Dude, where’s my dashboard?!

One of the most useful things we have ever implemented in our Information Team is unique identifiers for our ad-hoc data requests, routine reports and statutory returns. I can’t take the credit for this. An Analyst who joined my team about ten years ago (and has since moved on) brought this from his previous job. It was so obvious when he suggested it!

It helps so much when people are talking about a certain report. We can make sure we are all talking about the same report. It makes our ad-hoc reporting process easier too. If someone wants a refresh of an ad-hoc that has been requested 6 months earlier we will ask them for the ad-hoc ID and we can quickly find the report they are referring to plus the query that had been written to support it. This has massively streamlined the ad-hoc process, and reduced the need to recreate something from scratch. We have different prefixes depending on the type of report (ad-hoc, statutory report etc), and it made our folder structure more organised too.

Over the last decade pretty much everything we do has been given a unique reference identifier; datasets, data warehouse fact and dimension tables, key performance indicators, procedures etc. It make things so much easier to find, and ensures that we are always talking about the same thing!

Moving forward to the implementation of Tableau in 2016, although we have a Tableau report log which allocates each workbook with a unique reference identifier (TABxxxx) I wasn’t keen to put these IDs on the Tableau server for our consumers to see. I wanted it to seem less formal for our dashboard consumers, and I never thought there would be that many dashboards in each area that would mean we would get confused about what dashboards we were referring to! During the implementation a few of my team disagreed with me, and kept pushing for IDs being published in the names of our dashboards. I finally lost this battle which was made easier to lose as I was soon off on maternity leave and had other things to worry about!

3 years on and I still get reminded of my bad decision by at least one of my team! I will admit that I was wrong (and this is rare occasion for anyone who knows me…). There are now over a 1000 dashboards across our Tableau server site, and most of the dashboards have their unique ID in the title of the workbook. The ones that don’t are generally the ones that I published during implementation (sorry!). We will definitely be fixing these in our next upgrade.

Like everything else we did prior to this, the IDs make it so much easier to support our Tableau consumers. When someone contacts us with issues or changes to a dashboard we can simply ask them to tell us the ID, and we can make sure we respond to their request quickly and effectively. For those that don’t have IDs we have to ask for a link, or try and find it, which isn’t as effective especially if the request has been emailed over. Plus it is then not as easy to record the info about the issue on our Information request database for someone to action later. We don’t use Tags on Tableau (though it is something we are thinking about), but the search area of Tableau works really well with the IDs.

I have learnt my lesson about IDs, and recently created some new committee reports which contained a lot of key performance indicators (40+). Whilst creating these I decided to add an ID next to each indicator, and page number on each tab of the report so that when the committee were talking about a certain key performance indicator they could reference the page and ID allowing everyone to turn to that indicator quickly. It went down well, and will really help when changes are needed too.

So if you are just about to implement Tableau server (or re-looking at the way you navigate around Tableau or in fact navigating anything similar) I would absolutely recommend adding unique reference identifiers to each of your workbooks. It makes life so much easier – it’s a real no brainer!

Hope you enjoyed reading my blog!