Amylin Pharmaceuticals speeds insight with 100 million rows

Amylin Pharmaceuticals is a bio-pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving lives by discovering, developing and commercializing innovative medicines. It's particularly focused on the creation of novel and groundbreaking therapies for the treatment of diabetes, obesity and other metabolic diseases. In this interview, Rommel Fernandez, Director of Commercial Insights and Danielle Miller, Manager of Sales Operations discuss how Tableau has transformed analysis and improved operations at Amylin.

Tableau: How are you using Tableau at Amylin?
Rommel Fernandez, Director of Commercial Insights: We think Tableau is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Through all its statistical capabilities, Tableau gives me the ability to visually and analytically see which information I should pay attention to. I can quickly review all of our information assets to determine what we should focus on. It enables us to leverage that information, make decisions and gain insights in everything from prescription data and profile data to sales force activity.

Danielle Miller, Manager of Sales Operations: From an operations perspective, sales and marketing teams aren't used to working with data, they're not data enthusiasts. So Tableau’s visualizations have really helped us to bridge that conversation and help us inform those teams and help them make decisions.

Tableau: How has Tableau allowed your team to work more efficiently?
Rommel: With Tableau, we can look at our information assets across the spectrum and we can optimize our resources to support not only the healthcare providers, but also the patients that they serve.

Danielle: You're saving way more time working in Tableau and you're able to do so much more. The fact that you can do the table calculations, look at year over year, do moving averages all with point and click using the Graphical User Interface (GUI) and it's so intuitive, means that you can get a lot more done, and actually look at lot deeper than you would previously with just say in Excel or even using other graphing functionality in say a SaaS or other types of software.

Tableau: Where is your data stored?
Rommel: I use sources like MySQL and Infobright to stage a lot of my information. We have our own data warehouses, so this is my data mart. It houses sales force activity, prescription data, demographic information, even census information to look at commercial models to help us determine how we optimize and size our sales forces. In terms of size, I'm at least 100 million records in this little data mart on a secondary desktop that just sits on my desk. That's what's so great about Tableau—it seems to be able to load up as much data as my laptop can handle. I can cut, slice, dice, color—do all kinds of things with Tableau with millions of records or rows of data without breaking a sweat.

What would have taken me five hours to do, I can do in one with Tableau.

Tableau: How has Tableau changed the way you work?
Rommel: What would have taken me five hours to do, I can do in one with Tableau. It’s probably greater to be honest with you. It allows me to be more exploratory; to be able to ask questions if not this, then that. Before, I had to lead with a question and then all my time was spent answering that question, and then if it was right or wrong, then ask another question. It’s just speed to answers or speed to insight, that's what has really helped me professionally and personally with Tableau.
Danielle: Tableau puts a powerful tool in the hands of people that need to perform analytics to answer questions— and also build prototypes. With the dashboard capabilities with Tableau, we're able to build dashboards on the fly to do the exploratory analytics and determine what data is worth being looked at.

Tableau: How does Tableau help you communicate insights across the organization?
Rommel: It’s not only, "how quickly can I arrive at an answer that I believe in?" but also, "how can I sell that to the rest of the organization?" The analysis is just the first step. But once I've got that, I've got to tell the story. Tableau helps me explain to leadership why based off of this insight, we're making a decision that will impact the organization. And that's cross-functional in any industry that you're a part of.

Tableau: Do you have an example of how visualizations helped you communicate better?
Danielle: We used the mapping functionality in Tableau to track our sales force calls by the zip code level. Our sales force was going out there making calls every day, but had no idea when they’d hit our region frequency. When you can put that in a meaningful map and show them the deficit in particular areas of doctors they may not be reaching—that was an ‘a-ha’ moment where they realized we weren't trying to slap them down and say you need to make more calls, but rather “Hey, look at this, here's a visualization that shows how you're managing your territory and what's going on in there.”

Tableau: What value has Tableau brought to Amylin?
Danielle: We have business users don't want to go through tons of data, but when you can get it in a format and create a dashboard and enable the flexibility to filter and change metrics with the parameters, then you can create dashboards that they find really useful. Tableau allows us from the analytics perspective to build dashboards based on what we feel that users will need, and it also gives them the ability to then go in and further mine down to their geographic granular level.

Rommel: Speed is the biggest change—because we can get through so much information to arrive at our answers or insights more quickly. Then Tableau gives us the ability to communicate effectively visually. It’s also helped get rid of the fear of looking at data. Resources are tight, time is tight and data can be complex. So when trying to answer a question, there's probably a hundred ways to answer it—but some of the questions that derive from those answers are just as important. Sometimes you've just got to let the data lead you instead of you leading the data. And Tableau allows you to load in as much data as possible, have fun with it and see where it takes you.

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