The heavy work of clearing mines from war-torn areas around the world is no easy street for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). This is the story of how the visualization tool Tableau helps to make mine clearing more efficient – and thereby saving lives.

In summary

  • Norwegian People’s Aid work to clear mines in 40 countries, and generate enormous amounts of data
  • The challenge has been to extract and compare relevant data in meaningful graphs
  • Tableau was employed, using several different dashboards, to work as a decision tool for leaders on multiple levels, and for donors
  • Data visualization contributes to better overview and resource allocation, and increased efficiency.
  • Grow-as-you-go is an optimal model for need based usage

More efficient mine clearing means fewer people get hurt by undetonated mines and bombs left in battlefields. In 2013, there were 3,308 registered deaths worldwide – 79% civilians, of which 46% were children.

Recently, the work to clear mines and undetonated explosives from war has increased, yet become more efficient thanks to better equipment and better techniques. All mine clearing work is carefully logged, and the amount of data collected in a year is staggeringly high.

Initiative to a better solution

Mohammad Qasim Hashimi at the Norwegian People’s Aid headquarter in Oslo was the initiator to finding a better solution to complicated and unclear excel sheets, SharePoint data and graphs produced by people not necessarily proficient or effective in visual analysis.

Qasim started using Tableau in 2016 to standardize visualization – both in collating data sources and the visual data presentation. This has enabled NPA to interpret the enormous amounts of field data quicker and easier. Using custom dashboards, Qasim set up automated routines to fetch data from relevant sources.

Visualization increases the quality of the reports

Using field data and geographical information systems (GIS) Qasim has developed a methodology in Tableau to generate good reports and presentations of graphs and figures.

“The visualization tool has increased the quality of the reports significantly, and has given leaders on all levels – including top management at headquarters – an easy overview to see correlations they previously could not, without time-consuming work using multiple excel sheets and data sources,” explains Mohammad Qasim Hashimi.

The methodology and models developed by Qasim has yielded great results, and it is now much easier for leaders to understand and interpret the whole situation – and to drill down to program level. The methodology has proved to fit NPA-programs in other countries that face similar challenges in mine clearing. In addition, data visualization is important to attract and engage donors and other financial supporters.

A dashboard for any occasion

Qasim explains that the different, custom dashboards in Tableau automatically fetch data from SharePoint and other sources to generate the various reports and analysis.

“On an operational level, you can view all activity details, team efficiency, the tools used, and compare teams, mine dogs, days, weeks and months. On a management level the dashboards will display trends, areas that are improving or in need of improvement, teams that have down time, cost analysis and more. At headquarters, we use several global dashboards where we gather all available data from the programs in all countries,” he says.

This is how leaders can easily see the general productivity in a week or month, different trends, and general status to identify challenges. When all data is available to leaders, they can much quicker reach decisions about resource allocation, techniques and methodologies for mine clearing based on new discoveries and team efficiency.

“The advantage of a self-service solution such as Tableau, is that it is very easy for everyone to get access to- and generate relevant reports without the need for data visualization experience,” says Qasim. “We started with a single licence, and now we see that more and more leaders in different areas want access to the same tool. To us, the grow-as-you-go licence model is very practical.”

 

Example of a dashboard in Tableau showing the local mine clearing program in Zimbabwe summarized.

 

50.000 organizations use Tableau today, which is named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant (5th year running) for Business Intelligence and Analytics. Affecto is the leading supplier in the Nordics of Business Intelligence solutions. Affecto is also a Tableau Gold Partner and has some of the most enthusiastic Tableau instructors in the business.

About Norwegian People’s Aid

Norwegian People’s Aid is present in 40 countries. Mine clearing is just one of several focus areas, and sorts under Human Disarmament / Mines and Explosive Remnants of War: https://www.npaid.org/Our-Work/Humanitarian-Disarmament/The-Threats/Mines-and-Explosive-Remnants-of-War