Comprehensive self-service reporting and analytics
In this case study, we explore how we worked in partnership with our client, a leading building products and construction materials group with over 12,000 employees, to replace an ageing Cognos environment with an optimised solution for self-service reporting and analytics. Following deep dive business analysis, we recommended and implemented Tableau which has had strong user uptake and led to considerable time savings. Our client’s users are now empowered to build their own reports and dashboards without relying on IT.
Our client had been using IBM Cognos reporting software for some time, however it was no longer meeting the needs of their business.
Their National Finance Centre (NFC) team had little to no ability to customise reports and manage their general ledger effectively. Additionally, making changes to the data structure was a sizeable challenge, and the business was becoming increasingly frustrated by the significant effort required to interrogate, analyse and visualise their data.
The organisation sought a new business intelligence (BI) solution that was flexible, adaptable and easy to use. They had identified several potential Cognos replacements, but needed guidance on which solution was best suited to both their current and future requirements.
We were engaged to identify the most appropriate BI tool and implement the preferred solution.
After establishing a rich understanding of the organisation and operations, we identified Tableau as the optimal solution for generating customised reporting, visual analytics, self-service financial reporting and analytics.
Tableau was selected for several reasons:
- Ease of use: Our client needed a solution that could be managed in-house by their NFC team, without reliance on IT resource. Tableau is built for the everyday business user, which means it can be easily used to rapidly load, clean, analyse, interrogate and visualise complex datasets to gain actionable insights.
- Geospatial: Operating across multiple countries and geographies, the organisation needed to be able to analyse data by region. Tableau is the market leader in data visualisation and its ability to support visual analyses of geographical data is among its greatest strengths.
- Trends and forecasting: As a growing business, it was essential that the platform could support sophisticated trend analysis and forecasting. Both are inherent features of Tableau.
- Security: With highly sensitive commercial data at stake, it was imperative for the chosen solution to have strong security. Tableau’s authentication and authorisation features met all of the organisation’s stringent data and application security requirements.
- Data structure: Our client required metadata-based reporting, in which the metadata for all data sources was stored centrally. Users needed to be able to connect to a central data source to create reports, thereby using consistent metadata. Tableau Data Server was the perfect fit.
We first developed a security model, assisted in building a back-end abstraction layer on top of their data structures, and managed the installation of the Tableau Server.
Over the following months, we designed and built a suite of customised Tableau reports and visualisations, including General Ledger reporting to support the NFC team and create a deeper understanding of enterprise performance.
Finally, we provided training and support for the in-house team to uplift their skills and ensure they would be ready to take ownership of the new enterprise analytics platform.
We’ve worked with six different consultants from Analytics8 to date. It’s a real testament to Analytics8 that every one has had an advanced skill level. Everyone who’s been on this job has been of an extremely high calibre.
The implementation of Tableau has been a clear success for our client. Around 500 users throughout the organisation are using Tableau to view reports and explore their data. Engagement with Tableau has extended well beyond the finance team, with Sales, Compliance and Logistics all now using Tableau to manage their information needs.
Tableau users within the business are extremely positive about the user experience, and team members are now empowered to easily and efficiently surface insights from their data. Compelling visualisations make complex data accessible and assist in communicating data insights to internal stakeholders and management.
I like that Analytics8 brings oversight. It’s not that we lack talent or the ability to do things ourselves. Rather, Analytics8 brings depth and vision. Its consultants bring a fresh perspective that helps us avoid becoming myopic in the way we look at things. Their disciplined approach means that they see what we don’t see, and bring more rigour. In the end, that’s what leads to a better result.
Importantly, the organisation’s finance team is now confident and capable in designing Tableau reports and dashboards independently and are no longer reliant on IT to manage their reporting needs
Analytics8 is very knowledgeable. We initially started working with them on projects only, but our relationship has evolved, and we use them to supplement and enhance the capabilities of our existing team. It’s not just about performing tasks, but also building our skills internally. You can send people on a training course, sure, but we’ve found it to be more valuable to bring in Analytics8 to show people how to use technologies using our own data and systems.
The organisation plans to roll out Tableau across other parts of their business, and ultimately upskill its staff by transforming ‘report consumers’ into a team of analysts that can uncover valuable insights by using sophisticated yet easy to use self-service analysis tools.
Analytics8 is a technology agnostic advisor and implementation partner, not a software reseller. We pride ourselves on being able to provide businesses with genuine, unbiased advice based on our deep experience in data warehousing, business intelligence and advanced analytics. Our team is passionate about transforming data into usable information and actionable insight and has the skills and experience to deliver projects irrespective of an organisation’s current technology mix.