Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Stop Wrangling Data

Dustin Smith, Product Marketing Manager, Tableau

Dustin Smith, Product Marketing Manager at Tableau Software

If you’re in sales or marketing then it’s very likely you have a data wrangling addiction. Don’t deny it, we’ve all been there. You hop between any number of systems in a given day (Salesforce, Eloqua, Oracle, SQL Server, HubSpot, etc.) and the only way to take control of your world is to dump all that data into one place and try to make some sense of it. For many it starts innocently enough by just needing to mash-up two Excel spreadsheets. Soon, however, it spirals out of control as the data gets bigger and you keep adding new sources (“Can you work these marketing leads from Marketo in your sales reporting? Thanks.”) Before you know it you find yourself running 20 Vlookups just to build a single chart in a sales performance report. Or maybe you’ve graduated to daisy-channing Access databases together to get past the 2 GB limit? Maybe you’re even knee deep in a SQL database environment supporting a rogue data warehouse for your department just to keep your reporting data accessible and fresh.

When did your job as a sales or marketing professional stop being about discovering insights and start becoming a data hoarder? The hardest thing about having a data wrangling addiction is knowing you need to give it up, but feeling responsible for everything that has already been built. Let these five reasons convince you it’s time to find a better way.

1. You’re Wasting Time (Which Really Means Money) Every time you manually have to refresh an Excel spreadsheet or edit a SQL query, you’re focusing on something that could be done faster by technology and simultaneously ignoring more important decisions that require a human brain. More importantly, if your plate is already full at work then chances are it’s spilling over into your nights and weekends at home. Every Excel calc you troubleshoot and every chart you have to manually re-size is wasted resources that your organization can’t get back and wasted time you sacrifice somewhere else.

2. You’re Hurting Your Team/Organization Manual processes = single points of failure. If you’re the only one who knows the steps for building the combined lead flow report out of Eloqua and Salesforce then it means at best you’re holding up your co-workers when the report is overdue (and no one else can do it), and at worst you stopping work altogether when you’re out of the office. Even the best documentation around how you maintain data and run reports just means you’re spreading the data wrangling addiction.

3. It’s Not Scalable Even if you worked 12 hrs. a day, 7 days a week – you can’t keep up with the speed at which data grows or your organization. Hiring more people isn’t the answer either when it comes to simply dealing with data unification. The goal is to transfer the heavy lifting of data processing and analytics to scalable technologies that allow you to remain in control (not push to IT) while still freeing you up to focus on what the data is actually telling you.

4. You’re Not Accomplishing Your Goal What is your job description? Even if it is “data analyst,” your focus should be on unlocking the insights inside your various data sources and letting those drive new innovation inside your organization. Communicating your analytical findings is your priority and it is what you were hired to do, not map joins and chase down out-of-date PowerPoint slides.

5. You’re Missing the Bigger Picture Data is only as powerful as the story it tells. When you spend the majority of your time filtering and munging the outputs of different marketing and sales platforms, you end up worrying only about things like: “Did it load correctly? Did I mess-up that new calculation? Did the pie chart update?” The biggest priority of anybody working with data in any role, in any company should always be “Does my work provoke new questions? Do the things I build open up new avenues of dialogue and change inside our team/department/organization?” Being a slave to jury-rigged data and reporting environments means you will always be forced to sacrifice time and mental energy to tend to the menial tasks, when the real opportunity for impact lies in bringing never before considered ideas into existence through your insight into data.

If you find yourself spending too much of your time being bound by manual data and reporting processes and are interested in breaking the cycle of wasteful effort, join us this Friday for the webinar: Sales & Marketing Analytics: Stop Wasting Time, Start Making decisions. Learn how Progress® Easyl™ and Tableau Software have joined forces to help sales and marketing data workers everywhere get out of the data and report management game by enabling individuals to be self sufficient in both data preparation as well as visual analytics reporting.

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Dustin Smith

Dustin Smith

Product Marketing Manager, Tableau at Tableau
Dustin Smith is a Product Marketing & Community Manager at Tableau Software. Formerly a healthcare curriculum developer, a data analyst and a senior product consultant, Dustin is now a full time Tableau user evangelist. He specializes in effective data visualization and teaching others how to convey metrics beyond the "data crowd."
Dustin Smith

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1 Comment

  1. Well said, Dustin. I agree wholeheartedly with your observations.

    The fly in the ointment is that there is a very large amount of data munging that’s required in order to have Tableau do many useful analytical operations.

    We’re forced to munge, mangle, and transform data in order to do a lot of things that should be simple and straightforward.

    If and when Tableau learns to recognize data that’s organized in forms other simple tables (whether single tables or recordset composites) we’ll be able to concentrate on conducting the analysis that matters rather than restructuring and reforming data to accommodate Tableau’s foibles.

    Until then we’ll need to wrangle data, by manipulating it outside Tableau, using custom SQL, and/or data blending, as required by the specifics of the visualization we desire and suffer all of the consequences you laid out.

    Reply

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