The COVID-19 crisis has taken the world by storm and disrupted everything. Shutdown of non-essential business, stay-at-home orders, and travel bans has wreaked businesses. Businesses, even when they function, have no option but to take adequate precautions and change. They have to:
- Keep a close eye on how the COVID-19 induced changes affect demand for their products and, by extension, their bottom-line. For instance, educational institutions may have to migrate to online classes quickly. A travel agency may have no option but to downscale. A cleaning company may have to prepare for extra demand as demand for infection clean-ups increases
- Analyse how the pandemic changes their business models. The disruption caused by COVID-19 puts severe cash flow strain on many businesses. Government regulations may force the business to close or operate to reduce hours. The climate of fear and uncertainty is causing customers to stop venturing out.
- Change operating procedures. The priority for businesses is to ensure personal protective equipment such as facemask and gloves for their employees. They have to enforce social distancing in the workspace and shop floors, and enable work-from-home for employees. They have to ensure contactless delivery of products and services.
- Keep up-to-date with government regulations, health bulletins, and other critical information.
- Switch-over to virtual events and conferences. As a portent of things to come, Salesforce has turned many in-person events into virtual events. The World Tour Sydney had 80,000+ customers attending digitally. The second annual Trailblazing Women Summit attracted 1.2 million plus unique online viewers.
Decisions makers need data insights to make effective decisions towards such ends. Salesforce and Tableau have applied innovation and creativity to curate new digital experiences. In the time of crisis, they have made available to customers the underlying tool that powers such decisions.
Tableau’s COVID-19 Dashboard
Up-to-date, trusted information is essential to make critical decisions for your business.
The generic data available in the media does not provide answers that enterprises and individuals want. For instance, the media does not answer questions like “What’s happening at employee locations?”, “What is the state of COVID-19 in key supply chain locations?” and “Is the customer location a COVID-19 hotspot?” Such a lack of reliable, specific, and up-to-date data adds to the uncertainty in an already fluid situation.
Tableau’s COVID-19 dashboard offers a snapshot of coronavirus cases drilled down by country and specific regions. The dashboard shows confirmed cases, rate of daily change, new cases, reported death and the rate of daily change, and the new deaths. The graph updates daily at 10 p.m. PST, with data derived from Johns Hopkins University data.
The dashboard offers options to:
- Drill down the information to country and region, and further filter it on various parameters such as day or week. For instance, the user can drill down to the cases in the USA, and further filter it by the number of active cases in the Bay Area on a specific week.
- Toggle between reported cases and deaths.
- View the weekly time-lapse, depicting a graphical illustration of the spread (or decline) in infection rate and deaths.
Salesforce and Tableau subscribers may access the dashboard and resources free of cost.
The basic Tableau dashboard, compiled by Datablick MD Anya A’Hearn, contains COVID-19 data from Johns Hopkins University. Tableau allows users to build on this COVID-19 dashboard.
The single source of data available in the Tableau COVID-19 dashboard is easy to blend with data from individual enterprises. Enterprises can collate data to make timely and accurate decisions.
Many users leverage these resources to create very informative viz. A viz is embedded visualizations within tooltips. When a user hovers over a mark, the tooltip displays relevant data and details from other visualizations filtered to the mark. Tableau Public hosts thousands of viz on Coronavirus. There are 11732 viz at last count, with the number increasing every day.
Tableau has taken the help of health and data visualization experts to create a gallery of the most impactful community-generated work. These works are available at:
The gallery is a reliable, one-point source for the latest data and information on coronavirus from around the globe. Experts vet and update the gallery. Users may explore case tracking data specific to locations, or by use-case specific to businesses and other vectors.
Some viz in the gallery pertain to:
- Rolling week by week comparisons
- Day to day change with animation
- Map and crosstabs on global cases, US cases, and other regions
- Time series on US cases, and cases in other regions
- Dashboards of country-wise cases, including Canada, Columbia, England, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain, USA
- Graphical illustration of state, country or province wise stats, such as California, London., Pennsylvania, Colorado and various other regions
- Seattle area emergency food resources
- Economy recovery signals in the USA and other countries
- New Delhi Air Quality Index, as an impact of lockdowns
- Economic inequality working from home
- US retail closures
These powerful visualizations on COVID-19 and related information shed valuable insights on the state of the pandemic and its effect on select locations. Businesses can draw invaluable ground-level information specific to their regions of operations, or regions where they have active supply chain movements.
Several US state and local governments use Tableau Public to analyze data and communicate significant decisions related to business closures and stay-at-home orders. The success of such decisions depends on their ability to access the right data, refresh it, analyze it, and then pivot if something challenges previous assumptions.
Tableau’s analytics team work with governments to provide transparent and accurate data.
- California Health and Human Services have two dashboards on Tableau Public: One displays COVID-19 case statistics at the state and county level. The other reveals data on the state’s hospital system.
- Ohio Department of Health has a dashboard that co-opts a forecasting model built by Ohio State University. It shows the projected trajectory of the virus in Ohio.
- The dashboard created by the Wyoming Department of Health tracks case data. Wyoming’s dashboard stands out for its more granular nature. It includes more baseline data such as hospitalizations and the number of positive tests and the number of cases by exposure risk. For instance, it distinguishes cases between a person having contact with a known case and travelling domestic or abroad. It allows drill-down based on the symptoms.
- The Fraser Health Authority at Vancouver, British Columbia creates a map that reflects data shared by people on check-ins related to stay-at-home, self-isolation, or social distancing. The map reflects these check-ins against reported case data.
These dashboards communicate vital information and keep the public in the loop. It allows the populace to see the rationale behind the decisions, and make them partners or stakeholders of the effort. Without such dashboards, people cannot see the effect of the decisions.
Tableau allows enterprises to generate their own analysis with the data provided.
Apart from the curated viz from the community, Tableau offers:
- Free access to trusted data resources, through the COVID-19 Data Hub. The resource page containing a comprehensive set of the latest information is free for Salesforce and Tableau users. It contains a ready-to-use data stream of case reports from sources such as Johns Hopkins University, WHO and CDC. They update the data daily. Tableau cleanses and reshapes the raw data, making it ready for user analysis.
- Jumpstart workbook: The downloadable workbook comes with the starter dashboard and embedded connection to a clean Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Data Stream. The data from John Hopkins University combines WHO and CDC case data. Any user may blend their data using the instructions provided in the workbook. The mix of data would allow enterprises to understand the impact of coronavirus on their organization in a much better way.
- Live training to power the analysis: Tableau offers 30-minute training sessions with an expert. The session guides users to connect the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 data with user data using a pre-built template. Users may submit their data sources and other resources to help the world better understand the impact of coronavirus.
Creating customized visualizations with COVID-19 using these resources to derive actionable insights is easy. It entails a four-pronged approach of:
1. Preparing data for analysis using Prep.
2. Placing the data using the powerful drag-and-drop analytics in the dashboard.
3. Sharing the uploaded data and insights using the server or online.
4. Watch the data-driven decisions spread in the viz.
Users may download COVID-19 case data through a Web Data Connector from data.world. The data.world data platform allows users to post, search, and collaborate on data sets on a large and meaningful scale.
It is possible to use Google Sheets as a data source in the Tableau desktop, using the Google Sheets connector. Google sheets offer the advantage of automatic updates once a day. But it comes with a risk of periodic outages during peak usage times.
Curated Dashboards in Action
Several businesses have already leveraged Tableau’s dashboard and resources to make critical decisions on time.
- A pharmaceutical company relied on the dashboard insights to ship 400,000 test kits to the communities most in need.
- A manufacturer with global supply chains relies on the dashboard insights to protect the health of its 100,000+ workforce worldwide. The company merges COVID-19 data with HR data to protect employees while returning to normal operations.
- A multi-state healthcare provider uses insights from these dashboards to manage millions of pieces of medical supplies. The dashboard helps hospital leaders connect to their data sources to view critical hospital-level data, from patient data to PPE availability. Decisions based on the dashboard insights make available protective equipment to doctors and nurses.
- A non-profit raised a $200 million fund and relied on the information from the dashboard to keep small businesses afloat.
The Challenge of Getting Data Visualization Right
Data-driven decision-making is only as good as the data that goes into the analysis. Enterprises striving to make data-driven decisions have to:
- Set-up state of the data analytical tools. The best tool scours data within and outside the enterprise. A powerful analytics tool capable of identifying relevant data, and processing disparate data from various sources, becomes essential.
- Train employees in data skills and handling data. A functional data-driven decision-making set-up requires employees to be competent in handling data. It requires a self-service model for employees to access the required data, subject to security and governance protocols.
- Create a culture encouraging critical thinking and curiosity. This includes ending data-silos and encouraging transparency. Only free sharing of information and openness gives the analytical engine access to critical data.
Establishing these core capabilities encourages data-driven decision making across levels. While 98.6% of executives prefer a data-driven culture, only 32.4% achieve success. Enterprises invest trillions of dollars to modernize their business. But 70% of the initiatives fail because they prioritize technology investments without a supporting data culture.
Managing COVID-19 data raises special challenges. It is difficult to estimate an accurate count for the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide, due to different approaches to testing and reporting in different countries. While hospitalization data covers confirmed cases, sometimes the count includes presumed or suspected COVID-19 cases caused by the vagaries of testing. The complexities associated with case data raises leaves a margin of error for fatality rate. The many unknowns associated with coronavirus makes disease modelling and forecasting hard.
Another challenge relates to enterprise data. The prerequisite to collating enterprise data is access to enterprise data.
There is no workaround to creating open, transparent communication channels. Salesforce offers a good benchmark. The company use Chatter, the internal social networking tool, to share news and information across the board. Salesforce has created a coronavirus Updates group for employees to ask questions. Each office location has its Chatter group to share information. Digital signage on the login page share critical announcements. A Quip document updated daily with the latest guidelines and resources is the single source of truth.
As long as enterprises can rise to overcome such challenges, Tableau’s COVID-19 Data Resource Hub and Salesforce Health Cloud offers access to timely, trustworthy information. The information is easy to analyse and help people make critical business decisions.
Tableau’s initiatives are part of its community outreach and social responsibility to safeguard its stakeholders, including employees, customers and the wider communities. Often, the heaviest burden of such crisis falls on those with the fewest resources to absorb them. The easy availability of COVID-19 information is a step towards mitigating disparities and helping businesses make informed decisions to mitigate the shock.