableau Fringe Festival. These are some of the highlights of that presentation.

Note: a video of the presentation from the TFF will be available soon and will be linked here once available.

What is Reverse Engineering?

Reverse engineering…is the process of extracting knowledge or design information from anything man-made and reproducing it or reproducing anything based on the extracted information. – Wikipedia

Put simply with regards to Tableau, it is the process of taking a workbook, dashboard, or visualization and deconstructing it to understand how it was created so that you can both learn from it and use to recreate in your own visualizations.

Continue reading “Learning Tableau via Reverse Engineering”