AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Jul/13

16

Bryon Welch and Rakesh Mohan on Interactive Presentation of Evaluation Reports

Greetings from beautiful Boise, Idaho! We are Bryon Welch (principal evaluator) and Rakesh Mohan (director) at the Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations.

Working for a state legislature, we are always trying to come up with different ideas on how to effectively present our analysis. Because our reports are used by policymakers whose attention is constantly in demand by many competing interests, we wanted to ensure that we communicate our evaluation report’s message clearly, concisely, and convincingly. Presenting data in new, interactive ways helps us literally put the data behind our analysis with a click.

Rad Resource: A couple of years ago we were introduced to Tableau, a data visualization software that allows interactive, immersive visualization of data. Both paid and free versions of the software are available. Perhaps the most useful function of the Tableau software is its ability to publish data visualization to the web.

Hot Tip: Begin by looking through the Tableau public gallery for ideas on how you might present your data. The gallery has dozens of data visualization examples including government and public data and health and science data.

Hot Tip: Tableau offers training and tutorials to assist you in learning different ways in which data can be presented.

Hot Tip: Before publishing any data through Tableau, read their Public Data Policy. Of particular note are these words from the policy, “You should not publish confidential data that you want to keep private… Once it is posted you should expect that data to be no longer private.”

Cool Trick: Beginners can start with a summary of data that they have already completed and then, using Tableau Public, they can transform that data into something interactive and visually appealing. For example, our office recently published a report on state employee compensation and turnover that included an appendix on agency turnover. We took that same data and turned it into an interactive chart that we published on our website for policymakers and members of the public.

Presentations that tell a story: Bringing an interactive element into a presentation can help you summarize a long, complex report for your audience. When it came time to present our report on employee compensation to various legislative committees, we put our data into Tableau Public. Tableau transformed the data into an interactive chart that showed policymakers and the public how to customize the visual representation of the data we presented—something that our appendix could not do. By including the data visualizations in our presentations, we were able to quickly summarize some of the main conclusions of the report. We believe the interactive data provided policymakers with the information they desired in a more meaningful format.

Clipped from http://www.tableausoftware.com/products/public

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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4 comments

  • Cesca Wright · July 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I have never used Tableau and wonder about learning curve and threshold criteria for setting up reporting in Tableau. What criteria do others use to determine if Tableau is the best choice for a client?

    Reply

    • Bryon Welch · July 21, 2013 at 6:03 pm

      Cesca,

      For us, we continue to use other data analysis programs, such as SPSS, Excel, etc. Tableau is just another tool we employ when it makes the most sense. We certainly understand that Tableau is not the best way to present data in all situations. One criteria that we use is whether or not the data is going to be presented in printed materials, like a report, or published directly on a webpage or other online venue. Excel works really well for us in our printed materials because of the level of customization the program offers that aligns with our style guide. Tableau works well for our online charts as a supplement to our printed materials because of its interactive nature. In the end, you have to do what you think works best for your situation and client.

      Reply

  • Aubrey Perry · July 16, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I have nothing but high praise for Tableau Public. The software has really spiced up some of the data visualizations I’ve developed. It has also allowed me to shift away from Microsoft Excel as my go-to program as it gives me MUCH more control over the way it looks.

    I do have a question for Byron and Rakesh and others as well. One of the “drawbacks” from free programs are the watermarks that identify the program being used. I accept them as a reality when using free programs as a way to help subsidize usage. Have you ever experienced push-back from colleagues or stakeholders from including Tableau in your materials because it has a watermark?

    Thanks for the posting the great article Byron and Rakesh!

    Reply

    • Bryon Welch · July 17, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Aubrey,

      Thank you for your comment. You bring up an excellent point and that is that the charts created in Tableau Public are branded with the Tableau name and logo.

      We have not received any negative feedback from any of our colleagues or stakeholders on this topic. Because we use a combination of the paid Tableau desktop application and the free Tableau Public application, the Tableau branding does not dominate the charts we build in Tableau Public and there is no watermark present. I have not seen the watermark in any of the charts we have produced so I suspect that it may be due to the fact that we also use the paid version of the software alongside the free Tableau Public version.

      In some cases, after we present our findings, it has actually sparked a conservation about data visualization and has provided us an opportunity to talk to those stakeholders about more engaging ways to present their own data.

      Reply

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