Empowering Agency Leaders with Self-Service Data Visualization

What do Pixar, the creators of the animated films “Toy Story” and “Up!,” and the Department of Defense (DoD) have in common? One thing: both organizations know how to harness the power of visualization. In fact, one of the founding employees of Pixar, Pat Hanrahan, helped the DoD realize how something that brought children’s stories to life could also help people see and understand big data.

When the DoD needed to empower ordinary people — not just the data scientists, IT professionals or statisticians — with a means to analyze information, Hanrahan teamed up with a database programmer, Chris Stolte, at Stanford University to find a solution.

With the support of a DoD agency grant, the pair, alongside Christian Chabot, combined their distinct computer science disciplines of graphics and databases to create Tableau Software, a platform now widely used to help government organizations at the local, state and federal levels unlock actionable insights and trillions of tax dollars from their data.

The need for data insights within government organizations is massive. Cybersecurity experts use complex network data to better safeguard IT infrastructures, agency administrators use real-time building-sensor data to increase the efficacy of the government’s physical infrastructure, and frontline managers make operational improvements with process and program performance data.

But even with so much data and emerging technologies, many agencies still struggle to make effective data-driven decisions.

This industry perspective explores how current public sector organizations use Tableau’s self-service visualization technologies to answer critical data questions and ultimately improve performance management and transparency.