Cheyne Capital frees data with Tableau

Cheyne Capital is an independent hedge fund firm. One of Europe’s leading alternative asset management companies, the firm’s main areas of expertise include corporate credit, real estate and asset-backed strategies, event driven, equity and equity linked strategies, and tailor-made investment programs. At the 2011 U.S. Tableau Customer Conference, Sheel Bhatiani, Lead Software Developer for Cheyne Capital, shared how Tableau helps his team “free the data.”

Tableau: What made you check out Tableau?
Sheel Bhatiani, Lead Software Developer: We want to free our data. It's as simple as that. So, I took a little look, and I saw a brief demo of somebody who was using Tableau. I saw them use one worksheet and I thought, well, that's just pivot tables. Big deal, I can do that. I took a second look, and I saw the dashboard, and thought, there is something I've never seen before. I saw the action filters and that blew me away. I thought I really have to check this product out.

Tableau: On what type of project did you originally use Tableau?
Sheel: One of our first applications was a customer query saying we need to build an application to manage their business. They were asking for a big development build. We thought maybe we could do it slightly differently. Rather than building a whole massive user interface and the databases behind it and all the automation and the server side components, why don't we just show you all your data? Let’s put it all here in one small warehouse and we'll give you Tableau. And they loved it. They have everything at their fingertips.

Tableau: And word got around about the easy-to-use new tool?
Sheel: The way our trading desks are organized, they all kind of sit near each other. And so, you know, people see what's going on and we had another request from our risk department. They were also interested in flexible reporting on top of our risk warehouse. We’d already built the back-end, so the database was already there, and we'd actually started to build a little bit of a flexible reporting solution ourselves... That was when we thought, well, we should probably stop that, we just had really good experience with the Tableau, let's bring that to the game.

Tableau: Did Tableau help cut down the amount of software you needed to build?
Sheel: At that point, we could get rid of all the flexible reporting we'd built on top, no need to maintain that, no need to develop that. No need to go through the cycle of users saying, “Oh, but wouldn't it be great if we had a control that would filter it like this” or “We want to see our data that way.” So, we got rid of that and put Tableau on top of it.

Tableau: And your customers still get the views they need?
Sheel: The users themselves can say, “Oh, I want to see this a different way.” Click, click, and it's there. Even if they're not quite sure how to do it, they phone us up, a few clicks later, and we turn around the call.

The users themselves can say, “Oh, I want to see this a different way.” Click, click, and it's there.

Tableau: So you’re providing self-service business intelligence?
Sheel: We'd like to make it completely self-service. But it's a real learning process for the business to realize that they can work in this way. They've never worked like that before. They're used to phoning people up and e-mailing spreadsheets around. So, it's a difficult challenge to get people thinking in this new way that “Hey, here's the data. Here's where you can find it. Here’s a link; go and look at it yourself.”

Tableau: Are you finding it easy to implement?
Sheel: From the desktop point of view, it's just another client application. I look at it as an extension to Office. It sits beautifully next to Excel on your desktop. There's nothing for us to maintain there, installing an application on a desktop PC is something our desktop support team does regularly. There's no additional training required to get up and running.

Tableau: How do you train people on Tableau?
Sheel: I recommend the online training. I did all the web training, which was fantastic. As new people join the company and pick up the tool, we just say it's all available online for free, go and have a look. Whenever you have time, you can pick it up in bite-sized chunks, you don't have to commit a whole day to it, pick it up as you like.

Tableau: How has Tableau impacted your company?
Sheel: Our traders now while they're on the phone, while they're being quoted prices, they can look up in real time how much more of this product can they buy. We have a dashboard set up to answer that specific question. They've never been able to do that before. For our risk department, they can look at our exposures and aggregate them across all our funds in a uniform way. Our portfolio management group now has really good control over seeing all the funds that they manage in one place. And the portfolio managers can see where they are today, how much cash they have, what securities they’ve bought, how they are performing over time. That is all right there, what trades have they done recently.

Tableau: How do you control permissions for who can access which data?
Sheel: We're a Microsoft shop. We have Active Directory, plugs right in, and it's actually a really nice single sign-on user experience for Tableau Desktop. There are no logon screens or anything. And when people look at their dataset, because all the permissioning is coming from SQL Server, they only see the data they're entitled to within our system.

Tableau: So you’re pleased with the security?
Sheel: We definitely look at the security, the reliability, the scalability. These are always our primary concerns. In terms of scalability and performance, that's all taken care of on the database side, and when we look at our deployments for Tableau Desktop, it's all NT authentication, that fits perfectly into our environment. So, we can create one dashboard, publish it to the entire company, and no matter what group you're in you'll only see data that's relevant to you. You'll never see something you're not entitled to, because that is enforced at the database level. SQL Server simply will not give you that information. So, it was a really good match with our security policies, certainly on the desktop side.

Tableau: Do you use Tableau for your own department?
Sheel: I use Tableau to look at what is my team doing: How many support calls are we answering? Who are they coming from? Which applications are the most expensive to support? What could we do to bring that cost down? Where is the demand coming from in terms of new developments? What does that pipeline look like? Are we serving that quick enough? What are the new projects coming up? Do we have enough resources to meet those demands over the next quarter, over the next six months, over the next year? We launch a lot of new funds all the time, and business is really picking up over the last year. So, we need to know that we have the resources available to meet that, so we don’t have to say, "well, you can't launch that fund today, because we're too busy doing this other project."

Tableau: Any suggestions on how to create interest in Tableau internally?
Sheel: The way we approached that was to put up a series of demos, simple stuff, to just show what we can do with our existing datasets, and took that to a senior level. Those guys obviously loved it; they saw the power of what you can get out of that, and they kind of pushed the message down. Then, that way we kind of get a bit of interest from the business side coming to us and saying let's work together. They say things like, “That demo does look really cool. Oh, and can you do this and can you do that?” And very quickly you've got projects off the ground.

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