Trunk Club cuts reporting time from weeks to days with self-service analytics

Trunk Club is an online personal styling service, helping people find fashionable clothing—without the work. When it comes to pleasing clients, data is key to Trunk Club’s success. In this video, Brian O’Connor, Senior Director of Business Intelligence and Meagan Colbenson, Senior Manager of Business Intelligence speak about how Tableau has helped Trunk Club move to a self-service model, speeding up analysis time from weeks to days.

Trunk Club offers an online personal styling service—shipping fashionable items straight to people’s doorsteps. When it comes to compiling ‘trunks’ on a daily basis, data is key to keeping stylists on track and clients happy.

In video 1, Brian O’Connor, Senior Director of Business Intelligence speaks about how Tableau has transformed the culture of operations, illuminating the data and driving friendly competition between teams.

In video 2, Meagan Colbenson, Senior Manager of Business Intelligence talks about how Tableau is “tailored for data lovers,” quickly putting data in the hands of the users who need it most.

In video 3, Brian talks about how Trunk Club balances data governance with self-service analytics.

Helping people feel great, making the data look great

Tableau: How does Tableau fit in at Trunk Club?
Brian O’Connor, Senior Director of Business Intelligence: Our philosophy is we help men look great, and Tableau is the perfect partnership in helping us make our data look great. We're e-commerce, but with a personal touch.

Tableau: How long did it take to roll out Tableau across the organization?
Brian: We rolled out Tableau in roughly like three months, so Server and 30 licenses of Desktop, and it's been great. It's been absolutely wonderful. We learned from our mistakes and what we wanted to do better—and we had a second opportunity to do it. So, it's been a lot of fun.

Tableau: What kind of data are you visualizing in Tableau?
Brian: One of the things that's great is that we collect a lot of information, around what guys like, what they've seen, what they don't like, what fits and what doesn't fit. We collect all that data.

Tableau: How has Tableau made an impact at Trunk Club?
Brian: We’ve made an impact in a lot of areas. I think the two areas that have really, really had the most impact are the operations—the warehouse. So before they were tracking what they did pretty much on spreadsheets, things like that, and it was a lot of work to really figure out what they had done. And we've now illuminated all that data.

We have dashboards in the warehouse that tell people how each team's doing. So it's created this competitive nature of, “hey, we're going to do better.” And so literally people are coming back from their lunches early and packing boxes faster. So it's kind of this fun game part of that.

Tableau: Has Tableau impacted any other areas of the business?
Brian: On the sales side, which is really, really crucial to our business—you know, how we interact with our customers and how we service them. We’ve been able to show the sales directors who have a team of stylists underneath them how everyone's doing, how their team's doing in comparison to other people, and maybe the things that they need to focus on.

Having that data in front of them—refreshed whenever they want, instead of having to go pull it and think about it—has really been able to have them turn back towards the customer. You know, interaction and customer satisfaction is the primary piece that they do every day.

Tableau: Can you share a specific moment where you saw the value of Tableau?
Brian: One of the exciting parts of my job is being able to see an Excel jockey who's very, very sophisticated in all things to do with Excel and those are great. But then turning them onto Tableau and watching like their life change and all of a sudden they're in early at work and late there at night because they're excited to work with the product and excited to uncover things.

It's fun when you give someone a Tableau license and then a month later they stop you in the hall, and they open up their laptop, and they're like, “you have to see what I just created, you have to see it.”

There’s nothing else out there like it. You know, I've looked at pretty much everything, and there's no competition.

I like Tableau because it's a more agile process. It puts the power in front of the end user who really understands what they're looking for and what they want to say with the data.

Finding the perfect fit

Tableau: Who is doing most of the reporting at Trunk Club?
Meagan Colbenson, Senior Manager of Business Intelligence: I'm pretty much doing most of the data publications. We've got a really small development team, so we're pretty scrappy. I work directly with a lot of the end users and making sure I understand what they need and we code it up in SQL and create data publications.

Tableau: What do you like most about using Tableau?
Meagan: To have a tool that's so tailored for data lovers is unbelievable. I mean, it's nice because it doesn't force you to rip apart everything that you have. It just kind of complements things you have, whether you have a big, bloated SAP implementation or something else.

Like, it just kind of works nicely in whatever environment you have. And so for me, it's nice to be able to very quickly get our data in the hands of the end users, and they're super excited. It's so rewarding. I mean, having that quick turnaround makes you feel so good about your job.

Tableau: What was the situation like before Tableau?
Meagan: Working on big data warehouse projects, which I've done, like, year-long implementations is just tedious and it takes a long time to see the reward. And by the time you get there, it's like the questions are so irrelevant now. And everybody's frustrated and they've all done their own thing.

Tableau: In your opinion, what is a benefit of using Tableau?
Meagan: It's nice to be able to try to keep up with the pace of business questions and new tech features and things like that in Tableau. I'm an Excel jockey, self-professed. And I'm like the hotkey queen, which everybody on my team kind of makes fun of me for.

But that said, I could not figure out graphs in Excel to save my life because it's so not intuitive, right? Like, you have to know which graph makes sense based on your data, you have to play around with it forever to try to figure out what makes sense. And Tableau just takes all that complexity away.

Tableau: How is Tableau different than Excel?
Meagan: It adds additional visualizations that you wouldn't have even thought of or Excel might not even have available. And, you know, they're trying to catch up now. But I think for me that was the hugest—when I first started with Tableau, that was the big selling point was, like, wow, it just looks at the data I have, and it says, "You should do these things." And that was awesome.

Tableau: Do you have an example of a time where Tableau saved you time?
Meagan: I think the big thing for me is when a user says, "I want to be able to report on this thing. It's not in the source data at all, but I have an attribute that I'm tracking in Excel. I only update it monthly, it's not a big deal."

We don't even have to bug the source team right now. I can pull it in, blend it together even in SQL or we could do it in the data publication and kick it out. And that could be done in a matter of days versus a matter of weeks—a month that it would take to take it through the full implementation and bug the source team, do ETL, all that jazz.

I mean, that's been the huge, huge increase in productivity on our side because it might not even be that important, they just don't know, right? So we have to get it in there, get it in their hands, they can prototype, and we decide if it's worth putting it into production and taking it to the next level.

Tableau: How has your team reacted to Tableau?
Meagan: You can save weeks, really. And then you can kick out another one, and another one and you serve more people and everybody's happy. They love Tableau.

Balancing governance and self-service

Tableau: Why do you use Tableau?
Brian: I like Tableau because you know, it's a more agile process. It puts the power in front of the end user who really understands what they're looking for and what they want to say with the data. And we partner on it now. So it's not us and them—it's more a partnership.

Tableau: How have you instated self-service analytics at Trunk Club?
Brian: We're not really under the IT umbrella. We’re in between the business and IT. So, you know, if the business is blue, and IT is red, we're the purple people.

And I think by us working directly with power users without a middleman has been crucial to our success. Hearing it directly from them, turning around an extract with a couple of changes in it, immediately getting feedback and getting the UAT right, you know, literally immediately. And then be able to make those into a product, has shrunk down our execution time tremendously. So I think that's one of the keys is positioning your team to be the voice for both sides. I think is really key.

Tableau: On the subject of self-service, how are you empowering your users?
Brian: The other side of the coin with self-service BI, allows you to be able to knock down these walls, get insights into these things—but you can also end up with a mess on your hands, right? And it can be a free-for-all and things like that.

I think one of the things that we've found is that the best way to use this product, the best way to empower these users is to literally let them do whatever they need to do. However, have some type of governance before things get released to executives, before they get released up top. Have sandboxes, have playground environments that you can publish to, they can consume—but only the best and brightest of those then move up and out.

Tableau: What has been a benefit of using Tableau at Trunk Club?
Brian: You know, obviously being able to publish things and having to fill out a form in triplicate and like getting it approved is not the style of BI anymore. There's some looseness to it but I think with looseness you get the greatness that you never would have gotten before, and I think that's the best part.

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