Using Tableau to Make Faster, Data-Informed Decisions

  • Emma Schwartz
  • January 14, 2016
Using Tableau to Make Faster, Data-Infor

Whether you're stopping a spreading epidemic, responding to a natural disaster, or helping communities break the cycle of poverty, data is critical for making life-changing decisions. 

Tableau is an extremely powerful tool in time-sensitive, low-information environments that allows anyone to quickly and easily connect, visualize, and share data in real-time.

Last month, Erik Arnold, CIO at PATH, and Jeff Bernson, Director of M&E at PATH, shared their experience with using Tableau to help eliminate malaria in Zambia. Steve Schwartz, CSR Marketing Manager at Tableau Software, also shared how other NGOs can best leverage Tableau products in their work.

“Our journey with Tableau began two years ago,” said Arnold. “Since that time we’ve seen usage bloom across multiple global programs…today, it’s our go-to analytics and visualizations engine across the organization.”

PATH has focused primarily on supplying IT, M&E and strategy staff with Tableau Desktop, but also uses Tableau Online and Tableau Server, which allows them to house data on premises.

Over the past year, Tableau Foundation has provided PATH with vital software, training and a five-year financial commitment to help eliminate malaria in Zambia as part of the “Visualize No Malaria” campaign. The campaign focuses on empowering community health workers (CHWs) with the tools and resources they need to combat malaria, and relies on data and data visualizations to manage the program and inform decision-making. The partnership has also given PATH access to a pool of technical experts, best practices from the private sector, and connections to current Tableau customers who are able to contribute in their own unique ways.

“One of the key interventions for us is the data,” shared Bernson. “The data drives a lot of our decision making. It tells us where to go next, where we’re close to eliminating and where we really need to double down to make sure malaria doesn’t come back.”

Before Tableau, PATH had to generate reports across disciplines and data wasn’t really “talking to each other.” Now, PATH is able to pull together data from a variety of different sources into single, easy to use dashboards.

Bernson praised Tableau for its agility and for the competency and discipline it has built within the organization.

“These tools have really become a jackknife for us in terms of giving us some of the critical elements of data management, analysis, reporting and presentation all under one roof.”

Arnold stressed that PATH’s adoption of Tableau wouldn’t have been successful without the Tableau Foundation partnership and a strong partnership between IT and M&E. He also emphasized the tool’s role as a conversation starter:

“Often, when we have systems or data conversations with program officers it falls flat. We don’t always speak the same language… What we’ve found is that communicating through visualizations really democratizes the information and allows us to be able to have more disciplined conversations that we were never able to have before… We’re able to quickly show them how we can take their data and turn it into meaningful information that they can act on.”

So what story does the data tell?

Visualizations created with Tableau have made it easy for anyone to interact with program data and uncover trends.

PATH has seen a downward trend of confirmed malaria cases as they continue to train and mobilize CHWs with better diagnostics and drugs. They have also observed an increase in the proportion of cases that are detected and treated by CHWs in comparison to those detected and treated at facilities – indicating to the Zambian government that frontline workers are indeed a great resource.

Based on this success, the Tableau Foundation and PATH partnership model will be scaled globally in the fight against malaria, and more and more programs throughout the organization are eager to adopt Tableau tools.

Tableau for non-profits

Tableau supports thousands of other non-profits in making a difference with their data in a global health context and beyond.

Tableau provides free two-year licenses of Tableau Desktop for small non-profits working to change the world. Click here to see if your organization is eligible and download Tableau Desktop.

For additional support, Tableau has created the Tableau Service Corps, a volunteer network of Tableau experts who are eager to help non-profits do more with their data. Click here to connect with a Service Corps volunteer and get help visualizing, analyzing and telling stories with your data.

Click here to view webinar collateral and listen to the recording >>

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