By @SimonCocking great interview with Steve Wexler, co-author of The The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios. See our review of it here.
What is your background briefly?
Like Jeff [Shaffer – co-author of The Big Book of Dashboards], my education and career started in music and music is still part of my livelihood. I ran a software company for 20+ years, then joined the eLearning Guild as director of research and emerging technology. It was with the Guild that I discovered and fell in love with data visualization. I worked at the Guild for around two-and-a-half years, then two-and-a-half years at i4CP, then in early 2011 I put out my own shingle at established Data Revelations, the consultancy I run now.
Does it seem like a logical background to what you do now?
I went to college thinking I would major in music or math and struggled in math, so that made deciding on music easier. I think most of my efforts went into extra-curricular activities, particularly the student-run musical theater organization called The Princeton University Triangle Club. I learned how to marshal resources, manage teams, incentivize people, and how a great team can make great things. I can draw a direct path from my time with that organization to recruiting Jeff and Andy [Cotgreave] to work on the book.
What is a one minute pitch for what you are doing now?
Mentoring and knowledge transfer. I no longer want to build data visualizations and dashboards but love teaching people how to do it. While it may not be the best business model, my goal is that over time organizations need me less and less because I am effectively transferring my knowledge to their personnel. That’s certainly what I try to do on the workshops we offer around the book.
Congratulations on the book, what feedback in general have you had to it?
The response to the book has been very gratifying and people appear to be using it as we intended: Read the first chapter, read the real-world section, and use the scenarios section (the heart of the book) for reference and inspiration. Not sure how to tackle your predicament? There’s a good chance you’ll find a similar predicament in the book and we’ll offer a solution.
What inspired you to write it – is design getting better, more user-experience friendly?
My students and clients kept getting stuck. There were lots of great books on data visualization fundamentals, but nothing that addressed “if you have this situation, here’s a solution.” We also realized that we had a combined 30+ years of experience in data visualization so we wanted to share our experiences so that we could help readers survive and thrive in “the real world.”
What trends and / or functionality in design dashboards would you like to see in the future?
More interactivity, personalization, and animation. And ubiquity. The visualizations you need, where and when you need them.
Who are your sources of inspiration?
I’m an equal-opportunity thief! So many people in the data visualization community have either directly helped me or indirectly inspired me (and I try to cite these people in my blogs.)
What tips would you give to new companies looking to do the design of dashboards well?
Besides purchasing the book and attending one of our workshops? Kidding aside, I think the biggest realization is to find collaborators that will help you refine your work. The stuff I make on my own is good; the stuff I made after having Jeff and Andy review it is way better. In addition to collaborators, make sure to engage your audience and get them involved, early, in the process. They will help you see the project with “fresh eyes” and you in turn will likely make them more comfortable with more sophisticated approaches; that is, you will improve their data visualization literacy. You will also turn them into a passive audience into an active, engaged stakeholder.
Steve Wexler is co-author, with Jeffrey Shaffer and Andy Cotgreave, of The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios (Wiley, 2017). He is the founder and principal of Data Revelations. He has worked with ADP, Gallup, Deloitte, Convergys, Consumer Reports, The Economist, ConEd, D&B, Marist, Tradeweb, Tiffany, McKinsey & Company, and many other organizations to help them understand and visualize their data. Steve is a Tableau Zen Master, Iron Viz Champion, and Tableau Training Partner.
His presentations and training classes combine an extraordinary level of product mastery with the real-world experience gained through developing thousands of visualizations for dozens of clients. In addition to his recognized expertise in data visualization and Tableau, Steve has decades of experience as a successful instructor in all areas of computer-based technology. Steve has taught thousands of people in both large and small organizations and is known for conducting his seminars with clarity, patience and humor.