by clicking on the page. A slider will appear, allowing you to adjust your zoom level. Return to the original size by clicking on the page again.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider on the top right.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field and click on "In This Issue" or "All Issues" to search the current issue or the archive of back issues respectively.
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
this publication and page.
displays a table of sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays thumbnails of every page in the issue. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse through every available issue.
FCW : January 2015
DrillDown 32 January 2015 FCW.COM analysis experts. Thanks to increas- ingly user-friendly software, anyone can use data — from executives on down. Such software is designed with the strengths and weaknesses of the human visual system in mind, unlike hard-to-read spreadsheets and other cumbersome tools. Such software makes data analysis democratic, and it brings increased speed and efficiency. For example, at the Department of Veterans Affairs, data analysis tools have enabled employees to get a handle on data without waiting for cumbersome reports from the IT department. Tommy Sowers, former assistant secretary of public and inter- governmental affairs at VA, launched a national outreach program in 2013 that included a data analysis project to locate areas with large clusters of veterans. Thanks to new business intelligence tools, everyone at the agency could access the data. Sowers said such soft- ware allows people to “dive into the data and really explore without inter- ruption or the need to wait for another report to be run.” 2. Showcase relevant, actionable information. “Open data” is a broad term, but it doesn’t mean you can just dump all data on consumers willy-nilly. You must make sure your agency is using the most relevant data and, more important, providing ways to access data that any consumer or decision- maker could manage. One way of gathering data is via a mashup. Mashups are a popular trend in books. Highlights include “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which merges a literary classic with the horror genre, and “Two Gentlemen of Lebowski,” which retells “The Big Lebowski” film as a Shakespearean play. Mashups are important to data as well. It is a powerful method that involves bringing more than one data source together. Data analysis soft- ware allows for many types of mash- ups, which diversifies the results and content of your data portal. The results aren’t as weird or extreme as in litera- ture, but they are extremely useful for federal agencies. 3. Use data visualization to tell sto- ries. In a similar vein, agencies should make a habit of using dashboards to tell a story. People think in stories. We’re used to hearing them from infancy, and we keep hearing, seeing and telling stories our entire lives. So it makes sense to find the story in your data and present it. A strong narra- tive — which can be reinforced with a mix of text and images along with charts and graphics of various sorts — can make data come alive for users. Storytelling is the key to communi- cation. Don’t neglect it when dealing with data. For example, a data visualization of crimes in Hartford, Conn., doesn’t sim- ply tell people about crime, it shows exactly what types of crimes — such as robbery, homicide and aggravated assault — have occurred and where such crimes tend to cluster. People can also see what percentage of those crimes are open cases and which ones have led to arrests of adults or juve- niles. The dashboard allows for a high degree of interactivity that could be implemented on the federal level, which leads to the next point. 4. Allow for interaction and col- laboration. By suggesting you select the most relevant information and use that information to tell a story, it might sound as though data visualizations are one-way info dumps. They shouldn’t be. Instead, you should incorporate options and choices for users so they can adjust information and follow the data down the path they choose. This allows the narrative to be influenced by the reader, much like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. For example, if part of your data is geographical, a person should be able to access the data that most affects his or her location. Depending on the data, similar choices might involve some- one’s gender, age, income bracket or profession. If you think ahead to what people want, you can tailor the choices accordingly. For example, Tantus Technolo- gies works with the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies to develop dashboards that analyze and visualize financial data. With the help of Tantus, agencies are better able to understand their financial picture, but the understanding isn’t a one-way report. The tools allow for real collabo- ration rather than the real frustration of trying to manipulate and understand a spreadsheet. Any aspect of the FAA’s finances can be explored by the agen- cy’s employees. 5. Make all of the above accessible. You could create the most useful, user- friendly, narrative, collaborative dash- boards in the world, but if they’re hard to find or get into, you have wasted time, money and energy. Make sure the fruits of your labor are easily acces- sible for consumers. Don’t bury the data in a labyrinth of confusing links. Make it prominent on your homepage and as easy to find as possible. Also, seek feedback on every aspect of how you’re presenting the data. Is it as easy to access as you had hoped? Is crucial information missing? What could improve the experience for users? Making great dashboards is rarely a one-and-done process, and feedback is essential. If you encourage — and use — feedback from the people who use your data, you’ll multiply your chances of creating open, transparent and suc- cessful data portals. n Christine Carmichael is marketing segment manager for the Public Sector Group at Tableau Software. 0115fcw_031-032.indd 32 1/6/15 3:46 PM
November and December 2014