Jaguar Land Rover turns to Tableau to give staff analytics dashboards that "just work"

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© Jaguar Land Rover

The carmaker is adopting Google's Big Query for its data lake and is giving staff access to Tableau dashboards in order to democratise analytics across the organisation

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Jaguar Land Rover has more than doubled its use of the data visualisation tool Tableau from just 200 unique users six months ago to 536 a week today, as it seeks to democratise analytics across all departments within the business.

Speaking at the Gartner Data and Analytics Summit in London yesterday, Clive Benford, senior analytics programme manager at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) explained how the adoption of Tableau has made analytics "so easy that the conversations people have aren't about the tool".

The company is looking to promote more self-service analytics through the creation and consumption of Tableau analytics dashboards. This is important for an organisation which has grown from producing 200,000 cars a year from the West Midlands in 2008 to producing 600,000 vehicles a year from five countries and employing 45,000 people today.

Read next: Jaguar Land Rover: British manufacturing must harness data to survive

Benford said that Tableau adoption started from the top with CEO Dr Ralf Speth.

"We had a couple of teams using Tableau who were improving reporting in their area," Benford said. "There was one demonstration in a meeting with the CEO and he insisted that all board reporting had to happen in Tableau. Nine months later we have touch screens in our boardroom and seven of ten business areas have their board reporting in Tableau."

According to Benford, the beauty of Tableau is how the visualisations help "close the gap between the analyst and the end user [so that] analytics energy is focused on what analytics to do, not how," he said.

Case study: selling customised options

Benford gave the example of looking into how well JLR dealers were selling customisation options for its models, which could be anything from a panoramic roof to a hub cap or a heads up display.

“The data preparation is simple, we get the historical sales," he explained. "The analytics is fairly simple as well, we draw a graph for each of our models to see what the average options revenue is.

"We can drill down and look beneath that to see all of the derivatives of that one model and what stood out is the huge amount of variance there, so no one could tell me that it was an optimised performance."

Subsequently JLR developed a Tableau dashboard with single sign-on for dealers where they could see their key performance indicators (KPIs) benchmarked against other local dealerships.

Getting this up and running required bringing in the dealer relations team as well as training dealers to use the dashboard.

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Going further, Benford expects this specific dashboard will be of value across the wider business.  He said: "Marketing are going to want to look at this for obvious reasons, product design for how they will want to design products in the future, sales for predicting future sales, purchasing for supply chain, and learning and development to understand if the training courses are having the desired affect."

Now, whenever the central analytics team creates a piece of analytics or sees another team producing something, they link them up with other business areas that may be able to make use of it.

Data Lake

Elsewhere, JLR is still doing some business intelligence reporting directly within its on-premise SAP solutions, but is now running its daily backups from these systems into Google's Big Query cloud platform to facilitate the building of a company-wide data lake.

Read next: How Jaguar Land Rover reaches a financial close quicker in SAP - without Hana

Another benefit of Tableau for Benford is how well it integrates with Big Query.

"It communicates with the lake extremely well," Benford explained. "What I mean by that is Tableau constructs its queries in a way that Google Big Query does most of the processing. This means we can spread our server very far indeed and that we get high performance on quite large data sets."

This has helped cut down on shadow IT where teams want to collaborate on projects, as they can now upload their own data into the lake, but only with the right training and governance in place.

Hiring

JLR is quickly growing its analytics capability and is planning to hire around 40 specialists this year, including data engineers, analytics architects and data scientists.

Currently Benford admits that 65 percent of the business don't have to worry about analytics, but of the remainder he counts between 1,800 to 2,500 of the total staff at the company as "citizen analysts" – so staff across various departments that do analytics as part of their day job and will be creating Tableau dashboards themselves.

According to Benford, the key for these employees is to "make analytics easy, so they focus on the what to analyse not how". JLR enables that as an organisation with analytics training, and Benford said when he initially set up Tableau training with 60 vacancies, the course was filled by the end of the first day.

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Then there are the 600 to 1,200 "analytics professionals and developers" whose primary role is data analytics. Finally there is the "analytics leaders" team of 115-150 people, whose job is to enable the analytics professionals and to make sure that consumption of analytics is prevalent across the business.

"If we can create an analytics environment that is so simple that people end up doing analytics while focusing on other core passions, then they will start doing analytics," he said. "If we tell them they have to start learning SQL query, they will tell us where to go."

Benford shared an example which really shows how an easy-to-use analytics tool can allow anyone in the business to create real value.

An intern at the company recently took 39 business hypotheses from a brainstorming session and within two days had worked in Tableau to narrow them down to "three significant business findings" and presented them back to the business.

"Someone at a senior level has agreed that we can make savings of tens of millions thanks to this work," Benford said. "The analytics hasn't saved the money, but it has created the opportunity."

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